Design & Style
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Decorating Vintage

Whether you like collectibles or reproductions, here’s how to pull it all together

By Fran Sigurdsson
Published: May 1, 2005
This vintage corner is anchored by an antique cookstove, complemented by a collection of cast iron pans and a stash of colorful canning jars.
Photo by Roger Wade/Boyd Mountain Log Cabins
Logs blaze in the stone hearth, casting a warm glow on lacquered knotty pine. Montana Slim croons a cowboy lullaby as Mom corrals the lil’ buckaroos and Pop sorts fishing tackle for tomorrow’s outing.
The date? It could be 1935 or 2005, depending on whether the late great Wilf Carter is on LP or CD. Time seems to stand still in cabin country.
Maybe you spent childhood holidays in the very place you now bring your own kids. Every corner holds memories, from the notched measuring wall (Wow! Jimmy shot up 3 inches since last summer!) to the mounted muskie over the fireplace.
Perhaps yours is a turn-of-this-century cabin. You can still channel the spirit of a century-old classic. Vintage and vintage-inspired furnishings instill a sense of history in a new cottage. The end result? A cozy retreat with modern year-round conveniences and nostalgic charm.
Vintage cabins possess a never-say-die spirit, and the look says casual yet sturdy. Vintage trappings may include a collection of family heirlooms, newly purchased lodge-look pieces, cast-offs from the primary residence and locally handmade finds. But the result is harmonious when shapes are in proportion to each other and the room.

This living room contains hickory furniture designed by Ralph Kylloe. The throw pillows were made from damaged Indian rugs. Kylloe’s Rustic Design gallery – in the Adirondack community of Lake George, N.Y. – is the largest gallery in the country specializing in rustic furnishings. Photo by Kylloe as featured in his book, “Cabins & Camps.”
Photo by Ralph Kylloe
For many of us, the lodge look – log walls, bark siding, rustic furniture, masonry fireplaces, taxidermy – is the epitome of classic vintage style.
But as with all things in the realm of design and decor, there’s more to it. Interior designer Jim Kerkow of NorthPoint Design in Hayward, Wis., identifies regional variations on the classic look:
North Woods Lodge. Picture a Maine hunting lodge; an Adirondack great camp; an estate on the banks of Lake Michigan. Walls of log and chinking, beadboard or wainscoting make interiors warm and cozy. Log trusses, railings and arches add architectural interest.
Count on hickory furniture – popular through the 1940s – and twig, log and willow pieces adorned with pinecones, mushrooms and moss. A comfy sofa, soft down pillows and leather club chairs are anchored by a multicolored woven rug in forest greens, lake blues, earthy browns, gold and scarlets.
Among the regional variations on vintage décor is the Western/mountain look. Borrowing from cowboy life on the range, the Western lodge may include Thomas Molesworth-inspired furniture, heavy timber frames, Chimayo fabric upholstery or leather and fringe. Sources for Western-style chairs like the one pictured include Crabapple Hills Farm (, Northwest Native Designs ( and American Heritage Crafters (
Photo by Roger Wade/Montana Log Homes
Seaside Cottage. Reminiscent of Cape Cod or Carmel, the style features painted beadboard or shiplap, wicker and rattan, and multi-fabric, mix-and-match sofas and chairs. Rooms are bright and breezy with lace curtains, pastel walls and trim and painted furnishings. Hollyhocks and foxgloves bloom in an old-fashioned garden; generous porches are great for imbibing salt air.
Western/Mountain. Inspired by cowboy life on the range, the Western lodge runs to big square timbers, Navajo rugs and blankets, Thomas Molesworth-inspired furniture with heavy timber frames and dentil trim, Chimayo fabric upholstery or leather and fringe. Tall walls of windows, large rooms and oversized furniture are on a scale with the surrounding landscape, says Kerkow.
Southwestern. Similar to Western, but with a Spanish/Mexican influence and a palette reflecting the reds, yellows and mauves of desert sunsets.

