Home Renovation

The Handmade Details Make This Lake Superior Cabin a Gem

July 27, 2016

My parents spent years dreaming up, designing, and building their cabin home on Lake Superior. It was so fun to watch. They balanced big-picture priorities (27-foot cathedral windows to maximize the lake view! A cedar-lined sauna!) with more practical concerns, like making sure all the first-floor doorways were wide enough for wheelchairs, and adding a second flue to the main fireplace for a more heat-efficient wood stove to use during the winter.

The view is even better. Photo by Liz Johnson

But my favorite parts of the cabin are the smaller and often handmade touches that are peppered throughout the space. Even though we’ve got different taste in interiors, I can see both my parents' personalities in their home, and respect that they’ve made the place undeniably theirs. (Lesson! Whenever you bring yourself into your space and style, it always works—because it’s true to you.)

Here's a mini-tour of the cabin, focusing on the handmade touches that I personally love:

Told you so! Photo by Liz Johnson

Stained Glass

My mom loves C-O-L-O-R. She’s done a great job of using pops of it throughout the cabin to balance out all the wood. She made 3-4 transom windows from stained glass—I like that none of them are the same design, but the palette makes them all cohesive.

Photo by Liz Johnson

She’s also used stained glass in a few interior windows, including a cleverly non-see-through one in a downstairs half-bath.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Recycled Wood

My dad loves woodworking, and lives by the “reduce / reuse / recycle” philosophy. My parents tore down the cabin that was formerly on this lot—which our family summered in for many years, and loved dearly for all it’s cramped wonkiness—and they saved as much as they could.

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Solid bricks for an outdoor path, tongue-and-groove boards that now line the breakfast nook (which you can see in the background of the transom window photo), and they even reincarnated a few tree trunks as pillars and stair banisters.

Photo by Liz Johnson

The seat on this little stool was actually one of many pie-stands my parents made from found wood for my brother’s wedding reception last summer. It dried particularly nicely, so my dad set it on some birch legs—and now it’s living out its third reincarnation at the cabin.

Stone Faces

The sliding doors on the balcony and the fireplace mantel are also made from recycled wood. Photo by Liz Johnson

The fireplace in the front room is a showstopper as-is, but my mom had the mason build in her collection of stone old-man forest spirit faces (not a technical term) to the length of it. There are probably seven to eight total, and sometimes it takes a while for visitors to notice them; but once you do, it’s the kind of thing you remember—or maybe even, if you’re a small child, have the occasional nightmare about.

While not handmade by my mom, the stone old man forest spirit faces were definitely a bold design decision that infuses some of her personality into the main room.

Photo by Liz Johnson

I often ponder what I would love enough to build into a dream home. I spend a lot of time thinking about the things I can put into my house—this is a great reminder to keep the actual house in mind, too. Like maybe next time I re-tile something, eschewing a trendy-classic like white subway tile for something more personal or quirky. One of those “screw re-salability!, you live here now” lessons.

Or maybe I just need a cabin on a lake. (Who doesn’t?)

Photo by Liz Johnson

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Toledo KB
    Toledo KB
  • Liz Johnson
    Liz Johnson
stereotypical oldest child


Toledo K. July 27, 2016
The spirit faces are George Carruth, correct? He's a local artist here in Toledo (Waterville, OH). I love his work. Have several around my house.
Liz J. July 30, 2016
Yes! Thanks for ID-ing them. I love all the different expressions and the little nature details (like a little ladybug on a cheek).