5 Steps for Designing Your Dream Cabin

By Craig Middleton

If you’re tired of the same houses and apartments in the city and suburbs, a mountain cabin may be more your style. Figuring out how to make the dream happen is another challenge altogether. Do you choose the mountains or lakes? Big or small? Remote or close to town? Do you choose an existing style or create your own? Navigating the process can be daunting, but there’s a shortlist to make the whole ordeal a little easier. Here are the first steps you should take to design your dream cabin.

1. Plan

A big project like this requires massive planning upfront to avoid complications later on. If you have a partner, this should definitely be something you do together. You don’t want to be shopping for materials and have completely different styles in mind. Consider your interests and hobbies to make sure your design is functional as well as visually appealing. If traditional means of power are too expensive to bring to remote areas, looking into the best solar panels may be worth your while. Building a cabin typically takes a considerable chunk of time, so you’ll need to plan not only a construction schedule but also leave room for complications. Things like the weather may pause operations, which can throw a wrench in your accommodation plans.

2. Budget

Some of the most unexpected things can eat into your budget. Once you’ve come up with a realistic number, make sure to leave room for surprise expenses. It may be a good idea to come up with some areas you know you want to invest more of your money in, and then come up with some areas you’re willing to compromise on. If a luxurious tub is on your wishlist, you may have to go with slightly less expensive appliances in the kitchen. You may also want to consult an interior designer or contractor, as these experts often have connections or tips about how to find the best prices for different types of materials.

3. Pick Your Location

The location is at least half the fun of having a cabin. The right location can mean everything, so it’s important to visit plots of land for yourself. Once you’ve settled on a general area, consider the wildlife and foliage. Trees can provide plenty of privacy and shade, but they can also damage your home in a storm or make it difficult to see anyone approaching your property. Accessibility often becomes more of a concern as cabin owners age, and even a loose rock can quickly become a danger. In addition, if you expect harsh winter conditions, you may need to prepare supplies according to a schedule every year. If you plan on becoming self-sufficient, you may want to evaluate the land before you attempt to grow crops.

4. Talk To the Experts

If you’re not an expert in building cabins, talk to the people who are. Attempting to take on too much yourself could result in a lot of time and money wasted. It can also prove to be dangerous if you try to install things like electrical systems or plumbing by yourself. These experts can also help you make the most of your budget and space, and help you think of solutions or alternatives to problems you won’t think of.

5. Start in Winter

This may not be the route for everyone, but there are many ways you could benefit from starting the process in winter. Even if you just start the planning in winter, contractors and other experts are more likely to have room in their schedules during the off-season. Many materials and supplies go on sale during the winter months as well. Plus, if you start early, you can be the first to get on the books for construction to start in the warmer months.

Living in your dream cabin may seem like a cozy fantasy now, but with some careful forethought, you can create a home that suits your lifestyle with minimal stress.


Craig has worked in health, real estate, and HR businesses for most of his professional career. He graduated from the University of California – Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. When he’s not creating content or advising clients, he enjoys hiking and traveling with his wife.       

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