A cabin can be newly constructed and still hold touches of vintage. By blending in a number of well-chosen pieces, you can capture that comfortable, familiar feeling that vintage provides.
Photo by Roger Wade
Getting the Vintage Look
Remodeling or starting from scratch? Add instant vintage to your cabin’s outside, inside or both. Start with the big areas – walls and flooring. Then look to furnishings, appliances, lighting and accessories. A pedestal sink and deep, claw-foot tub are perfect for a vintage bathroom.
Exterior. Half-log exterior siding can transform a 1960 ranch into an 1860 pioneer cabin. Paint it a glossy dark brown for a vintage varnished look, says Denise Caringer, editor of Second Home: Finding Your Place in the Fun. On the other hand, cedar shakes have graced seaside cottages since Colonial days.
For a timeless appeal check out multipane windows.
Shop architectural salvage yards for vintage shutters, corbels, molding and related pieces to make a new place  look lived in, says Molly Hyde English, author of “Camps and Cottages: a Stylish Blend of Old and New.”
Walls. Beadboard and open-frame construction recall early cottage interiors. Butter yellow, cream and moss green are classic colors. Some paint companies do offer retro palettes. Or match a shade you like in a vintage tablecloth or a painting. Vintage-style wallpaper is also available. Woodworking shops are a good source of period-style doors and millwork. Don’t overlook the details: hinges, pulls, knobs and other hardware.
Flooring. Strip away vinyl flooring or synthetic carpeting to reveal original wood flooring. Reclaimed timbers give soul to new floors; stone, handmade tiles and brick are also good choices. Braided wool rugs, Navajo rugs, Oriental carpets, and flatweave Turkish kilims are traditional cabin floor coverings.
This living room features distinctive Southwestern décor: built-in bench, stepped adobe wall and open beams. The motif is completed with framed historical photos and everyday objects including rugs; cowboy and rodeo memorabilia; and Native American artifacts.
Photo by Roger Wade
Furnishings. Choose natural materials for furnishings. Wood, bamboo, wicker and metal have been around forever. They’re easy on the eye and, unlike plastic, easy to repair or repaint. Hunt for one-of-a-kind pieces at flea markets and estate sales. Shaker, Arts & Crafts, and Molesworth-style reproductions are sturdy and less costly than originals.
Use antiques or vintage piecesas accents or focal points, suggests English. “We all like the old, but you can have style and not spend a fortune,” she says. For example, Stickley’s Mission Classics collection is a reissue of the Morris chair and other rectilinear oak designs that were the rage in the early 1900s (
Old Hickory Furniture Company built high-quality rustic furniture for national park lodges and turn-of-the-century Adirondack great camps; the company still produces beautiful and durable cabin furniture (see it at “Today, it’s possible to create brand-new pieces that look as though they’ve been in place for 75 years,” says Kerkow.
Fabrics. Like furnishings, vintage fabrics are Mother Nature’s fabrics: wool, linen, cotton, jute. Mix florals with stripes and patterns to create a vintage feel for curtains, upholstery, slipcovers and duvets. Visit to check out vintage-style fabric from the folks at Whispering Pines. Recycle worn tablecloths and linens from the ’50s as pillow covers.
Wool blankets are indispensable for bedding and throws. Choose from Woolrich’s multi-striped Hudson’s Bay collection (the original “trade” blankets were used as currency between trappers and Native Americans in Revolutionary times), and Pendleton’s Heritage Collection, Pendleton’s colorful camp blankets are based on originals used by cowboys and sheepherders in the 1800s. Both companies also make classic red and black buffalo check blankets.

Restored appliances can be purchased. Or perhaps you’d rather have new, retro-style models with modern technology. Here are some sources: • Antique Appliances, • Elmira Stove Works, • Big Chill,
Photo by Roger Wade/Boyd Mountain Log Cabins
Lighting. Vintage lamps invite you to curl up with a Zane Grey novel, or ante up for poker. Repro Tiffany-style stained glass and mica shades are readily available; so are wrought-iron chandeliers and wall sconces. If the power goes out, you’ll never be in the dark with a kerosene glass or metal lamp from the venerable Aladdin Mantle Lamp Company,
Appliances. Remember Grandma frying up the day’s catch on a wood-fueled, cast-iron cookstove? Or bacon sizzling on a porcelain gas range? Vintage stoves dish up nostalgia. So do old Kelvinators – er, refrigerators. They also have the soft, rounded shape that complements period cabins.
Professionally restored fridges and stoves can cost $5,000 or more; a good source is Georgia-based Antique Appliances ( Or opt for a new, retro-style model with old-fashioned charm plus the latest in cooking technology. Resources to check out include Elmira Stove Works (, and the Big Chill company (
New countertop appliances also can have vintage appeal. KitchenAid’s classic mixer has endured since 1919. In the ’90s, KitchenAid added toasters, blenders and food processors to its mix of vintage-look small appliances.
Create a stir in the great room or bedroom with vintage ceiling, floor or table fans. Purists can find restored period fans at; energy-saving reproductions with teak, rattan or bamboo “leaf” blades are perfect for a Bogart-era hideout in the sun. Casablanca’s Zephair oscillates with 1920s flair (; Bellacor’s stem-mounted rustic copper ceiling fan has a simple, timeless look (
Accessories. Vintage accessories reveal your cabin’s history and its occupants’ personalities. Old signs, pottery, baskets, kitschy displays, souvenirs, black and white family photographs and outdoor-themed memorabilia are perfect. The classic North Woods cabin is a sportsman’s retreat, notes Kerkow, with collections of gear like canoe paddles, fishing rods, creels, bait buckets and lures.
Taxidermy not your thing? Substitute an artist’s rendition of a 10-pointer for a trophy buck. Trim the sails of a nostalgic coastal cabin with straw hats, a coir or sisal rug, sailcloth slipcovers, model ships, oars, buoys, shells, framed seascapes.

The vintage look is here to stay. Keep your cabin uncomplicated, homey and close to its roots. Make it a place to celebrate the outdoor life and seasonal traditions, and we guarantee that future generations will cherish it as much as you.

Frances Sigurdsson holds sway on a vintage porch swing at her Adirondack home – at least until the blackflies drive her inside.
Photo by Elmira Stove Works

Sources of Inspiration    

Pick up a book.
• Any of Ralph Kylloe’s coffee-table books on cabin décor and rustic furniture.

• “Cabin Style: Decorating with Rustic, Adirondack, and Western Collectibles” by Dian Zillner and Suzanne Silverthorn.

Visit a vintage lodge.

No matter where you live, there’s bound to be an untouched or restored gem from another era nearby.

Our picks:

• Lake of the Woods Mountain Lodge, Klamath Falls, Ore.,

• Sagamore, the former great camp of the Vanderbilts, is open for guided tours during the summer, Raquette Lake, N.Y.,

• Spider Lake Lodge, Hayward, Wis., a vintage bed and breakfast inn co-owned by Jim Kerkow and Craig Mason, is also home to their NorthPoint Lodge Collection and NorthPoint Design,

• The Lake Rabun Hotel, a mountain lodge since 1922, Lakemont, Ga.

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