A Formerly Run-Down Cabin Is Now a Bright and Modern Dream Retreat

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Open living and kitchen space with large windows

Name: Christine Bayles Kortsch and husband, Daniel Kortsch (the cabin is shared with Daniel’s brother and sister-in law)
Location: Twin Lakes, Colorado
Type of home: Cabin
Size: 1,226 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Our cabin is a labor of love. We dreamed of owning a cabin for years. When we found a run-down, dreary cabin at 10,000 feet, looking straight up at one of the highest peaks in the Rockies, we knew we’d found the one. Maroon cork floors, a clanging burgundy pellet stove, heavy pine paneling everywhere, horrible bathrooms, a red and green congested kitchen: it all had to go. We painted the pine paneling white, put in wide-plank hardwood floors, and a catalytic HearthStone wood stove, gutted all three bathrooms, salvaged and flipped the kitchen design, ripped out upper cabinets, made furniture ourselves, painted the deck and trim black, etc.

Now you’ll find a bright and airy space with cozy handmade pillows, furniture, weavings, local pottery, whimsical wallpaper, local amenities (tea, coffee, chocolate, essential oils, pottery) from our partnerships with small local businesses we love. Above all, the interior simplicity now allows nature to be the star—the views from the cathedral windows are majestic. They don’t even look real in photos, but we assure you when you see the mountains this close up and surrounding you on every side in real life, it’s breathtaking and humbling.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Cozy, minimalist, airy, dreamy, hideaway

We identify as hard workers, DIYers, people who admire simplicity, the handmade, and usefulness in our designs and in our stuff. We’ve done a lot of world traveling and there is a certain soul you can find in loved homes, in humble places where you literally feel the love and simple beauty inside the walls. We don’t come from money, which means pulling off a second home renovation was a dream long coming, and a dream that required loads of sweat equity, creativity, and collaboration. As a family of two brothers and their spouses, coming together to achieve this dream, we believe we’re stronger when we work together around common values, when we think beyond our individual needs and desires to use good design to offer respite and peace to others.

This is why we rent out our home on Airbnb and work very very hard to surround guests with special thoughtful touches (local pottery, handmade weavings, local essential oils, women-owned coffee and tea, etc.) to send them home restored and refreshed by time in nature. Our original vision was to offer our home for community dinners, small retreats, workshops, and more. COVID has thrown a wrench in those plans (for now) but on the flip side we’ve hosted tons of adventure elopements. What an unexpected joy!

What is your favorite room and why? The kitchen! If you saw how it looked before, you’d freak out. What a change. It’s bright, airy, cozy. We love the vintage copper collection (a gift from my sis-in-law’s grandma) so we built the rest of the design elements around it—adding a copper faucet and pulls, painting cabinets a pale gray, etc. The view of mountains right outside the windows, birds singing, the sweet fresh smell of green pine wafting in open windows: this is mountain living at its simple, glorious best!

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? We made a clothes closet hanger out of an aspen branch we found in the national forest behind the cabin. It’s rustic, elegant, quirky, and unexpected, and it makes us smile.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Start with what you love, and build around it. Don’t be afraid of empty spaces, of simplicity. Good light and plants don’t cost much, but they instantly cozy up any space. Don’t just cram in a bunch of mass-produced stuff to try to look like every other person on Instagram. I’m not knocking the creativity on Insta, just encouraging us to think for ourselves, layer up our rooms slowly and with intention, use our hard-earned money to support local makers and small, ethical businesses whenever we possibly can. Go to secondhand stores, scout Craigslist, get out the paint, macrame a plant hanger, try a DIY project. Make it your own. If you’re not into making stuff yourself, no guilt, but why not support local, ethical makers in your area? Maybe a handmade item costs more but not only are you supporting an artist to make a living wage you can buy less filler junk and love what you have more. Nature teaches us how to make our homes beautiful—bring in a branch or something green, repurpose a found object, keep it simple, make do with less. Simplicity is beautiful!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.