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CABIN FEVER: Builder offers tips for rustic, relaxed decor – no matter where you live


You don’t need a mountaintop experience or woodland dwelling to treat your cabin fever.

The warm, rustic design details of a cabin getaway can be brought into your home no matter where you live, said Jeff Balmer, a fourth-generation builder, cabin designer and an owner of Lands End Development in Crosslake, Minn.

“Most everyone has those childhood memories of escaping to the lake house or going down to a beach home for vacation,” Balmer said. “The first step to bringing a little cabin into your own home is to create informal, rustic spaces meant for entertaining people.”

While it might not be in the budget to build a new mountain retreat or a house by the water’s edge, Balmer said the relaxed energy found in a cabin can flow through an existing home. “We do renovations to a home’s lower level, the master suite or a bonus room above the garage to create a getaway,” he said. “The cabin feel in a home is about getting back to basics and using natural materials.”

Combining natural elements

While beach cottages tend to be light, bright and white with cool colors throughout, Balmer said many traditional cabins tend toward warmer color tones, utilizing stained pinewood and natural stonework to achieve a rustic look and feel.

“A cabin should feel cozy, not suffocating,” he said. “An open floor plan or vaulted ceilings give cabins an air about them.”

The four earth elements are often represented in a cabin’s design: land, air, water and fire. “In a family room we see this all coming together: the stone and woodwork; the airiness of vaulted ceilings, the views through the windows of the lake outside; and, of course, the fireplace,” Balmer said. “Those who don’t live near water can purchase an indoor fountain and hear the water trickling, too.”

Bringing the indoors outside

Cavorting with nature is part of the cabin experience. “There’s always talk about bringing the outdoors inside a home,” Balmer said. “But, in a cabin, you also bring the indoors outside, and building a porch is a good way to start.”

Whether you’re shooting the breeze or just catching one, a porch is a natural place to gather. A transitional space by its very nature, a porch connects a home to the outside world.

“Some people enclose their porch, so they can enjoy it all four seasons,” Balmer said. “Even on the smallest house, building a porch is high on the list for those who want to enjoy a cabin lifestyle.”

A porch swing is a prerequisite for many, but having comfortable seating, surrounded by fragrant flowers and landscaping, is also an essential part of an inviting atmosphere.

An invigorating way to bring the cabin experience home is to install an outdoor shower, Balmer said. “It’s not for everyone and certainly won’t work in every residential situation, but if you’re close to the beach, it makes sense to have one to get the sand off before going into the house.”

Balmer said installing an outdoor shower isn’t difficult, but requires a drain and a water source that can be shut off during winter in colder climates. The shower surround can be private or open to nature, but Balmer said there’s nothing like washing up at sun-up in an outdoor shower.



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