Sunday, February 18, 2018

How I Put the Wilderness Into Dancing Dog Cabin

I've been slowly reading my way through Cabinology by Dale Mulfinger, which is a book about designing and building your own cabin.  In the beginning he refers to people who have a connection on some level to cabins and a 'hunger for some form of wilderness place' as 'cabinists'.

I am a cabinist.  I didn't realize this until I got serious about planning our cabin, after my husband convinced me that we should buy a piece of property in some remote place and build a cabin on it (and after I got over my misconception that all cabins must be loggy, brown dark caves filled with sad, old, cast-off furniture).

I am a cabinist, and this place, Yosemite, is the reason why.  

I should have known that I have been a cabinist all along.  I've been coming to Yosemite for as long as I can remember.  

My mom first brought me here when I was 3 or 4.  

We spent countless summers in one of the simple little cabins that used to be by the Merced River in the Yosemite Valley, before they were washed away by floods in the '90s.  We went on multiple backpacking trips into the high country surrounding the valley.  

That's me and my brother at Glacier Point.

I hiked to the top of Nevada Falls.  I hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls.  

My husband, my stepson, and I hiked to the top of Half Dome with my brother, who wanted to celebrate his 50th birthday by sitting on the edge of the sheer 'half' of the dome (see photo below) and dangle his feet several thousand feet over the valley floor. 

I didn't actually get to the top; I stopped when I saw the cables going up the seemingly near-perpendicular face  (click here if you want to see this fearsome sight),  which is a good thing because it meant I wasn't there to witness my brother's lunacy. 

The deep hush of the forest, the faint echo of the falls that follows you wherever you are in the valley (if it  has been a good year for rain, and plenty of water is coming down out of the high country), the warm, piny scent, the scolding of the jays-- with every trip to Yosemite, all this established itself as layer upon layer of wilderness sensibility deep in my subconscious...and then found its way out into the plans and design of our cabin in Utah.

When I talk about our cabin, whether it be through this blog or elsewhere, I often get the same reaction from people: happy enthusiasm and something like longing.  I suspect they are cabinists too, either living in, or planning, or dreaming of their own cabin to escape to.

So, if you have a cabin on your mind, read on to see how a lifetime of visits to Yosemite National Park spoke to me as I planned and decorated the cabin...and see how you also might do the same thing with your own experiences in some wild, natural place, whether you have your own cabin that you want to create and decorate or just want to incorporate a few rustic, wilderness touches into your home (click here for more details on the finished cabin).

I talked a little bit about how much the lodges, cabins, and other buildings in Yosemite National Park were an inspiration for the cabin here, but I didn't have a lot of good photos to share at the time.   When I was there last fall with my family I was able to get pics of all my favorite places...which includes not only the beautiful scenery, but the amazing structures that the National Park Service built in the first part of the 20th century, and which are all very fine examples of rustic decor and architecture.


A quick note on the names I use in this post for two iconic establishments in Yosemite Valley (Ahwahnee Hotel and Camp Curry Village); I'm using the old names established at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century that the National Park service has recently changed (hopefully temporarily) because of a ridiculous lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by a previous concessionaire over a trademark licensing and intellectual property dispute (click here for more info on this)


Starting with the Ahwahnee Hotel-- this place certainly epitomizes the concept of a dinner jacket in the jungle (or in this instance, in the wilderness). 

The Ahwahnee is very grand and provides a level of luxury that the other accommodations in the valley do not, and while it was not, and is not, our goal to create some kind of uber-luxurious, overblown, mega cabin, I did want to capture the same rustic comfort and style in our cabin that can be found throughout this very special place.  But in a slightly more modest way!

When I was searching (and searching and searching) for furnishings for the cabin, I kept in mind all of the wonderful furniture that can be found throughout the public rooms here.  Much of the furniture consists of new pieces made to look like the original furniture by Stickley and D.R. Dimes during major renovations in 2011 (I believe they may have restored some of the original pieces that were in storage).  Furnishings, textiles, light fixtures, and other details  reflect an Arts-and-Crafts, mountain lodge style.

Although, I think they have added newer furniture in recent years since the renovations to accommodate more people; lounge and lobby areas are open to everyone (not just hotel guests), and these rooms can get very crowded.    

It looks like the hotel staff have just crammed in as many chairs and sofas as possible in the main lounge area.  Not much furniture staging going on here...

During the winter, when it's snowy outside and all the fires are going inside, competition is very fierce for one of those chairs by the massive fireplace.  

All these over-sized, comfy armchairs to flop down into after a long hike and charming little side tables to set your drink or your hot chocolate on!  

I had all this in my head when I visualized the furnishings for the cabin...

Which is why I snapped up this spindle table the minute I saw it at a local antique mall. 

