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Looking to Ditch That Big Bear Cabin Look? Here’s Some Tips to Modernizing Your Mountain Home….

“We want something cabin-y.” This is something I hear ALL the time. Most of my clients want to escape from the city to their mountain home that really feels mountainous. But here’s the thing, you can still get that feeling without the bears and lacquered wood. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people love that look and it is important to decorate your home to fit your taste. But, if you’re looking for something current or are hoping to maximize your rental potential, kicking that traditional cabin look may be the answer.

Although I like to think I have a good eye, I thought it would be important to have an expert weigh in on this one. I reached out to a very successful interior designer and friend, Jordan Hughes of Dominique’s Interiors. Although she does it all, she specializes in Mountain Homes. They are based in the Carson/Tahoe area, but Jordan travels frequently and some of her biggest projects have been in big mountain destinations like Mammoth Lakes, CA and Aspen, CO. “Timeless is a word I use often with clients. When it comes to your mountain home – it doesn’t necessarily mean bears, pine cones and shiny wood columns. Keeping your tones and finishes neutral will help keep the longevity of your look rather than defaulting to that trendy Pinterest board that will likely only be relevant for a couple of years.”

Kitchens. It’s so common for me to see brand new spec homes in Big Bear with those honey wood cabinets. I love when builders break the mould and go the painted route instead. Jordan most commonly uses a painted cabinet look. “Depending on your budget, give those cabinets a fresh look. Most of the time you’ll be buying a home with outdated wood cabinets and a common misconception is that your mountain home MUST have bare wood cabinets. False. Painting your cabinets can change the entire look of your kitchen, along with adding bold cabinet hardware. Colors I’m loving right now for cabinetry are cream (ALWAYS), hunter green, black, gun metal grey, navy blue and white. Tip: make sure to use a satin finish to give them that “like new” sheen. Preferred paint brands: Benjamin Moore and Farrow & Ball. Looking for all new cabinetry? For a modern taste I recommend a riff white oak (straight grain) and for a more rustic look wire brushed knotty white oak.” If you have it in your budget, she also recommends losing the granite and trading it for a quartz. Quartz is less busy which makes for a clean and current look (and will also stand the test of time!).

Clean and bright with a rustic touch. Dominique’s Interiors – project located in Mammoth Lakes, Ca.

Flooring. The good news is there is a lot of great looking affordable flooring out there. Real wood is expensive and also easily damaged (which isn’t a good recipe for a mountain home). If you plan to rent the home, you’ll want durable flooring that is easy to keep clean – and if you are going to opt for carpet AVOID light colors. Jordan recommends engineered flooring with thick ply. That allows any dents to be repaired rather than replaced. And if you are looking for something with little to no maintenance and the budget isn’t as tight, wood tile is a great option as well.

Try to shy away from all of the gray. Yes, gray has been VERY trendy. It’s not uncommon for me to see it overused in a remodel or new build. Jordan recommends keeping your woods natural, black, cream or rich brown. “Grays are out! Dashes here and there or some well dispersed barn wood can work, but keeping those gray washed finishes to a minimum is ideal for a clean, lasting look.”

Bunk room with barn wood accent wall adds the perfect rustic touch without overdoing it. ~Dominique’s Interiors

Freshen up those bathrooms! Looking for a quick fix? Jordan says to start with replacing the plumbing and light fixtures first – oil rubbed bronze or matte black are going to be your best bet. If you have a bigger budget, new tile and a fresh vanity will make a big difference.

Making the best of that fireplace. A fireplace in a mountain home is a must. Jordan gave some good tips on putting that fireplace to it’s highest and best use.. “Unless your space is limited, I always advise clients if possible to NOT install your TV over your fireplace. It’s bad for your neck and takes away from what could be the focal point of your great room. Almost any existing fireplace is workable. Modernizing what’s there could be as simple as adding a rustic mantle or hearth if the hight allows for one. I also recommend painting your back plate a matte black along with any brass surroundings that older units may have. If you are looking for a whole new look – I am loving a simple design with just sheet rock and paint with a rustic mantle. You can combine that with a large square or linear unit below and finish with some stone or tile surrounding the unit.”

Stunning yet simple. Looks like this can also be done on smaller fireplaces. ~Dominique’s Interiors

Some of Big Bear’s most stunning modernized homes produce big rental numbers for their look alone. So if that’s your goal, it will make a big difference on the investment. They combine most of the features listed above and include unique rustic furnishing styles to complete the look. The good news is – your mountain home doesn’t have to be new. In fact, some of the most stunning remodels I’ve seen have been a spruced up A frame or Gambrel. 1121 Sheephorn Road is just that. Currently listed at $729,000 and built in 1984, it is the perfect example of an ideal rustic modern look that has caught the attention of many mountain visitors (it produced 40K in the winter season alone!).

1121 Sheephorn – $729,000. Full property details can be found here.

If you’re looking to give your mountain home a makeover, Big Bear has some very talented local professionals that can help with it all. We have a providers list on file and would be happy to put you in the right direction should you need it.


  1. I want to make reservations to plan a trip with me and my family is six people total

  2. Fred Williams says

    Well written! Original “Maltby-style” architecture remains my favorite “look.” Knick-knacks (of antique vintage too…) The elusive “A-Frame” in need of refreshening is also a favorite of mine. 2022 – real estate appears (hopefully) to be catching up in values. F. Williams

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