The Keys to a Cozy Cabin
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The Keys to a Cozy Cabin

In today’s world of high-speed, high-tech, high-cost … coziness can feel like a long-lost friend. Use these eight easy tips to invite it back into your space.


The idea of “cozy” isn’t any one thing — it’s a look, a smell, a feeling a space gives you. It’s a modern A-frame in the woods and a quaint cottage by the sea. It’s the aroma of a campfire in the evening and the flavor of hot coffee on the porch in the morning. It’s abstract, but it’s not hard to create — in fact, simplicity is often a major player in “coziness.” However, in today’s world of high-speed, high-tech, high-cost … coziness can feel like a long-lost friend. Use these eight easy tips to invite it back into your space. 


1. Add Instant History

Start with what you use to build (or renovate and restore!) Materials that are reclaimed, recycled, upcycled and salvaged (think: wood from an old barn or heart pine recovered from riverbeds) add instant history. Wrap your exteriors in a patinated barnwood to capture the sense it’s been there forever. Carry the look to interior walls. And you’re not limited to reclaimed wood either; old ironwork and vintage brick supply a healthy dose of history, too. 

Not building or renovating? Reclaimed materials make for fine furnishings, not just architectural features. Shop small businesses on Etsy for tables, dressers, doors and more made from reclaimed materials, all with one-of-a-kind character. 


2. Make a Warm Welcome

First impressions matter, including that of your cabin’s. A small but welcoming entry area sets the tone for the rest of your home. A fully separate foyer boasts the benefit of hiding any visual clutter, but it does take up square footage that a small floor plan simply may not be able to afford. In that case, strategic placement of built-ins, shelves, benches and cabinets can carve out an unofficial entry for you to welcome and send off guests. For extra cozy character, use vintage and antique furniture, even unconventional pieces. 


3. Turn Down the Volume 

In the world of log and timber cabins, there’s no denying open floor plans and spacious great rooms are hot. The vaulted ceilings and large window walls that often accompany these designs certainly add drama yet can make achieving “coziness” tricky, but not impossible. 

“To help achieve a cozy feeling in a large, vaulted room, one can hang a large light fixture slightly lower over their seating space, which will help ‘bring down’ the optics of the height of the room,” suggests Stephanie Bowes, vice president of Canadian Timberframes. “If you anchor the room with a warm rug, textured furniture and combine textures and materials using accessories like blankets, toss cushions and end-table lighting, then paint a warmer color on the walls, you can achieve a cozier space — even if your great room is extremely large. Using curtains or textured blinds on window walls can create a warmer space, if it’s still feeling voluminous.” 


4. Design from the Hearth

What is a cabin without an inviting fireplace? A crackling fire not only sets the scene for rest and relaxation, it provides a functional heat source, as well, whether in the form of a wood-burning fireplace, a gas or electric insert or a wood stove (for true, old-timey ambiance). A wood fire is classic and romantic, but ashes are messy. Electric fireplaces boast increasingly realistic flames and are a great fit for those who only occasionally need it as a heat source. Boost the ambiance of bedrooms and porches by adding additional fireplaces in these spaces, or double down on the effect with a two-sided fireplace, which allows for enjoyment from multiple areas at once.


5. Get Natural Light Right 

In a cabin, you want views of the scenery that brought you there, be it of water, mountain peaks, a dense forest or otherwise.  That being said, “Windows can be tricky,” explains Diana Allen, an architect at Woodhouse, The Timber Frame Company. 

In a walk-out basement, you might want to maximize window size to keep it from feeling like a dungeon. Upstairs, in a large great room, you want to take in the views without compromising a sense of coziness. To walk this tightrope, design for 9-foot ceilings in the basement, if possible, to allow for oversized, 8-foot-tall windows. In spaces like great rooms, strategize the layout of the interiors. “I might design a nook that had floor-to-ceiling glazing and still make it cozy by what I orient outside of that space or what I do with the walls and seating inside the window wall,” suggests Diana. Then, supplement the natural light with a mix of ambient, overhead and task lighting, and you’ve got it made. 


6. Get Creative with Crannies

“You need small spaces to invoke that air of coziness,” says Diana. Whether the home, itself, is small or not, you can carve out spaces within it to capture that feeling. “The simplest way is to create nooks, like a window seat. Another idea is to use built-ins or wall partitions to break a larger open area into smaller conversation areas,” Diana says. Small design elements, like a half wall or a couple of steps, are all it takes to add a little definition to an otherwise open room. 


7. Color It In

Sleek, monochromatic schemes have their rightful place — from swanky spas to too-cool coffee shops. But in a cabin or cottage, a laid-back look is the key to creating coziness. Warm tones deliver instant comfort, and a mix-and-match palette gives a collected-over-time look. “To us, the trifecta of ‘cabin colors’ — browns, greens and oranges — helps create a warm, inviting atmosphere,” explains Lisa Lee-Jaure, the general manager of Roughing It In Style, which specializes in rustic interior design, custom furniture and cabinetry. “These colors go together, so no combination is wrong.  By layering colors throughout the space, it creates a cohesiveness without a harsh stopping point.  If you repeat the colors throughout the cabin, you begin telling a story.”

Insider tip: The secret to success when it comes to mixing patterns is to vary the scale. Try pairing a tiny print with a medium or large print for an effortless, casual-but-collected look.  


8. Make it Personal

Finally, don’t forget what so many cabins are all about: connecting with nature and each other. Tell the story of your family with your decor; in the world of cabin and cottage design, hand-me-downs are heirlooms. “We like to use one-of-a-kind pieces to add that special touch,” explains Lisa. “This could be a picture or an antique piece that belonged to a family member. Adding in a personal piece always creates a sense of home. Sitting around the fire, it can be a conversation piece while sipping cocoa and telling stories.” Post family photos the old-fashioned way — framed on the wall or mantel. Show off that prize catch and hang up handmade art. And to really achieve a sense of place, give Mother Nature her own gallery with a flowering branch in a vase or local seashells or pine cones in a decorative bowl. 


Cabin Resource: Find even more cozy cabin inspiration on our Pinterest!


See Also: 6 Tips to Make Small Spaces Feel Cozy, Not Claustrophobic

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