Story by Frances Figart | Photos by Joye Ardyn Durham
If you have ever browsed the home décor and furnishings of Dwellings in Asheville’s historic Biltmore Village, you might have had the thought: I wonder if there is a house somewhere that looks like this. Truth is, the clean lines and natural tones of the popular furniture store lend their charm to a rustic cabin just outside Asheville in the Shope Creek area near Warren Wilson College.
North Carolina native Shari Robins moved to Asheville in 2002. She began working at Dwellings with owner Chris McMillan in 2004 and is now the store’s manager. Several years ago, Robins and her friend Amy Cavanaugh started looking for a property to purchase to create a vacation rental for extra income. Their two families found and purchased the property in 2014.
“When Amy and I first set foot on this property, we knew it was right for us,” says Robins. “We were drawn to the beauty and tranquility of this area and the access to wonderful biking and hiking trails nearby and on the land itself.”
The rustic log cabin was tucked into a hillside surrounded by lush mountain vistas on 22 acres of private, wooded creekside property. Built in the late 1980s, it had only one previous owner. While it was structurally sound, inside a combination of dark wood walls and ceilings and too few windows resulted in a dearth of light.
“Amy and I appreciated the cozy feel of the cabin, but we wanted to transform it into a much brighter and lighter space,” says Robins. They collaborated with McMillan from Dwellings and Nicole Belue from Nicole Belue Interiors to create a simple, fresh space with unique details. When McMillan first saw the place, he knew it wouldn’t be easy. “I felt we had a big challenge on our hands,” he says. “My goal was to help Shari transform a dark space into something light and much more modern.”
Belue helped to create the plan for the colors, finishes, kitchen and furnishings. “I thought the property was beautiful and the house had great potential. It just needed a lot of updating and renovations to give it the modern, comfortable, yet still rustic feel we thought it could have. I think we achieved the effect easily because of Amy and Shari’s willingness to trust us in the design process and the fact that Chris and I work so well together.”
They reconfigured the laundry room by taking out a wall and repurposing an old fire door from South Carolina to be a sliding door to access the washer and dryer. Wood from a collapsed barn on the land was repurposed to build the vanity and master headboard and to create other accents around the home. In a bold gesture, the renovators took the plunge and painted all of the walls and ceilings white to lighten the space.
“We tried to focus on keeping the interiors rustic, modern and simple and did what we could to bring in more light by installing bigger windows and doors and by removing an upper deck that also darkened the interior,” says Robins. “We also kept the furnishings, lighting and accessories simple and took care in choosing pieces that were special and fitting to the space without adding clutter.”
McMillan says the biggest challenge was keeping the remodeling cost low while providing an entirely new take on the space. “Lots of paint and budget-oriented materials helped us to achieve our goals,” he says. “I love how painting the entire space white helped to transform it from a dark paneled space to a bright and happy space.”
On the portion of the land surrounded by Shope Creek, Robins and Cavanaugh plan to build several smaller cabins that will carry on the theme of simplicity and comfort inside, while bringing the outside in using glass, patios, decks and garden space. The area near the existing cabin and beyond will be further enhanced with hiking and biking trails.
If you like the looks of the Shope Creek Dwelling, you might want to rent it next time you want a country vacation, or recommend it to your friends when they visit Asheville. With four bedrooms and two and a half baths, the cabin accommodates up to eight people, and offers guests a new hot tub, large deck and a creekside fire pit.