A Custom-Built Condo Masquerading as a Cozy Cabin Getaway

A Custom-Built Condo Masquerading as a Cozy Cabin Getaway

Name: Corey Dane
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Size: 809 square feet
Years Lived In: 5 years, owned

My 800-square-foot condo has been a labor of love since purchasing it in the winter of 2013. Funny thing…I wasn't looking to purchase a home at the time. I had just moved to Madison and planned to rent an apartment while I got a lay of the land, then stumbled upon the building and my home while helping a friend move into another unit.

When someone asks for help moving – I'm all in! You never know where it might lead. In my case, it's how I purchased my first home and gained a familiar neighbor in the process.

The first thing I did when I moved in was paint unfortunate olive and taupe walls bright white. The crisp color serves as a canvas for the custom-built pieces I've had designed, found objects I've stumbled upon, and DIY projects I've been ambitious (read: crazy) enough to tackle.

Because I work from home and travel often I wanted to create an urban oasis where I can relax and recharge. The open-plan living room and dining/kitchen combo provide ample entertaining space for large gatherings, and the bedroom, free from clunky furniture, offers a serene space for sleep.

Despite the fact that the building was completed in 2009, my modern condo masquerades as a cozy cabin getaway with woodsy surprises throughout. It feels like a rustic vacation home you never want to leave with modern conveniences so you don't have to.

Although I'm the only occupant — my home is a product of all the design advice and helping hands that friends have volunteered over the years (in exchange for food of course). I never feel alone at home because the projects I've tackled and garage sale finds I've amassed in the five years I've lived in Madison remind me of the community I've built here.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Crafted and found. I like blending old and new — found objects that I've thrifted, antiqued, or been handed down that I can give a fourth, fifth or sixth life to — and custom pieces built by craftspeople I've met in the cities I've lived; Chicago, Tucson, and now Madison. My condo has a rustic cabin feel, with modern comforts and cozy accents.

Inspiration: Years ago I came across a spread featuring a Southern California ranch in the Santa Monica mountains owned by Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi. When I moved into my place, I wondered, "What would that ranch look like in the center of an urban oasis," and set forth on a journey to figure it out, inspired by the the Midwest's expansive outdoors, handcrafted furniture, cozy textiles, and vintage treasures.

Favorite Element: The exposed brick wall in the bedroom. (Can I call it exposed if it's not original?!) I knew I wanted to add some visual interest to an otherwise simple room, but I didn't know how labor intensive "adding interest" was going to be! The wall itself took a year and a half to complete (including a nine-month hiatus when travel picked up and I wasn't home much), but it was worth the grout, sweat, and tears. Several friends pitched in to help figure it out on the fly, and I have some really fun photos and stories from the install.

Biggest Challenge: Kitchen counter space. The benefit of having an open kitchen is friends get to feel as though they're a part of the action when I'm whipping up dinner, but I don't have nearly enough real estate to prep the sorts of meals I gravitate towards. I've become creative with knife, pot and pan storage, and installed shelves to house additional essentials, but I could really use more surface area for food prep. (I suppose another solution would be to scale it back and not cook like I have a show on the Food Network!)

Proudest DIY: Balcony herb garden. I love using fresh herbs in cooking and have always wanted a robust herb garden. I just never lived anywhere where it seemed possible. When I purchased my condo I was determined to come up with some sort of outdoor solution knowing that my south-facing unit would get great sun and green things would thrive.

I went online hoping to be inspired, but didn't come across anything I loved, so I started brainstorming, did some doodling, and went to the hardware store with my notes. I walked up and down the aisles until inspiration hit.

In the end I used gallon-sized paint cans, drilled holes in the bottom for proper drainage, and attached them using dryer vent clamps around the top of the can and plastic zip ties fed through the clamp and around the balcony railing.

Herbs grow well into the fall and I bring the cans in before the first hard frost, dry them, and use them throughout the winter.

Biggest Indulgence: Bedroom curtains. My biggest indulgence also happens to be my biggest embarrassment.

I wasn't able to find bedroom curtains in the color or length that I wanted without going the custom route and shelling out mad cash, so I decided to go the DIY route.

I purchased two canvas drop cloths from the the hardware store, some fabric dye from a craft store and attempted to dye the canvas "the perfect gray." News flash: It's really hard to dye fabric gray. In some light, grays have a little bit too much green, in other light, a little too much yellow, and sometimes, a little too much blue.

I won't tell you how many trips I made to the hardware store, how much dye I purchased, or how many times I tried to get the perfect gray, but I'll tell you this much: It would have been cheaper to have custom curtains made.

I'm happy with how they turned out in the end, and actively work to forget how much they cost. :)

Best Advice: Don't rush it: When I purchased my condo in the winter of 2013 I thought I could have everything done in time to host a big housewarming bash by summer… I was WAY OFF. It takes time to create a space you love, and I'm getting better at enjoying the process.

