Design inspiration for great cabin bedrooms.
By Dale Mulfinger
What makes for a great cabin bedroom? Is it size, character, views or closets? My wife might question my authority on the subject, as I’m known as a two-speed guy with an on-and-off switch. Show me a bed, and I’m immediately off. So, my view of bedrooms comes principally from mornings where I wake up a couple of hours ahead of her and quietly pitter-patter around the room getting dressed.
In my 25 years of designing cabins, I’ve had the opportunity of scheming several interesting bedrooms. And since my wife and I regularly borrow completed cabins for a weekend, we’ve slept in many. So, along with the morning view, I’ve also received an earful of my wife’s critiques.
A bedroom at the cabin shouldn’t be large, as they are used for napping or sleeping but rarely for the getaway-room use that might occur in the home. Start with the bed size you’re going to use and add three feet around the three sides of the bed where you need movement. My queen-size cabin bedroom is 10.3x10.5 feet, and there is ample room. By adding a bay window, I made this modest space feel larger. Our other bedroom is 10x14 feet also with a queen-size bed. It has enough space to double as a quiet room in the cabin and an extra place for an inflatable mattress when we pack ’em in.
We add to this a queen-size sleeping loft, which overlooks the living room and is the favorite spot for the grandkids. Listening to the old boring adults below is the best sleeping potion. And we have an old log cabin on the property, which is our guest cabin and sleeps another five in singles and a bunk. After that, it’s the motel 10 miles down the road.
“Cozy” seems to be a description many of my clients exclaim as criteria for their desired cabin bedroom. This could imply a Swedish built-in bed as Carl Larsson highlights in his books or the materials employed on walls, floor and ceiling. There is a great tradition of wood, especially pine for walls and ceilings. If gypsum board is used, I like to recommend a rich paint color. Bedroom ceilings present a unique opportunity for creating a special character, and in bed, we view the ceiling a lot. Ceilings might follow a roofline or just receive special framing to create a shape. I have designed several bedroom ceilings with an arched shape, said by my favorite carpenter as an easy shape to frame. Arches or vaults can be symmetrical in the room if aligned with the bed or asymmetrical with the arch dropping low behind the bed. Tray ceilings are also easy to create and bring a ceiling down onto a wall for a cozy atmosphere. In my cabin bedroom, I followed the lines of a maple syrup tin, one that looks like a log cabin. Thus, the ceiling slopes on two sides only, raising to a flat section on top, sort of a half tray. We have thus named this bedroom the “Maple Syrup Room.”
It’s awesome to wake up in the morning to the expanse of a mountain, lake or stream view. But in the absence of those, it’s still not a loss to have a view of a beautiful birch tree, a bird feeder or flowering meadow. A window can frame a view, or with a large expanse of glass, the viewer can be thrust into the view. Although my cabin is on a lake, I wake up to lightly falling snow, deer at the corn pile I left out, wind rustling the poplar leaves or the shadow of an eagle’s flight overhead. Windows might be thought of principally for view, but they are just as important for ventilation. Cross-ventilation works best with windows at opposite sides of the room. An overhead fan can enhance air movement.
A children’s bunkroom can be a particularly fun design challenge to create those special cabin memories of cousins and friends. Be mindful that children grow up, and the bunkroom is just as likely to be used by a gang of adult fishermen.
Special, unique sleeping spaces for children can be created in many out of the way places – such as under the stairs or up a ladder under the roof.
Consider the possibility that a cabin’s guest bedrooms are best without a closet, or at least not one behind doors. A practical consideration: Who wants their guests to forget wardrobe items? And don’t most folks live out of their satchel or suitcase these days? I design many cabin bedrooms with a niche containing a bench for luggage and hooks for clothing. Without the closet doors, a modest bedroom feels bigger. Sleep well my friends!
Dale's Code-Compliance Test
Think of this as the architect’s post-occupancy test. It consists of the following. Passing grades earn you Dale Mulfinger’s stamp of approval.
- Measure the Gin n’ Tonic deck railing with with Tanqueray in hand.
- Check fire safety with shrimp sizzling on the grill.
- Measure the night time bedroom acoustics through a full night’s sleep under clean sheets.
- Test the hot water flow rate with a long morning shower.
- Verify the kitchen hood’s air flow with eggs n’ bacon frying in the morn.