Artist John Frame’s Introspective Mountain Cabin

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Name: John and Laura Frame
Location: Wrightwood, California
Size: 2,500 square feet
Years lived in: 30 years; Owned

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I’m a fan of sculpting mastermind John Frame, so touring his home was an honor, which makes it difficult for me to write this feature without giving you an essay-style rundown of his poignant, otherworldly carvings and stop-motion animations. Before I attempt to delve into the mind of this skilled sculptor by analyzing his vast collection of religious paraphernalia and self-constructed furnishings, I must preface my words with this: this isn’t your standard House Tour. A peek inside this quiet and introspective mountain dwelling features some compelling vignettes that are likely to have you feeling some feels.

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

John is a skilled craftsmen, and he and his wife Laura have been a mainstay in their mountain community of Wrightwood, California for 30 years. Aside from the small laundry room addition in the back of the house, every renovation—including all new windows and exterior cedar siding—has been done by John himself. The home’s furnishings and decor are all Mission period antiques, replicas, or pieces handcrafted by John. From the Shakespeare-era local tree trunk table on the porch to the original three-dimensional model made by painter Thomas Hart Benton, the place is riddled with intricate works that have a rich history and perceived story of their own.

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Eclectic, Flea Market, Yard Sale with an Arts and Crafts underpinning

Inspiration: The house is directly affected by our love of literature, music and visual art. We have tried to only include objects and elements that are aesthetically pleasing and that provide the sort of visual richness that I feel complements the work that I do.

Favorite Element: The studio, even though it is way too small.

Biggest Challenge: Since I did much of the construction and remodeling myself, the primary challenge was finding the time to complete the various projects we have undertaken over the years. I look forward to the day when I can safely say that I have driven the last nail!

What Friends Say: Most of our friends and family love the house. They tend to comment on the “warmth” they feel when they visit. They also seem to like the hand-built, one-of-a-kind nature of the place and the quirkiness of the decor.

Biggest Embarrassment: Can’t think of one.

Proudest DIY: The screened-in porch.

Biggest Indulgence: Marvin double-glazed windows. I replaced every window in the house myself except for the two cathedral windows in the living room. Since I was doing the labor myself, it seemed a justifiable expense, but it was still a significant expense for a struggling artist and a teacher to pull off.


(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)


  • Exterior: The exterior is coated in a blend of linseed oil and mineral spirits.
  • Interior: Most of the interior is knotty pine with a very thin coat of shellac.
  • Paint: The overall color choices play loosely with the warm tones of the wood surfaces both inside and out working against a wide range of greens. The complementary colors have proven very satisfactory, and we never seem to tire of them.
(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)


  • Furniture: primarily Mission-style period furniture with a few contemporary additions
  • Built-in cabinets: purpose-built by me to go with the Mission furniture
  • Art: 18th-century painting of a monk, prints by Rockwell Kent and Albrecht Durer
(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)


  • Table: I made the table from a slice of one of the oldest trees in Wrightwood. When bark beetles killed the tree, I asked the woodcutter to cut me a couple of slices. While the table has cupped somewhat over time, we still eat most of our meals at it except during winter. The tree was just short of 400 years old, and you can clearly see the evidence of the last “Great Quake” in the area which occurred in 1812.
  • Wicker furniture: The wicker furniture was a wonderful find in a local antique store. It was in very poor condition but afforded me the opportunity of learning to work with materials that were new to me.
  • Window screens: I built the window screens to match the cottage style of the windows throughout the house.
(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)


  • Table: generic Mission dining room table
  • Sideboard: generic Mission sideboard
  • Chairs: Limbert
  • Desk: L. & J.G. Stickley Fall-Front Desk
  • Heads: 19th-century creche heads on mounts built by me
(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)


  • Pottery: Bauer Ringware collection
  • Cabinet: purpose-built cabinet that my daughter Ashley and I designed and constructed
  • Gas stove: circa 1945… works great!
  • Refrigerator: Thermador
(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)


  • Bed: Mission reproduction bed
  • Desk: period drop-front desk
  • Built-ins: designed to our daughter Ashley’s specifications and built by me—there is a small “secret” cabinet with a relief carving that I made at the time of construction.
(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)


  • Bed: Mission reproduction
  • Chest of drawers: period original
  • Drop-front desk: period original
  • Rug: small Persian prayer rug
  • Decor: This room has a religious motif, and we refer to it as the “Nun’s Room.” There are multiple images of nuns and Catholiciana.
(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)


  • Renovation: This bathroom was a major remodel a few years ago. I did most of the construction myself and sub-contracted the tile work.
(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)


  • Library tables: period L. & J.G. Stickley
  • Music stand: period L. & J.G. Stickley
  • Server: period L. & J.G. Stickley
  • Computer table: period L. & J.G. Stickley
  • Filing cabinets: contemporary reproductions
  • Closed bookcase: contemporary reproductions
  • Renovation: This was our only major remodel that was completed by a private contractor, but I built the fireplace with him during construction.
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Our welcoming tour guides (and homeowners), John and Laura Frame (Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

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Thanks, John & Laura!