Design & DIY

This beautifully designed Ontario A-frame is a hidden gem

Seeing beautifully designed spaces on Instagram can be intimidating—how do people get their spaces to look like that? But in actuality, the people behind those designs are just like you and I. And their secret is (spoiler alert) a lot of hard work.

That’s the case with this unique A-frame near Varney, Ont. We spoke with owner Amber Eadie about her family, how they tackled a cabin design project, and her tips for designing A-frames.

On their family

“We’re a couple of thirty-somethings that met in high school who share a passion for travelling and staying in uniquely, beautiful places. Corey works as a firefighter, and I work for an airline. Our daughter, Lauren was born in July of 2020. Working for the airline provided us with the opportunity to travel around the world, gaining inspiration and ideas for the cabin we have today.”

On how they came to own the A-frame

“We had a vision of owning an Airbnb of our own after staying in many during our travels. There is truly a difference in the level of hospitality you receive at a locally owned property compared to a chain hotel, and we wanted to provide that personal experience to our guests. We came to love A-frames on a trip to Switzerland where we stayed in a modern, but rustic chalet in the Alps. When the time was right, we began our hunt for the perfect place here in Ontario. Initially, we limited our search to waterfront properties, but after losing out with a number of multiple-offer scenarios, we felt completely defeated. After taking a short break, we broadened the search and found a new listing in Varney, Ont. It wasn’t on a lake, but sat above a babbling creek. We drove the hour and a half to see it that night—we knew it was the one.”

On their design aesthetic

“We both love Scandinavian design—warm, cozy, and inviting in the cold winter months. Also, neutral colours, candlelight, and as many natural elements as possible to create a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.

Growing up, I lived in a half-log-half-Victorian home that was built in 1864, and my parents filled it with antiques. Everything was wood, and the thing that resonated the most with me was coming home to the crackling of the woodstove. It’s such a memorable part of my childhood that we wanted to incorporate that into our cabin reno.”

Photo by Maddie Mellott

On where they found pieces for the A-frame

“We didn’t have any formal plans drawn up for our renovation. We just tackled one room at a time, drawing inspiration from memories of places that we have stayed. Our must-haves were real wood floors, a wood-burning stove, and a few modern amenities. We kept within our budget by completing the majority of the renovation ourselves and using local farms and saw mills for our wood. We found the kitchen quartz countertops on Kijiji as well as our wood-burning Jotul stove. We brought in furniture and decor pieces from our own home as well as from my parents antique collection. To brighten up the space, we painted a small portion of the tongue-and-groove on the walls, allowing for a contrast between the warm wood and light walls. We kept the pine flooring kept light with a few coats of oil based polyurethane, and we made the railing, including the handrail and posts, ourselves with pine 2×4 stained to match the flooring. Our love of antiques is evident throughout the cabin and is mixed with a few modern luxuries—a marble table, candles, decorative pillows and throws. The built-in wood box adds dimension to the space. but it’s still fully functional.

Two elements that we did splurge on were our four-panel sliding door from Kempenfelt Windows and Doors and our wood-burning cedar tub that has been on back order for months!”

On anything they would change

“We really enjoy the space that we have created. It works well for its intended purpose without sacrificing the true A-frame shape. A larger washroom could be something we explore in the future, but that would require adding a build-out at the rear or taking space from our kitchen, which isn’t something we want to do. The pine flooring is proving a bit of a concern as it is a soft wood and marks easily if you’re considering renting.”

Photo by Callie Davidson

Amber’s tips for designing an A-frame

  • Try not to be full on pregnant while building, and try to keep the yelling at your partner to a minimum!
  • Before starting, figure out the type of getaway and people that you want to gear the space towards. In our case, that was couples and weekend getaways. We also knew our cabin would be utilized for short stays, most likely four-night stays as we’re not on the waterfront. With that in mind, we worked out our kitchen plan and eliminated our stove completely using a convection oven to save space. We also sought out a condo-sized fridge and built it in to the wall to save even more room.
  • There can be a lot of wasted space in an A-frame due to the angle of the walls, so we used those areas to build in a large woodbox.
  • A-frame lofts are really hot during the summer months, so proper ventilation is really important. Windows that can open, ceiling fans, and even air conditioning may be needed to ensure a comfortable temperature.
  • Maximize the space by using pocket or barn doors on bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Bring in as much light as possible with windows and skylights.
  • Insulating from the exterior will allow you to keep the open beams, which add that extra dimension as well as headspace.
  • If you’re building, find a piece of land that is unique and beautiful, and don’t be afraid to run it off grid. I can’t begin to explain how surprised we were to find we are fully booked out as a partially off-grid cabin in the winter. Our guests have told us how much they enjoy the cabin and the added adventure that the outhouse and no running water brings to their trip.

To keep up with Amber, Corey, and Lauren’s ongoing adventures, check out @backtothecabin on Instagram.

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