cabin, cabin decorating, cabin interior design, decorating with natural objects, fireplace, fossils, log cabin, pan abode, stone fireplace, stones
Ask anyone who lives, or has lived in, a log cabin and they will all tell you you the same thing… ‘It is very dark inside.’ Especially during our Alberta winters when we get precious little daylight. Unless you are lucky enough to have entire walls of windows, the wooden interior seems to absorb all of the light, leaving any interior designer with the same challenge: how can we bring more light in here?
The same is true for Lucy and I here at cabinorganic. We live in a pan-abode cedar cabin. This means that the entire cabin is made from cedar that has been milled into 3″x6″ double tongue and groove timbers. (Note: other homes may be made from 4″x6″ timbers.) All of the walls and ceilings (except for the semi-finished basement) is cedar. Even the flooring in the living room is wood and comes from timber that was, in another life, a grain elevator in Oyan, Alberta (an agricultural center near the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan) and now has been remilled and repurposed into flooring.
As you can see from the photos, I addressed the problem of the dark interior in three ways: First, I used large mirrors throughout the cabin to reflect incoming light back into the room. I choose a mirror with a heavy dark frame for contrast so that it would clearly stand out. Here in the living room, the mirror is directly under one of three skylights.
Second, I used a series of bright lamps around the seating area to create pools of ambient lighting or to further brighten the room when the ceiling lights are on. (To be honest, I rarely use the ceiling lights.)
Third, I used bright vibrant color in the painting as well as the drapery and accessories to inject life into the room and reflect light. (Note: I painted the painting myself. It is a copy of Daphne Odjig’s ‘Denizens of the Forest’.) You could also decorate with light airy colors (white, cream, etc.) to reflect light but I love color and love to be surrounded by vibrant dramatic color schemes. I installed black drapery hardware for contrast and hung bright red drapes. These create an almost theatrical background to the black baby grand piano. A high quality silk palm plant (barely enough light for real plants in here) in the corner adds life and a touch of cheerful green.
Note the stone fireplace. All of the stones including the large mantle and base pieces (and so many more stones outside on the property) were gathered by the gentleman who built this cabin. (I am meeting him for the first time next Thursday! I am so excited!) I have an art project in mind for the mantle that I hope to work on this winter. I’ll let you know when it is done. The fireplace is extremely well-built and throws a lot of heat. If you look closely you will see botanical fossils in some of the key stones:
The cushions also add a fun splash of color to the dark leather sofa and compliments the cozy knitted throw that I wrap around me when reading in the evenings.
Here is the ceiling fan that my dad and sister installed while they were visiting a few weeks ago. The previous outdated fan was brass with the same color wood as the ceiling. The new darker ceiling fan is fresh and classy, and it really stands out from the ceiling instead of blending into it:
Around the cabin you will find stones, feathers, bits of driftwood, fossils, pine cones and other natural items collected from my many travels and walks in nature.
Here’s a ‘before’ shot, before the mirror was hung. You can see one of the skylights:
The joys of living in a pan-abode cedar cabin far outweigh the challenges. Even just that earthy smell of cedar whenever I come home after being away all day wraps around me and reminds me that I am home. Yes, it still feels dark in the living room at times, but it is a ‘cozy, curl-up-in-front-of-the-fire’ kind of darkness. If all else fails, I simply light a bunch of candles and immediately the cabin living room feels warm, welcoming and inviting…
Stay tuned for more interior design posts here at cabinorganic! I have many projects on the go and as the weather cools down I will be spending more time indoors working on interior renovations and projects.
Nice post. I have a pan abode as well. The interior wood was never treated and has scratches and even pencil drawings and animal bite marks in places. What do you recommend for rehabbing the wood itself that doesn’t break he bank?
I will have to get back to you on that one as I also have much refinishing to do to these cabin walls. My interior wood has been varnished but it is quite yellow with age now and there are drips and scratches and dents… My current plan is to cover as much as I can with bright, beautiful paintings!!!
I have started sanding down the interior of my home with a orbital sander. This gives a brand new log to stain.I used Sansin clear stain with semi gloss to reflect light.
I also installed white flooring to brighten things up.
Thank you for sharing the great tips! I also heard of people stippling the ceiling white which also would reflect more light. I’d love to see some pictures of your work! email@example.com
All the best,
Hello, I recently bought a pan abode and the exterior is fading from the sun. Do you have any suggestions on products to use or tips on how to refinish?
In my very limited research online it was recommended to wash the exterior by hand (no pressure washer) with a mild soap and water. I have some worn areas that I will have to address at some point and will also need the same question answered.
alla zilberg said:
Hello from another Albertan! We are from Calgary Ab and are seriously considering buying a pan adobe home. There is no insulation in it really, even very little crawl space available is not insulated. Will my heating bills be enormous to keep it at 23C in -30C winter?
Delena Rose said:
Hello! Yes, pan abodes are not known for being very energy-efficient. Our cabin is about 1200 square feet and our heating bill in winter is around $160-$180 per month. (We have a full basement with it’s own furnace but we rarely turn it on.) Once Brian is finished renovating the basement we will begin insulating and drywalling all of the exterior walls upstairs and replace the windows which are original to the cabin. They are quirky and full of character but drafty in winter! This will cover up a lot of the wood grain which is also charming but so dark in winter. We will leave some feature walls and the heavy wooden beams on the ceiling. Once we get the cabin nice and insulated we will begin looking at alternative ways to heat our home, starting with solar and wood. Wind might work for us as well. We’d also like to try installing some kind of greenhouse structure on the south wall for the winter months- even if it’s just a sheet of plastic a foot out (we’d probably make it look like a Japanese shoji screen). Pan abodes are not bad for winter warmth… but they are not great either. But as I mentioned- there are ways to help us through the coldest winter months. A crackling fire is always a cozy, daily treat.
Take care and please let me know it goes!