And likewise this Eastlake table-- I grabbed it as soon as I saw it.  Both pieces are perfect bedside tables for our cabin that evoke another era, similar to the effect of the interiors and furnishings found in the Ahwahnee Hotel.   

This vintage mirrored oak cabinet also had simple, woodland-inspired details that reminded me of the furniture in the Ahwahnee.

One of the first things we do whenever we visit Yosemite Valley is have breakfast in the Ahwahnee's breathtaking dining room...

...preferably sitting at one of the tables by the huge, dramatic windows... each one with a view of surrounding meadows and woods and towering granite cliffs.  

By the way, that is not us sitting by the window, although that is my brother's elbow in the foreground (as you can see, he survived his Half Dome escapade).

We put lots of tall windows in our cabin in order to capture our own spectacular views.  And yes, breakfast here is just as special, if not more so (because of all the hard labor it took us to get to this point), as it is at the Ahwahnee!

So many other details throughout the hotel that I never get tired of looking at...

For anyone who wants to decorate their cabin (or put a few rustic cabin elements in their home), the Ahwahnee Hotel is the very best example of how to select and use furniture, materials, finishes and a range of other details that reflect a mountain sensibility that is both rustic and refined.  The way they mixed in Native American and Arts & Crafts elements  and antiques (and antique reproductions) adds another layer of decorative interest and complexity.


If the Ahwahnee is rustic elegance, then Camp Curry, located on the eastern side of Yosemite Valley, is rustic camp-style. 

I love these tree limb chairs and tables in the main lounge, but long to get rid of that ugly, pea-soup green vinyl covering on the cushions and replace it with a fun, pretty fabric (perhaps something similar to the fabric on the pillow to the left of the Eastlake table in the previous photo of our cabin).  

When looking for armchairs for our cabin, I checked out a couple of places that carry tree branch furniture (is that the correct term?), but even the cheap stuff is very expensive.  Perhaps one day making a couple of these can be another project for my husband...

I would have loved to finish the exterior of the cabin with rough-hewn branches and bark (or whatever that is below the windows in the photo below-- it may be branches), but we also needed to consider fire safety (and pay attention to the budget), so we went with fiber cement siding.   

But the effect is so charming on the Camp Curry bungalows and cabins.

This is a cabin with bath... which is what I wanted for our visit last September...

... but this is not what I got because I unfortunately waited too long to make reservations, and all I could get was a tent cabin with no heat and no bathroom-- not exactly glamping

I don't recommend the unheated tent cabins if you are planning on visiting Yosemite Valley in the fall or winter.  Tent cabins get cold without any heat; I ended up grabbing all of the wool blankets from the other beds in our cabin and piling them on our bed.

A lot of the elements that we used in our cabin was on the camp-y end of the cabin decorating spectrum, similar to Camp Curry, fused with a little bit of farmhouse and salvaged industrial, with antiques, or near-antiques with a  vintage charm similar to the furnishings in the Ahwahnee adding a bit more refinement. 

Like the cabins and tents at Curry, our cabin focuses on simple living that is just one step above camping, but with just enough creature comforts (hot and cold running water, basic stove/oven/refrigerator, full bathroom, electricity, heat) to make our experience there more comfortable than roughing it in a tent.

I have many happy memories of hiking and camping not only in Yosemite Valley and the surrounding high country, but also in rural, natural areas near my home in southern California and the red rock mesas and canyons near our cabin in Utah. 

There is nothing more restorative to an over-busy mind and stressed-out psyche than being surrounded  by untouched nature where all you hear is the the chattering of birds and the wind in the trees and the sound of running water...

Adding a few woodland details to our cabin brings the wilderness inside... and creates a special place to escape to and relax.

It was my experiences in Yosemite as well as my husband's experiences camping with his family that drove us to purchase 15 acres on a high, wooded mesa in the spectacular San Rafael Swell area of Utah and build our cabin on it.  

We wanted to create a place that was a reminder of happy times spent camping, hiking, fishing, and being, however briefly, disconnected from the drudgery of the every-day.  We needed our own piece of wilderness beauty; a quiet place of peace and relaxation that was a sanctuary from our high-speed lives.

What about you?  Don't you want to escape too?


Thanks for visiting!


Most likely linking to the following this week....

Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch
Happiness is Homemade at Ducks 'N a Row
DIY Salvaged Junk Projects at Funky Junk Interiors

I've been featured at the following blogs...

Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Cabin Reveal

Our little cabin is 384 square feet in total, and includes a bedroom/living area with closet, little 'dining' area, small kitchen with pantry, and a bathroom. I'm not calling it a tiny home, because it isn't.  

