How to Get the Look of This Cozy Cabin

A Driftless Area second home gets a fresh, new look.

Eschewing the dark paneling, dated furniture and compulsory mounted deer head one expects in a Wisconsin cabin, Kelsie Kunkle envisioned something more modern and bright for her family’s vacation getaway in Ferryville, off the Great River Road in the Driftless Area.

“We just fell in love,” Kunkle says about the first time she and her husband spotted the 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath home they christened the Walnut Creek Cabin. With the goal of renting it out when the family of six isn’t using it, Kunkle had a deadline: “We did a complete remodel in 30 days,” she says. “We had it finished at midnight and someone checked in the next day.”

Photo courtesy of Kelsie Kunkle


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Photo courtesy of Kelsie Kunkle

Kunkle, owner of Driftless Style, an online and brick-and-mortar boutique located in Cedar Falls, Iowa, that imports ethically sourced, sustainable home goods, was primed for the challenge. Updates included sanding and staining floors and railings, painting car-siding (similar to shiplap) ceilings white, swapping out light fixtures, and overhauling the kitchen and bath. “We ripped out everything and added black cabinets with quartz on top,” she says about the kitchen. A local metalsmith’s brackets support open shelving that was designed by Kunkle. An apron-front farmhouse sink marries well with a Persian-style rug beneath. New tiles and a glass-door shower anchor the modernized bath.

As a nod to future generations, the couple also planted 500 trees on the property, including willows, aspen, pine and birch. 

“It went through a drastic transformation, and we love how it turned out,” says Kunkle. “During the past two years, it was booked solid nearly every day,” a testament to the cabin’s alluring style. 

The couple intends to build on their success: The original 10-acre property with a stream running through has ballooned to 31 acres, with the purchase of adjacent land, and they’ve relocated a nearby cabin to the property and are remodeling it to rent out, too. 

Get the Look

Even with the shift to modern and clean lines, the Walnut Creek Cabin didn’t lose its cozy feel. Here are Kunkle’s tips for achieving a similar aesthetic.

Incorporate natural fibers to evoke an organic vibe that melds with the outdoors. A jute rug, bamboo plant stand, macramé wall hanging, rattan chair and vintage snowshoes (as wall art) are seamlessly woven in.

Combine contemporary furnishings with antiques – and retain some of the structure’s genuine details. “The original logs we did not touch at all,” says Kunkle. “That’s the bones of the place.”

Adopt a cohesive color and design palette. “Decide what you want to go with and be consistent. In such a small place, you want it to flow together,” says Kunkle.

Go big on bedding. So that nobody wakes up sore and cranky, Kunkle splurged on Saatva’s organic cotton mattresses. “Higher-end choices like this can come as a pleasant surprise,” she says. “People appreciate that.”


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s August issue.

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine),, and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.