Cabin Furnishings to Set the ~Vibes~ Right
A deep dive into furniture, art, and decor with the power to make any space feel like a cabin
For today’s issue of stuff-graham-is-extremely-passionate-about-but-maybe-noboday-else-cares we’re answering an unanswerable question: How Should I Furnish My Cabin? or What Things Should I Fill My Cabin With to Make it Feel Cabin-like? (Or home, or apartment, or cottage, or van, or whatever.)
To answer which, I’ll turn heavily to my own family cabin, pictured above. For me, it’s products, objects, and furnishings that evoke a sense of time, nostalgia, or potentially aspiration that imbue a space with a collective feeling of comfort. The goal is to not fill your space with tchotchkes but to fill it with furniture that will feel like it’s always been there.
Below I’ve shared a handful of standout pieces—or suggested thought starters—that can serve both a functional purpose and establish a mood for the greater household. These are a fraction of the items I’ve mentally cataloged over the past decade or two. There may be some duhs, but there may also be some ohs (hopefully more of the latter). In the end, like personal style, this stuff is ultimately up to individual tastes and preferences. But the internet loves a hot take, so read on if you want one dude’s opinion on a few random interior design topics.
First off, I suggest we avoid mainstream “iconic” pieces, like an Eames lounger (or really anything Eames, and especially Eames knockoffs), Tulip table, or Pollock executive chair. Niche icons like a Malm fireplace work tho—items with a certain untraceable familiarity always add to the equation. Avoid soul-less Crate & Barrel, Target, or god forbid, Am*zon basics. Nor should it be filled with garage sale furniture. Though carefully thrifting items is highly suggested (more on that later).
It should go without saying that Live. Laugh. Love. signs and “vintage” coca-cola ephemera are not it. Black bear themed items are also a hard pass for this humble writer ;) Though live edge/log furniture could fly under the radar in the right scenario. Tread carefully—too much hand-hewn furniture may leave ur cozy cabin feeling like a shrunken version of those cursed log house chalets that rich dipshits have built across every hillside in Ski Town, America.
Remember, if you’re planning to Airbnb/STR your cabin, you have two choices: lean 1,000% into a theme and really go over the top (high risk, high reward), or you strive to strike a balance between your own personal taste and what you expect visitors may be into. As our pal and Short Term Rental Pied Piper Robuilt suggested in a recent Deep Dive Newsletter on how to become a cabin rental mogul, invest in your furniture and double down on the physical focal point of the house (i.e. where visitors will spend the most time, be it the kitchen, living room, or bathroom even).
Now, before we dive in, let’s set expectations—this is not and will not be an exhaustive list of “the best cabin furnishings” or “the ultimate cabin furniture checklist.” Instead, consider it a jumping off points. A brief but pointed offering of items that, in my opinion, have the power to set a mood from a glance. And that’s the goal, always set the mood. And do everything in your power to ensure that mood is fuckin’ dank.
So let’s get into it.
Mentioned above, a vintage metal cone fireplace is always a win aesthetically. Malm and Preway are the OGs, with Malm still manufacturing and selling in Sonoma County, CA (peep their perfect early internet website here). Name brand cone fireplaces are quite expensive nowadays though, so try searching Craigslist & FB marketplace in smaller communities to find a score (@theretroburn IG account is great for window shopping). Be warned, for unexperienced fire builders, they can be a potential hazard. A wood-burning stove is another option (see Field Mag’s comprehensive guide to wood-burning stoves here) that better contains the flame, making it marginally more “safe.” Humble, functional, and always photogenic.
Whichever route you go, make sure you have a solid set of wrought iron fire tools. A poker, a log grabber, broom and shovel for ashes, etc. This is an easy to overlook “item” that is invaluable. And always remind guests to restock the wood bin next to the fireplace before they leave.
The right rug can really tie the room together. (I tried to think of an actually funny “The Dude” joke but ultimately failed sry). And the wrong rug can really ruin a room. One tried and true option that says “vacation time” like no other is the classic spiral rug you may remember from childhood. Mfg Capel has been making these braided wool floor coverings in North Carolina since 1917, and selling thru L L Bean since 1984. With 5,000 (!!!) size and color combinations, you already know they got you. (Shout out B.B.S.P. who featured Capel in their newsletter yesterday. Great minds!)
Funky Comfy Chairs
Leisure is key. Lounging is important. The right chair(s) for your environment should be comfortable, vaguely interesting looking, and sized appropriately. Above is a photo of two perfect vintage chairs within my family’s cabin—when visiting, this where I sit and enjoy morning coffee, afternoon emails, and evening reading. One is a Haywood Wakefield original, the other of unknown make. Both reupholstered by my mom 20 years ago. The fact that they don’t quite match makes them even more lovable to me. Let this be a lesson—embrace a little wabi sabi!
Another fun option that I grew up with is the Ekornes Stressless, a loveable recliner with a lovable name (pictured below). Finding more “obscure” North American and Scandinavian mfgs is key. As stated earlier, when shopping vintage, avoid too-popular MCM designers with strong name recognition and dig deeper. Finding something cool from a brand you didn’t previously know about (or an unknown mfg) is ideal, and offers a fun excuse to build your knowledge of esoteric stuff no one will ever ask you about.
For side chairs, Conant Ball, Thonet, and occasionally Steelcase all made very minimal but unique pieces for many foregone decades, and exist in the middle area of known to some and unknown to others. (For Conant Ball, look for Russel Wright designs like this beautiful rocker.) Online auction houses/estate sale websites like the inspiringly-poorly-named Auction Ninja can occasionally deliver scores for cheap.
If you’re handy, and want a rustic look, make a simple three legged log stool (this how-to video is the best thing I’ve seen on the internet in months, your welcome). We have a number of these around our cabin and I love them to death. Perfect for cozying up to the fire.
For something more contemporary, (and about 500x more money) peep these incredibly soft and surprisingly functional pouffes from Shepherd of Sweden. That shit is pure luxury and your guests will dream of it for years.
This is a tough one. No one makes good floor lamps. Your best bet it to scour thrift shops, find something unobtrusive, and put a cool kitsch lampshade on it. Sorry, we're all kinda f*cked.
Another tough category. Very easy to go overboard. If your walls are wood, let them shine! Embrace the knotty pine. Embrace a less is more approach. That said, a well placed set of vintage crossed skis for snow shoes will always charm. Though mounted animal heads can be a real turn off. Prints from legendary ski area map painter James Niehues are really rad (don’t be dissuaded by the slick website, this dude is OG).
Regional folk art, like the above 1939 illustration of Mt. Hood, OR is fantastic. (A framed version of this has been hanging in our cabin for easily half a century.) Though don’t go overboard with the “fun” artwork.
In a perfect world, much of your time at the cabin will be spend simply sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing. Sure, hiking, biking, fly fishing, etc, that’s all good. But you gotta make time to just sit and relax. Books are key. Gather old issues of Sunset Magazine, Time Life hobby books, and other regionally specific guides to granola-y subjects like how to identify edible plants (or even just plants in general). The original Cabin Porn book (featuring photography by Noah Kalina, who has a funny niche newsletter worth subscribing to) is a crowd pleaser. But maybe too on the nose?
And that’s about it. Hope this random set of interior suggestions has inspired at least a few rabbit holes to get lost down. Remember, nerding out about extremely niche shit is important and fun. Filling your house with blandass flatpack furniture is not.
See ya later this week with another Friday Cabins newsletter. And next month with another Deep Dive (which, as a reminder, is now landing in inboxes every third Wednesday of the month).