Q: We bought a mountain cabin that we will use as a vacation home and rent out other times. The problem is that the walls, floors, ceiling, and cabinets are the exact same kind of wood! The furniture that was included is also the same. How can we personalize this place, knowing that it will all be very well used?
A: Just as you want to love coming home to your main residence, this cabin should also be a meaningful place you love -- not an anonymous rental. Obviously, some choices you might make will be for durability and mass appeal. But that doesn’t mean keeping a house full of cabin clichés unless, perhaps, your cabin is of historic or architectural significance.
The key will be to find ways to add contrast in material, color, and texture for interest. This is a good strategy for any interior with too much of the same. Simplicity and continuity are usually good ways to create calmness. However that could also be boring. And in your case, that much wood sameness is overwhelming and confusing because your eye doesn’t have a place to rest.
Think metal – especially iron – and fabric or leather for furniture pieces, especially the seating. Metal light fixtures, bed frames and furniture legs are sturdy, look great and go well with any wood. Choose just one metal finish, such as gray or black iron, throughout the house for continuity.
For the upholstery, shop for stain-resistant indoor/outdoor fabrics for the ultimate durability. I use this type of fabric (in white!) where my two Labradoodles think the sofa is all theirs. For your rental, I wouldn’t choose pure white, but a solid (not patterned) earthy tone that coordinates well with the wood. Off whites, sandy tan, grays, and linen tones are other classic colors that will wear well. Dark colored leather adds to the warmth of a cabin atmosphere, too, and is long lasting. Add color and texture with throw pillows and accessories.
Refinishing the wood will help maintain the rustic feel and give a fresh look. Out of the wood walls, ceiling and floor, choose your favorite wood feature and leave that alone. Refinish the other two, one in a lighter tone and one darker. For example, if you love the wood ceiling and beams, refinish the floor a darker tone or redo it in a different material such as stone, and glaze or bleach out the walls to a lighter tone. Use a sheer finish if you want some of the wood grain to show through. Replace, paint or glaze the cabinetry, too, and swap out the counters for a different material.
Area rugs and washable fabric draperies that will cover up some of the wood will help soften the feel and add to a cozy atmosphere. Good luck and keep me posted.