The Carefree Cabin
Develop a style and theme to ensure your log home represents a true getaway

By Kurt Cyr

Summer afternoons, by nature, were designed to be spent languidly splashing about in the cool refreshing water of a lake or wandering through the forest at meadow’s edge in search of lady-slippers in the sun-dappled shade. These should be the cherished memories of summer, not the state of the sofa after your tipsy aunt and her glass of red wine collapsed there during the revelry of the Fourth of July family barbecue.

This year, vow to make your weekend hideaway nearly damage-proof, if not at the very least relative-resistant. A second home should be about relaxing and spending time with your loved ones, not spending all summer vacation cleaning up after them. With a few helpful hints, decorating your weekend house or holiday escape will be an easy-care breeze.

By simple process of elimination, second homes usually become the repository for second-hand stuff. When furniture gets replaced in the full-time residence, most of the residue eventually turns up at the second home. This is not an entirely bad thing. Actually, it can be the beginning of a beautiful, renewed friendship. The trick is not to dress your holiday home in raggedy old hand-me-downs.

Just like decorating in the real world, decorating your weekend retreat requires a game plan. This, on the surface, may sound silly, but easy and breezy also needs to be thought through. Decorating with cast-off furnishings is even more of a reason to consult your game plan. To pull off an effortless look takes a bit of preparation.

When dealing with furniture of disparate origin, it’s important to apply a unifying theme. It can be as simple as keeping all of the living room furniture one color. This becomes the tie that binds. Do you have mismatched side tables and a cocktail table with peeling veneer? No problem. Paint them all creamy white, robin egg’s blue, butter yellow—whatever color you love.

If you worry about the first marks of use, apply a distressed finish when you refinish it. This will help blend any past and future wear together to create the intended look of patina. Pre-distressed furniture means you, as the owner, don’t have to be distressed.

Fabulous Fabrics
The same furniture unification process can be done with fabric. Upholstering, slipcovering or simply wrapping them with the same fabric can coordinate assorted pieces of furniture. Voila! You now have a suite of matching furniture that only minutes before was just a hodge-podge mix of pieces.

Begin with a durable, stain-resistant fabric. This will mean that it has a high content of synthetic fibers. Now, I have always been an ardent fan of natural fibers, but a carefree situation like this definitely calls for trooping out the acrylic, polyester and nylon blends. They will be the hardest workers, soldiering through the good fight against stain and wear. Don’t worry that these tough fabrics won’t have a soft hand (decorator-speak for feel-good textures). New technology has created man-made fibers that simulate the natural weaves of cotton and linen but wear like iron.

Exterior fabrics are another good choice. Don’t let them languish out of doors, bring them in off the porch swing, and expand your decorating possibilities with these durable fabric options. Bold, colorful awning stripes will impart the feeling of summer year-round. These fabrics also have important fade-resistant properties as well.

The second layer of defense lies in the tiny but mighty coaster. Have plenty on hand—and in sight. Have a basket of them on a side table. Be creative. Coasters can be just about anything that is flat. A collection of vintage handkerchiefs, even bits of leather, work well and lend a Western feel. Use the extra tiles from that kitchen or bath remodel. Make it a family project. The kids or grandkids can even personalize them.

Forever Young
Let your inner child help decorate. Remember the freedom and excitement of summer vacation. Start a collection that grows each time you visit your holiday escape. This can be as simple as interestingly shaped rocks found on hikes or a colorful collection of glassware found at local flea markets.

Everything in a second home should be useful. This streamlined approach to decorating will help edit any superfluous stuff that accumulates without rhyme or reason. A daybed strewn with a collection of vacation scarves turned into snuggly down pillows in one case in point. Not only do those items customize a space with personal history, but they simultaneously provide a very soft launching pad for dreams. After all, what good are lazy summer days without a comfortable place actually to be lazy?

Baskets are useful second-home organizers and eminently portable. An unruly pile of magazines can be swiftly corralled and made tidy without looking overly formal. They can be the casual repositories for everything from beach towels to gardening implements. Exposed storage lends color and texture to the design scheme using everyday items. In the kitchen, open shelves lined with a collection of large glass jars add Pop-Art impact simply by repetition. Also, they provide valuable storage for dried foodstuffs.

Pegs are another useful organizing tool for the cabin. They can be placed almost anywhere. Hang a row of them by the bathroom sink for hand towels or next to the front door to keep rain slickers and binoculars handy.

Make sure you have an ample supply of fuzzy, soft blankets to ward off the chill of a cool summer night or to snuggle up with a juicy novel on a rainy afternoon. Store them in an open etagere where guests will easily find and use them. These touch-me textures are a very important aspect of second-home design that is commonly overlooked. This attention to the senses in your decorating will only add to your retreat’s appeal for you and your guests.

Successfully furnishing a log vacation home is so much more than what the furniture is upholstered in and where it is placed. There lies that intangible extra layer of emotion and memory. The early morning view from the deck as thin wisps of steam curl off the surface of the lake, the squeak of Grandma’s rocker; this is the audiovisual track of your life. The creation of memories is what makes your second home a special place, physically and emotionally, year after year. •

Interior designer Kurt Cyr, based in Reseda, California, is the author of Centerpieces Through
the Year.