Roger and Zora’s Cabin Dilemma

John and Matthew answer a question from Roger and Zora in Georgia who asked the following:

“Hi there,

We love your website & your philosophy of design. We purchased our dream property last year, a 16 acre farm in the Blue Ridge mountains. The log cabin, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired. After considering adding on a master bedroom with an outdoor kitchen & cold storage located closer to the garden below, as well as enclosing part of the screened porch as a passive solar room, we decided that the kitchen was the priority. kitchen, living, dining are all in one great room. We added a mud room for more storage & as a buffer to the weather. The kitchen dates back to the construction of the house in the mid-80s. The pine cabinets have glass fronts & the doors are poorly constructed. We were thinking of painting the cabinets & getting new fronts to help brighten the interior which is so dominated by dark wood walls! Any suggestions would be so appreciated!” – Roger & Zora

Today’s Slides:

  • Matthew North

    Hi Everyone……just a couple of notes about the sketch plan I posted. I made a bit of a modification from the drawing that John and I did in the video – I did not shift the master bedroom wall beside the fridge because I felt the bed was getting too cramped even though the kitchen design benefitted from an increase in space. I am interested to hear from Roger and Zora to see if it is possible that the door to the master bedroom can be relocated? The other critical point that we were unable to address in the episode is the question about how to get more light to the interior. This one kind of stumps me! I am curious to hear if anyone in the group has any suggestions. The log cabin interior is a challenge – my first thought is to spray all the walls and ceilings white but I’m not sure if that would cause issues with the wood as I believe that real log cabins are treated in a particular way to preserve the wood. I am very interested to know what others think about this problem.

  • obmorales

    Hello, I like the simple solution, and added closet. I would have used two overstuffed chairs and a love seat as a furniture grouping.

    I would install, a pair of large skylights, either on the north side of the roof’s ridge or both sides, an alternate would be to build a shed dormer, either side as well.
    Dormer give you the added advantage of framing possible long distance views.


  • Matthew North

    Hi Oscar – skylights are a good idea. I like the idea of a dormer too – that would involve more construction and expense but could really transform the space.

  • Steve in Seattle

    There are windows
    on three sides of the main room and overhead in the gable, so I’m not sure the
    problem is not enough light.  Instead, it
    seems to me, the clients want some visual relief from all that beautiful wood –
    the room needs more contrast in color and texture.  Everything is wood, dark and hard. 


    So yes, they
    could paint the cabinets.  Or better, install
    lighter countertops and appliances, slipcover the couches and wood chairs, hang
    window coverings, or place area rugs or mats in the dining and living areas.  Anything to introduce contrast.  If they need more, insert insulated panels or
    sheetrock between the rafters, and sheetrock the kitchen ceiling under the loft.  And if the wood is still overpowering,
    consider whitewashing rather than painting (last option):


    Granted, the
    bedroom door area is tight, but it also appears to be the only access to the bathroom
    and laundry.  Moving the door to the
    other side of the stairs puts the bath too far away, IMO.  I’d suggest straightening the door entry now
    (pushing the frig to the left), and if they build a master bedroom addition
    later, this bedroom could be easily enclosed, all while keeping the bath
    accessible to guests (as shown).

  • Louis Pereira

    Steve – I really like your solution also! 

    Keeping the Bathroom accessible to guests via a common entry point is key.  The circulation patterns are still convenient and well defined.  Because we’re looking at a partial plan it’s uncertain what the full size of the bedroom is but I was also going to suggest moving the bed to the right wall as you’ve shown.

    There is quite a bit of floor space between the stairs and sofa, so unless the homeowner has some piece of furniture that they place against this wall, you could also build out another closet running the length of the stairs and existing closet.

  • Louis Pereira

    I was thinking about the issue regarding the darkness of the walls and the space in general. 

    An aquaintance of mine had a similar issue with existing dark walls in his residence – a conversion of a former Unitarian Church here in Edmonton.  The solution was to partially cover the walls with drywall like he did in the first photo…This technique can be applied to vertical walls or even pitched ceilings…

  • Matthew North

    Steve – I think you have a great scheme with your vestibule entry to the bedroom and bath/ laundry. I am really curious to see the remainder of the floor plan in that area. It’s interesting to me how a clear understanding of this area is essential to the solution for this house as Louis had noted. 

  • Matthew North

    Hi Louis – the closet addition is great. I love how this scheme is evolving – everybody adding a small piece. It feels really balanced to me – The kitchen is now clearly defined and there is no sense of wasted or unused space.