Into the Woods



Driving down a winding country road, trees looming large on both sides of the road, windows rolled all the way down, and the smell of balsam strong in the air, I thought 0 for the first time in my life, I think – wouldn’t it be incredible to have a little cabin in the woods? Ok, ideally the woods would be more like a lakefront clearing, and the cabin would be a lodge with more than just the most basic of amenities. But you get the point. Villa Rustica.

Last week some family members and I took a day trip into the Adirondack region of Upstate New York. Long a getaway for nature lovers, sportsmen, and wealthy city-dwellers, the region has a long history as an R&R refuge for generations of families. Lake Placid, one of the villages we visited, has even played host to the Winter Olympics – twice! Everyone from the Vanderbilts to Michelle Williams has called the area home. In fact, Michelle Williams recently got married in secret at her home there, where she had lived for years following Heath Ledger’s death. But really, the celebrity pedigree doesn’t matter, when the towns are this charming and the scenery is this beautiful. And as far as scenic getaways go, it’s quite affordable.

Long story short; it got me thinking. If I had a small lakeside cabin/lodge, how would I outfit it? It seems the trap would be to either be too polished, losing sense of place, or to err on the side of being too unfussy, too rustic, sacrificing a more personal design in favor of utility and local tradition. How do you strike the balance? I’ve included two photos below as examples of a starting point. You purchase a cabin, it likely comes at least partially furnished. Where do you go from there?


Now don’t get me wrong, I like the simplicity, the comfort, the homey feel. But if I were the owner, and had say, $15,000 to make some upgrades, what would I do? For starters, I would not touch the hardwood floors, the wooden paneled walls and ceilings, the stone fireplace or the little black wood-stove. Those things feel so thoroughly part of the vernacular that to eliminate them or hide them would be inappropriate design. But rugs, seating, tables, light fixtures, and wall adornments are all fair game. Taxidermy? No thanks. Oars on the wall? I feel the same way about oars as decor as I do surfboards as decor. It’s gotta go. Below are some ideas:


vintage Calvin Klein quiltCapturelight

farmhouse lighting – simple and elegant 11502483_master

vintage game table, perfect for a rainy day but pretty to look at all the time and so fitting for a vacation cabinORG_2865022

warm, classic throw pillows in a nice

leather weave dining chairs30224_Oushak_8_01_x_10_00_6_master

I love this green rug, you wouldn’t want too loud of a pattern since there’s lots of other pattern around, and the green brings the outdoors in


multicolor wooden beds. I like the detailing


again with the green – love this “rosemary” color from Le Creuset alluring-wicker-coffee-table-coffee-tables-rooms-gardens

rattan/wicker coffee table


could look stuffy in a different fabric, but this print is fun and classy and would work well to offset more rustic pieces


Got to have some whimsy, something fun. This chair provides that


and in case the chair wasn’t enough whimsy, these certainly are

Love that this feels modern, and rustic. Beautiful subdued plaid and visible wood. A great piece.


Absolutely love this chair. Texture, pattern, detail. Pure class!

a brief case for wood paneling



It’s a House Hunters cliche. A young couple and a flustered realtor wander around a house more than a few decades old and they stumble upon a wood paneled room. If the realtor is lucky, the would-be-homebuyers suggest they can take down or paint the paneling to make it livable. More than likely, though, this young couple is mentally writing the house off. Too dated, too dark, not HGTV enough. I admit I’ve never been particularly fond of wood paneling, but recent examples of homeowners and designers embracing and updating the look instead of replacing it altogether have given me pause. Perhaps a wooden walls and ceilings can be cozy and even a kind of neutral that allows furniture, art, and fixtures to take center stage while still maintaining more visual interest than painted drywall.  As an example, I’ve chosen some photos from a real estate listing I’ve revisited many times over the past several months. While not traditional vertical wood paneling, I believe the principal applies here. Faced with wood ceilings, walls, floors, and trim, the homeowners chose to do the exact opposite of convention, painting wood trim and hardwood floors and leaving wooden walls and ceilings as-is. The results are spectacular, and it’s not just the views that do the trick. The balance of warm wood with pale pastel paint and light floors provide the perfect juxtaposition. An oversized paper lantern as the primary light fixture, simple furniture, and a few luxury details, such as marble counter tops help carry on the high-low, traditional-modern, light-dark, grounded-ethereal balance they have going on. Talk about real estate envy. From now on, when I see wood paneling or boards on ceilings or walls, I’ll think twice before mentally painting them over or ripping them out.