Photos by Hillary Ehlen
Brian and Kelly Bunnell and their three teenage sons spend most of their year in Colorado. But as soon as the last day of the school year hits, they head up to Big McDonald Lake. About 15 minutes west of Perham, this authentic log cabin is home to over 30 years of family memories.
Kelly’s grandparents originally built the log cabin in 1990. Now widowed and living in Grand Forks, Kelly’s grandmother knew it was too much work to continue upkeeping the lake home about 140 miles away. But with so many family memories attached to the property, the family wasn’t ready to say goodbye to it altogether.
So in 2018, the Bunnells purchased the home – furnished and as-is – from Kelly’s grandmother. “She wanted to keep it in the family. This lake has been part of my life since I was born,” said Kelly.
The family has a long history at this lake, starting with her grandparents building the home 30 years ago and progressing to Kelly’s parents building their own log home next door. Kelly has cherished memories from childhood of spending time at the cabin with her grandparents, celebrating holidays and gathering with her 20-something cousins. Now, the next generation has the opportunity to embrace lake life and create a new chapter of memories.
The cabin was in need of a refresh, but because of these memories, the Bunnells didn’t want to alter the layout too drastically. This lent itself to some cosmetic changes, including new bathrooms, installation of durable vinyl plank flooring and a kitchen redesign consisting of brand new cabinets, countertops, appliances and the addition of an island.
Instrumental in bringing new life into this special home was Refreshing Designs, a Perham home furnishings and interior design firm. Kelly was familiar with Refreshing Designs from enjoying shopping in their downtown Perham storefront with her mom and aunts. It was a natural transition from being a shopper to an interior design services client, something Kelly says was, “the best decision we made.” Leading the design process was Refreshing Designs’ manager Bailee Currie, Allied ASID Interior Designer.
Because they were remotely orchestrating the remodel almost completely from their home in Colorado, their trust in their interior design team was especially important. Refreshing Designs made this process smooth, coordinating contractors, sourcing materials and offering up just the right amount of options. Based on their portfolio of work, Kelly trusted their recommendations. In delivering design recommendations, Refreshing Designs offered up two to five options and allowed the client to choose from there. “That piece was key for us, because I’m very indecisive and I’ll overthink everything and nothing would have gotten done if I had tried to do it on my own,” said Kelly.
A priority in the design process was respecting the home’s roots. Seeing that authentic log homes are rare, the new homeowners wanted to preserve and highlight this aspect. The organic and warm characteristics of the build are special and needed to be treated as such. Where some cabin renovations include painting over wood details, these homeowners did the opposite and actually revealed more wood. “In the kitchen, [my grandmother] had cabinets to the right of the sink, but we took those out and put in some floating shelves so we can see more of that log wall,” said Kelly.
The master bathroom underwent a similar treatment, removing a built-in shower and closet to reveal more of those beautiful log walls. Also new to the bathroom is a standalone soaker tub, perfect for washing off the lake water and relaxing after a day in the sun. A new picture window was put in above the tub. Kelly remarked it was a bit scary to watch part of the beloved log walls get taken out to fit the window in, but the natural sunlight that comes from it only adds to the remaining walls’ warm glow.
In the basement, what used to be a kitchenette for overflow holiday cooking turned into a spacious laundry room. This opened up the spot in the main floor bathroom where the washer and dryer used to be to become a shower. The only shower in the home used to be in the basement, so this additional shower was incredibly convenient.
Something that was a bit of a last-minute inclusion, but ended up being one of their favorite updates, was the addition a half-bath in the loft area. Originally, the loft was only two bedrooms and any guests sleeping there had to go downstairs to use the restroom and even further down to the basement to shower. The addition of this half-bath increased the home’s functionality, and we can imagine their three sons, who sleep in the loft’s bedrooms, are grateful.
“Before we bought this log cabin from my grandmother, we’d just come to Minnesota for as long as my parents would let us live in their house,” Kelly joked. Now that they have a place of their own – and a beautiful place at that – they can spend as much time on Minnesota water as they please.
Interior Design: Refreshing Designs
103 E Main St, Perham, MN