Before & After: This Family’s 642-Square-Foot Cozy Cabin Got a Budget Renovation

published Aug 28, 2020

Before & After: This Family’s 642-Square-Foot Cozy Cabin Got a Budget Renovation

published Aug 28, 2020
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Square feet
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Name: Maya Brenner and Dustin Lancaster and three kids Jack, Sadie, and Otis. Also Roxy the dog
Location: Big Bear Lake, California
Size: 642 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, owned

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This 642-square-foot cozy cabin isn’t Los Angeles-based jewelry designer Maya Brenner‘s full-time home. But the small two-bedroom, one-bathroom space shared by her family of five (partner Dustin and kids Jack, Sadie, and Otis) has proven to be a benefit during the pandemic. And it’s an adorable example of how to spruce up a small home on a small budget.

Credit: Maya Brenner

Nestled on a 1.4 acre lot in Big Bear (about two hours away from Los Angeles), the cabin features a charming hand-carved screen door, a hand-made painted paddle in the entryway, a carved wood replica of Big Bear Lake over the dining area, and a cheery newly painted yellow kitchen.

Credit: Maya Brenner

“We bought the house in February right before the pandemic hit and we closed escrow just as things began to really shut down. We said this is either the dumbest thing we’ve ever done or the smartest,” admits Maya. “And as we started the remodel on the property, we quickly realized that this could be a real refuge for our family during this time and that’s exactly what it’s been. We love being out on Big Bear Lake, boating and breathing in the fresh air away from the stresses of life in Los Angeles.”

Credit: Maya Brenner

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Mid-century modern, rustic, and free-spirited

Inspiration: Vintage A-Frame vibes. Classic mountain cabin chic

Credit: Maya Brenner

Favorite Element: The 52’ live edge oak slab we had cut and customized for our bar top/kitchen counter. Our contractor told us we would never find one that wide. We happened to drive past a wood shop in Running Springs (a small town on the way up the mountain) and lo and behold there she w​as.

Biggest Challenge: Navigating the overall small size. We are a family of five, so a 600-square-foot, two-bedroom, one bath is cozy, to put it nicely. We sleep with Otis’ crib at the foot of our bed and we bought bunk beds for the other bedroom. Also, the living room sofa is a pull-out, which has already come in handy if the older kids have friends with them. As for one bath, luckily the toddler and the two older kids are on very different schedules so it works out. Plus the style is so relaxed that “getting ready” isn’t really a thing.

Credit: Maya Brenner

Proudest DIY: We put a claw foot tub in a 5’ x 4’ bathroom, which seemed a little crazy. There was originally an old shower kit that we pulled out and reused the existing plumbing in the wall. We had to pull the door jam off to get it in there but the upgrade was more than worth it.

Biggest Indulgence: We just spent three months grading the property so we could have a proper driveway. Before, it was just a dirt road so it took about six weeks and 20 truck loads of dirt to do. But we now have a beautiful 150-foot driveway, which will come in handy when it starts to snow in a few months.

Credit: Maya Brenner

Best Advice: When buying a mountain/lake home you really have to think about what your priorities are. Ours were to either be by the lake or try and get some substantial land. We were lucky to end up with the latter at 1.5 acres and it’s great that we are still only a 10-minute walk to the water.

What’s your best home secret? Because the house can get quite messy with a toddler and two teens, I invested in lots of under-bed storage containers from the Container Store so I can throw toys and other items in the ​baskets​ and shove them under the bed to hide the chaos. I also bought a few more space-saving items from Open Spaces including this entryway ​shoe rack.


Credit: Maya Brenner


  • Kitchen Cabinets, Citron by Farrow and Ball
  • Walls — Myth 740f-5 by Behr
  • Lighting — ​Home Depot


  • Bar cart — ​Wayfair
  • Front porch items — Schoolhouse Electric
  • Carved wood door screen — Cabin Fever local shop
Credit: Maya Brenner


Credit: Maya Brenner


  • Rattan glass coffee table and chairs — Craigslist
  • L-shape dining banquette and cushions — ​Pottery Barn
  • Artwork — Local shops and one of our favorites called Cabin Fever.
Credit: Maya Brenner


  • Wood slab countertop — Custom
  • Custom cabinets — Painted yellow to brighten the room.
Credit: Maya Brenner



  • Clawfoot Tub — ​Signature Hardware
  • Wood ladder for towels — Taken from Otis’s nursery in our LA home. Similar one ​here

Thanks Maya and family!

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