Traditional cabin decor isn't what you'd necessarily ever described as modern, but the cabin aesthetic is more than just about a particular style, it's a mood. It's all about referencing your location through soft wood, open plan spaces that embrace the views, and creating a cozy feel that makes you want to retreat inside, wrap up warm and get snug beside a log fire.
The cabin aesthetic is also about retreat and escapism, explains Simon Montgomery of SM Studios, who has a selection of serene cabins in his portfolio. 'Cabins are places of escape from our busy city lives and jobs,' he says. 'They are places to spend with family, to disconnect from technology, to connect with ourselves and to spend time in nature.'
Ultimately, the cabin retreat look is a vibe that you can recreate in whatever type of home you live in, from a Brooklyn brownstone to a tiny apartment, even if you are worlds away from the great outdoors. Take a look at these examples of modern interior design embracing cabin decor for inspiration.
Cabin decor ideas for a cozy atmosphere
The key to getting this look right is by taking influence from your local surroundings. 'Cabins are about calmness, relaxation and connecting to nature,' says Simon Montgomery of SM Studios. So open those curtains and look outside. Consider the colors you see from your balcony window, the wood in a local park or forest, and try and mimic this look inside with your choice of furniture and accessories.
Oonagh is a homes and interiors writer and editor. For this story, she has sourced examples of rustic cabin retreats and spoke directly with the designers to find out how they've created this cozy feel, and offers advice for how you can do the same in your own home
1. Use hides and leather
Choose materials that speak to the surrounding nature, landscape, and history of the home or cabin you are decorating. Leather or cow hide has strong ties to the surrounding mountains and woodland of this home in Lake Joseph, Canada. When used in a pared back scheme, this material stands out - giving all who enter the property a strong sense of place. 'This project was about designing a retreat that would quietly insert itself into Muskoka’s cultural and natural landscape,' says Vanessa Fong of VFA Architecture and Design (opens in new tab). 'This cow hide rug was sourced from a local vintage store.'
Go for a wall hanging, or use the cow hide as a rug, as depicted here. Cow hide rugs are likely to be smaller than many rugs, so work nicely for a small space or overlooked quiet reading corner.
2. Don't forget the wood burner
A log fire or wood burner is an essential decorative piece to complete the cabin aesthetic. Not only are they a practical item that keeps you warm during the colder months, but a log fire again references the woodland that typically surrounds a cabin. They are super sleek and stylish looking too - not taking up as much space as a full fireplace, and can look like a modern interior design feature with the flue pipe connecting to the ceiling in an architecturally stylish way.
The good thing with these fireplaces is that they can really be updated to suit whatever type of home you have. This cabin, also on the Muskoka Lakes in Canada, designed by Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc (opens in new tab), exhibits rustic materials with minimalist detailing, and the modern log fire is a stand-out piece of the home.
'Great for small or large living rooms, indoor stoves are the ideal option for keeping a room toasty during the winter months. In the past ten years, we’ve seen a move towards stoves that are more contemporary in style. People want to be able to enjoy viewing the fire itself too, which is why the ability to view the flames has become more of a draw for customers.' says Declan Kingsley-Walsh, Managing Director of Morsø (opens in new tab). 'Contemporary stoves tend to complement open-plan, larger and minimalistic spaces, whereas more traditional models tend to suit cozier, country-style homes'
3. Keep it neutral
Color is another thing to be wary of when designing your cabin or trying to replicate the cozy country feel. If you like the charm of a cabin, but would prefer to execute it in a more polished style, go neutral, organic, and sparse in color, straying from bright colors or bold patterns. This reinforces the idea that your cabin is all about sanctuary and relaxation. Think unbleached linen, white stained woodwork, concrete, natural wools and fabrics to help you achieve the neutral color scheme in your cabin. Layer your fabrics too, with high pile rugs and thick blankets.
'I am not big on color,' says Simon Montgomery of SM Studios, who designed this cabin in Bowen Island, a small one-hour drive from downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada. 'My preference for cabin decor is to create a subdued and neutral palette and then layer on some subtle color through art or furniture choices.'
4. Or introduce natural hues
If you do want to embrace color in a cabin-inspired design, again defer to your surroundings to draw a palette from. Natural hues such as soft greens, browns and even tones like ochre and rust can feel right at home in this cozy aesthetic. However, when it comes to creating a color palette, it's still best to keep it limited.
For a modern interpretation of cabin decor, don't be afraid to use black in your space, too. This brings a modern contrast to the lighter wood tones that are predominant in more contemporary cabin spaces.
5. Embrace wooden furnishings
Wood is key to creating your cozy cabin aesthetic. Again it's a material found in the landscape where you might typically find a cabin, and so works to mimic the great outdoors within. Finishes displayed here in this SM Studios cabin feature douglas fir plywood and white wash stain and white millwork are simple and good quality oak flooring, one of the best wood floor types around, praised for its durability and longevity as a flooring option. Choosing a whitewash or pickling-on-wood method helps to keep your cabin room bright, even in the depths of winter. The room is tied together with a wooden centerpiece table.
'We use wood in our schemes as a contemporary twist on the old cottages of Muskoka,' says Vanessa Fong of VFA Architecture and Design. 'Traditionally old log cabins or old cottages would have been all wood on the interior - making the interiors quite dark. We wanted to maintain that 'tradition' of wood interiors but bring it a fresher, more contemporary aesthetic. All the wood was sourced from a mill just 20 minutes away from the cottage. It was important for us to use local resources.'
How can I make my cabin more modern?
Sometimes, a modest log cabin can look a little dark and dated, but there are simple methods to brighten up the space and help it feel more sleek and modern. Older cabins might have dark colors, wood panels and earthy-toned beams, so your first way to brighten and modernize the space is to lighten these up. Soft furnishings can also go a long way to modernize the space.
Swap out heavy drapes and curtains for thinner fabrics, sheer linen, soft cotton. Decluttering is a big way to modernize the space. Cabins typically tend to accumulate bits and pieces over the years. It's time to really take a hard look at those trinkets and decide what you can live without. By being a bit more brutal with what you chuck and what you keep, you'll eliminate the mess and give the space a more minimalist feel.
Finally, think about lighting. You want to embrace the surrounding views, so go for floor-to-ceiling windows if possible, and let the light in. Keep things simple with ceiling lights rather than light fixtures which will take up valuable space if your cabin is on the smaller side of the scale.