When I first started the design of our little cabin back in 2013/2014,  I hadn't even heard of the tiny house movement.  If I had, we might have done a few things differently in terms of the layout of the different spaces and incorporating various organization features, based on all the innovative things I've seen on various tiny house blogs and the DIY channel. But the final outcome would have been the same: the construction of what will initially serve as a little vacation cabin and will ultimately become one of several bedrooms in a larger residence, once we get around to building it.  

I talk about the design process of the cabin here and here.  For an summary of the whole construction process (which I was sure would never end), click here.

*** is an overview of the entire cabin with its various spaces.  I will, over time, share more about the many projects that were encompassed by the larger cabin project, i.e.: furniture make-overs, kitchen sink conversion, bathroom vanity conversion, pillows, wall art...

I had a huge amount of fun selecting the furnishings and decor items for the entire cabin.  The overall guiding vision for the cabin looked to the character of this gorgeous, scenic part of Utah, whether it be elements from the surrounding mountains and mesas, the Romance of the West that saturates every nook and cranny of this part of the U.S. (after all, we drive by Butch Cassidy's birthplace when traveling too/from the cabin), rough and ready mining camps, or the pioneers that rattled their way west and settled and farmed wherever there was water.  

I also did my best to give a nod to nearby national parks, the breathtaking scenery visible from every window, the joys of camping, hiking, exploring, roasting marshmallows and making s'mores, drinking hot chocolate by the campfire... (but the best part is that we don't have to sleep on the ground or use a smelly outhouse, since we have a comfy bed and a nice bathroom-- I am very much over tent camping).

All this went into the selection of furniture, wall art, decor, bed linens, fabric, fixtures... I wanted something fun, quirky, and rustic, but at the same time completely comfortable for both of us. 

Living/Bedroom/Dining Room

All of the furniture here is either an antique or vintage piece that I purchased, or something we already had on hand (the bed and dining chairs).  

Except for the two bedside tables, everything was a 'project' that required some work, from a few layers of  new paint to full deconstruction (the armchairs).  I wanted a balance between unpainted, stained wood and painted furniture.

Too much unpainted, stained furniture would result in an overly 'brown', dark space; too much painted furniture might be too 'cottagy' and feminine. 

The fabrics I chose for the many pillows that I sewed (I went a little crazy with the pillows, it's quite a process to de-pillow the bed every evening before bedtime and then put it all together again the next morning) consisted of mostly simple checks and black ticking-- all reminiscent of cowboy camps and frontier homesteads and adventuring into rugged areas by horseback.  

I also used painter's drop cloth for several pillows as well as the cushions for the deconstructed armchairs  and shower curtain because (1) it's cheap, (2) it's paintable, and (3) it reminds me of the canvas saddlebags that were used on the pack burros my mom used to rent to carry camping gear on our family backpacking trips.  

Elk and stag ornaments, other miscellaneous woodland creatures, and botanical prints and motifs, make an appearance throughout, because, after all, we are surrounded by hundreds of acres of pinon/juniper woodland, pine forests, scrubby mesas... 

More woodland touches on the 'dining' table.  This little vintage table has two wings that flip up if we need more room.  These little lantern wall sconces add the perfect 'camping' touch to our dining experience.

I had so much fun coming up with ideas for the kitchen!  

It may have been less fun for my husband to implement some of them, but he is ingenious Mr. Fix It who was able to turn a galvanized metal feed tub into a functioning, fully plumbed kitchen sink with a custom-made, salvage wood base. 

The polished chrome faucet adds a bit of vintage charm while making it feel like a real kitchen.

Hubby also converted this old barn light into a pendant light so that all dish washing activities are well lit.  

These are my mom's blue and white dishes-- the simple pattern is a perfect touch, and I think of her every time I use them.

Ditto the much fun to design, and so much fun to use!  Again, my husband's excellent skills made it possible for this to come together the way it did.  

The shower curtains are another drop cloth project. I highly recommend using pebble tile for a shower floor-- nothing beats standing on those pebbles in your bare feet.

Building the custom shower pan and working with sheets of corrugated metal was not easy, but my husband pulled it off and we both couldn't be more pleased with the results.

I need to thank my husband for figuring out how make all my ideas, no matter how crazy, a reality.  Thanks to his ingenuity and fabulous DIY skills, we have a wonderful, unique cabin to enjoy and escape to.

Thanks for visiting!


Most likely linking to the following this week....

Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch
Happiness is Homemade at Ducks 'N a Row

I was featured at:

Amaze Me Monday #248 at Dwellings-The Heart of Your Home

Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Through Life

Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style

Share Your Cup at Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Sweet Inspiration at The Boondocks Blog and Art Decoration and Crafting

Best of the Weekend at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Thank you so much to everyone who featured me.  I am truly honored to be featured on your websites!