From Sweet to Sumptuous: Rustic Cabin Makeover

See how this handcrafted cottage was renovated with modern, energy-efficient features while still retaining its original charm.
By: Amy Keyishian

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Photo By: Gustave Carlson Design

Exterior: Before

When Gustave Carlson of Gustave Carlson Design saw this jewel of a cabin, whose owners wanted it updated and expanded, he knew he had to retain the aesthetic. "The old-growth redwood paneling and the detailing of many of the original designed pieces of the home made it feel historic," he says. "Keeping to the vernacular of the original cabin was important: We didn't want it to get lost in the renovation." The new cabin has a much bigger kitchen, a laundry space and an upstairs master suite, yet the overall look is still charming, simple and unobtrusive.

Exterior: After

"I tried to retain the hidden nature of the building, as you come upon a cabin-jewel tucked into the woods," says Carlson.

Living Room: Before

Once a destination for hikers and naturists, the cabin was built to appreciate the beauty of the outside, not the inside.

Living Room: After

Carlson prides himself on sustainable design, but he really had to bring his A game on this project. "That redwood paneling is almost impossible to get these days," he points out, so he couldn't afford to waste a single inch. "We took down each board, labeled the panel, and put it back in pace after insulating and structurally upgrading the home." Many landscape and construction materials were locally sourced as well. 

Balcony: Before

A classic Maybeck-style touch, this balcony overlooks the main room.

Balcony: After

Now, the balcony is a home office. The two-sided fireplace is still at the core of the home. 

Kitchen: Before

Like the galley of a ship, the original kitchen wasted no space and was purely functional.

Kitchen: After

Since old-growth redwood is expensive and scarce, walnut was deemed both close and beautiful. The new windows have traditional details; concrete countertops lend an old feeling with new materials.


Even with a new master suite, closets and bathroom, the volume of the home remained the same. Clever, clever.


What you don't see: All plumbing was upgraded to copper; the electricity was upgraded; a new foundation, roof and structural bracing were added, as well as insulation in the floors, walls and roof. 

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