You'll never be done: Five years later I'm still swapping out pieces and tweaking the arrangement of things and tackling new and (sometimes) insane-seeming projects. I don't think it'll ever be "done" and I'm okay with that because I don't know what I'd do if it truly felt done.

Be flexible: I thought I knew exactly what I wanted my finished home to look like. I made oodles of to do lists and shopping lists and had a folder of magazine snippets and endless Apartment Therapy articles bookmarked. But truth be told, some of my favorite pieces are items I found when I wasn't looking for anything and pieces I never imagined I'd have in my home.

Know your limit: DIY can be incredibly rewarding and economical, but everyone has limits. Know what you're capable of and when in doubt...pay someone. (I speak from experience…ahem...bedroom curtains.)


Walls Throughout – Benjamin Moore Super White, Eggshell
Ceilings Throughout – Benjamin Moore Super White, Matte

Bench* – Custom Built
Coat Rack* – Custom Built
Shelves – Urban Outfitters (no longer available)
Mirror – Target (no longer available)
Ceramic Vase – Toast Ceramics
Glass Vase – The Cozy Home
Rug – Target (no longer available)

*Friends and co-owners of A La Crate Vintage Rentals in Madison, WI introduced me to a friend of theirs who helped them construct some of their rustic items for rent. I enlisted his help to build several pieces, including a bench and coat rack in my entryway using reclaimed barnwood and flat strap metal. I love meeting Madison makers and supporting their craft.

Curtains – IKEA
Work Slab* – Custom Built
Mirror – Found, Garage Sale
Shelves – Deppeler Wood Shop^
Pipe – Custom Built Using Hardware Store Supplies

*This wood slab used to be part of a desk I no longer use. After I took it apart I realized the teak wood stained in a rich espresso fits perfectly on the washer and dryer and provides ample space for folding clothes.

^This lumber yard and shop has endless species of wood for any sort of DIY project and was willing to cut down, sand, and plane some beautiful walnut to my specifications that I then sealed with matte polyurethane. The kitchen shelves and bar shelf were cut from the same walnut, but with those I decided to keep the live edge.

Burlap Curtains – Etsy, Curtains By Jackie Dix
Hardware – Custom Built Using Hardware Store Supplies
Cowhide Rug – Etsy (shop no longer exists)
Darwin Sofa – JCPenny (no longer available)
Cushion Covers – H&M (no longer available) & IKEA
Cow Hide Bolsters – Etsy (shop no longer exists)
Coffee Table – The Cozy Home
End Tables – Target (no longer available) & Found Crate
Nailhead Leather Chair – Gift From Friend
Pouf – CB2
Victor Chair – West Elm
Trunk – Found, Garage Sale
Turbine Lamp – Odana Antiques
Floor Lamp – World Market (no longer available)
Ladder – Odana Antiques
Blankets – Target & IKEA (no longer available)

Desk – Found, Habitat For Humanity ReStore
Chair – Pottery Barn (no longer available)
Storage – Found, Garage Sale
Artwork – Joan Schulte
Area Rug – Urban Outfitters (no longer available)
Lamp – West Elm (cord set), Pieces Unimagined (shade)

Table* – Custom Built
Stools – CB2
Shelves – Deppeler Wood Shop
Hardware – Custom Built Using Hardware Store Supplies
Pendant – CB2

*I worked with the same person who built the entryway bench and coat rack on the design. It was important that the table be counter height in order to increase the amount of prep space in the kitchen. The table was built using reclaimed barn wood and you can see how that wood started out if you look carefully at the wood wall in the living room. There's a small red plank that's not sanded or stained. I like looking at it and knowing how my table got its start.

Bar Cabinet – Found, Antiques On Pierce
Bar Shelf – Deppeler Wood Shop
Wine Rack – Esty, R Christopher Designs
Metal Ledge – West Elm (no longer available)
Rug – World Market
Lamp – West Elm (cord set), Hatch Art House (shade)
Bench – Custom Built
Lamp – Target (no longer available)
Cushion Cover – H&M (no longer available)
Textile – H&M (no longer available)
Map – Found, Maple Bluff Antique Mall

Pour Over Stand – Crescendo Espresso & Music Cafe
Pot Rack – The Kitchen Gallery

Pallet Bed – Custom Built
Area Rug – World Market
Curtains – Custom Made
Hardware – Custom Built Using Hardware Store Supplies
Nightstands – Found, St. Vincent De Paul Stores
Lamps – Target (no longer available)
Artwork – CB2 (no longer available)
Plant Hanger & Pot – Found

Shower Curtain – West Elm (no longer available)
Wood Storage – Urban Outfitters (no longer available)
Artwork –Joan Schulte
Whimsical Wall Friends – Fontaine Interior Design
Rug – Target (no longer available)
Bamboo Mat – World Market

Chest – Etsy, Looney Bin Trading Co
Cushion Covers – West Elm (no longer available)
Textile – West Elm (no longer available)
Metal Storage – Found, Garage Sale
Pouf – CB2

Thanks, Corey!

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