The Woods: A Love Song

Lennoxville, Quebec

Let me begin by saying that I am not a nature lover by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t do insects, I don’t do mud and I certainly don’t do ‘no indoor plumbing’. This writer is a city-girl through and through. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a picnic in the great outdoors as much as the next person and I have been known to take a leisurely stroll in mother nature’s back-yard, but no one would ever make the mistake of labelling me a ‘tree hugger’. For me the great-outdoors has never been that – ‘great’. That is until I found myself wandering the Laurentian mountains a little ways outside of Montreal.

The scene is idyllic: it’s Fall and the heights are bursting in golden hues. October, in all its orange-red-earth-on-fire-leaves-twirling-crisp-air-glory. I saunter up the the mountainside until I reach a small cabin tucked in the woods and here is the part I want to discuss. Wooden cabins – the bucolic setting of hackneyed rom-coms, the favoured home of chain-saw murders or something else?

I’ve certainly never been a fan of them (having avoided the horror movies in which they are a frequent fixture), but then again I’ve never been a fan of the outdoors and yet here we are. So I amble further up the path, making my way around the cabin to view it at every angle and I suddenly have one of those clichéd moments, not quite an epiphany, but something like it. Suddenly I can understand the appeal.

This particular cabin is fashioned out of wood and glass, a more modern approach to traditional models. Stone too forms an integral part of the structure. It seems to emerge from the environment itself, a facet of the mountainside, some relic of the past. The structure is a discovery rather than an imposition on the landscape. I move closer to peer inside and the fixtures appear more contemporary as well. This, I muse, is how I like the woods – rustic, but accessible. I can hear the devoted outdoor enthusiasts amoung you gasping in horror, sniffing in derision. Hold the slander, I’m not done.

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I think a valid argument can be made for the modernisation of cabins. Beautiful pine wood against sleek black slate tiles. Industrial-style chandeliers hung from a purlin roof and a fireplace constructed of rocks, an obvious nod to the surroundings. Free-standing porcelain white bathtubs further the modern aesthetic as do the stainless steel fixtures that accompany them. They also add to the colour of the place, a palette of natural elements – woods, steel and stone. Alternatively, one could paint the wood, in a delicate shade of egg-shell perhaps to introduce a French or Victorian style and lift the sombre tone darker woods inspire? Contemporary furnishings are a must and a wonderful alternative to the clunky-my-great-great-grandmother-bequeathed-it-to-me-in-her-will-fittings that are traditionally used in such spaces. That’s not to say that you can’t include something from the ‘Old World’. A rug, a worn leather armchair, an aged table, can all be included in the design of the space, but in moderation. The pieces must be used in the eclectic vein rather than in a manner that ‘ages’ the space.

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Then comes la pièce de résistance: the windows! Large french-style doors and floor-to-ceiling glass that give way to spectacular views. The décor may be more modern, but the scenery remains unchanged. There, nestled amidst the soaring peaks, the vast open fields and the cool lakes—the onlooker is reminded of the log cabin’s enduring emblematic status. A symbol of humble origins, a sliver of Eden when the world is too much with us.

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Carefully selected fittings can strike this balance: the cabin can be current, but still romantic. To be sure, this city-lover was caught up in the rustic charm of it all. Standing there in the woods I was suddenly struck by new journalist Joan Didion’s lament for the mythic ‘Old West’ , a place of sublime wilderness not unlike this scene, a place where one could rest her weary bones in a home “at the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow”.

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