Name: Jake Levin
Location: Big Bear, California
Size: 972 square feet
Years lived in: 2.5 years, owned
I found this cabin after being frustrated with the out-of-reach housing market in Los Angeles, where I live and work full-time as an Art Director/Graphic Designer. One day I started looking at places in Big Bear, just a two-hour drive from the city, when I realized wait a minute, I might be actually able to do this. I figured if I could break even renting it out and have a place to get away on some weekends it would be amazing, but I never could've imagined how this little cabin would change my life.
I love the cabin itself and being able to express myself through the design of it. The fact that you basically have your own private forest in the backyard is truly remarkable. But most of all, I love the incredible people I've been able to host and provide an unforgettable experience to where lasting memories are made. I even landed my current job through an Airbnb guest I hosted—pretty wild! When I'm at the cabin I'm usually in the middle of or scheming my next home improvement project (I could go on forever!) or I'm out in the backyard exploring the miles of trails.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Mid-century modern.
Inspiration: I take a lot of inspiration from mid-century modern and space-age design. I want my space to look timeless and not specifically follow any one current trend in design. I love color and trying to weave pops of it in wherever I can. "Time capsule homes" inspire me and while there are certain things that definitely need to be updated and more modern, I try to keep many pieces feeling as if they could've been there when the cabin was built in the '70s. I believe that especially for a cabin this helps allow time to melt away a bit and allow you to forget about phones, TV, the news, and all the other things we're bombarded with on a daily basis!
Favorite Element: My favorite element by far is the fact that you can walk right off the back deck into the forest with miles of hiking trails. It's a privately-owned nature preserve! You can explore forever back there and never run into another person—there's just no renovation in the world you can do to beat that. It doesn't hurt that the cabin is so raised in the front (15 feet+) that it really feels like you're in a treehouse above the neighborhood below. The world just melts away and you kind of forget that society exists while you're there… And isn't that what having a cabin is all about?
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge when you're making a home for short-term rentals is keeping your budget and sentimentality in check. I love everything in the cabin, but there's nothing there that holds personal sentimental value. Most all things have been carefully acquired second hand via eBay or Craigslist, which also allows for a high-quality at a reasonable price. I'm very lucky to live in Los Angeles where there is a really fantastic secondhand market.
Proudest DIY: What made the biggest difference on the interior was removing some rustic, carved divider poles and removing the carpet on the stairs. These poles made being on the stairs feel like being in some sort of rustic prison. It was also hands-down the most fun I've had doing a renovation. I took a circular saw and walked up the stairs slicing the poles in half, then knocked them out with a good kick! I then took thin pieces of poplar called hobby board and cut them perfectly to size for the stair risers for a nice, clean look. For the stairs themselves I kept the plywood tops and simply sanded them down and then I stained everything. This was less than $100 worth of wood and the biggest expense was purchasing a table saw to make the cuts.
Biggest Indulgence: From the first shower taken in the cabin I knew I needed to add a fan/ventilation system in the bathroom. Taking a shower would make the entire cabin a sauna and fog up all of the windows. I knew this moisture could cause some serious issues (and surprised it hadn't yet to be honest!) I brought in a contractor to give a quote and they said they'd have to drop the ceiling above the shower a bit to fit the fan. The showerhead was installed right at face level and the water pressure was so strong it was like a big, wet slap in the face. I had always wanted a rain shower but figured that would be super expensive. I asked how much it would be to run the plumbing above in the newly dropped ceiling and it turned out to be just an extra $600 to the project. That was totally worth it and it's a nice little luxury.
Best Advice: You can do that renovation project yourself! There is SO much money to be saved by simply looking up some YouTube videos. It has allowed me to spend more money on things I care about versus simply on labor. Plus, the knowledge gained lasts a lifetime.
PAINT & COLORS
Exterior — Benjamin Moore Arborcoat – Custom Mix - Two parts Black, one part Prescott Navy. Trim is Prescott Navy.
Eames Fiberglass Rocking Chair – Modernica
Sofa – "Mid-Century Vintage Style Sofa" from Sunbeam Vintage in Los Angeles with reinforced McCobb style legs and base from tablelegs.com
Orange Lounge Chair – Vintage
Turned Wood Leg Standing Planter – West Elm
Vintage Stockholm Collection Coffee Table – IKEA
Fireplace Tools – Vintage Paul McCobb – eBay
Black Blanket – Tati Compton for PRIZE NYC
Lucy Blanket – Indybrand Co
Corner Arch Light – Crate & Barrel
Case Study V-Leg Daybed – Modernica
Three-Orb Pendant Light – Vintage
Eames-style Shell Chairs – Poly & Bark
Dining Table – Vintage base with handmade top
Light – Vintage Danish Modern Pendant Light – eBay
Bed with attached nightstands – Ink + Ivy
Pendant Light – Vintage Refurbished – eBay
Vintage Bill Curry for Laurel Lighting Bedside Lamp – eBay
Holli Zollinger Duvet Cover – Overstock.com
Dresser – Craigslist Vintage Refurbished