Interiorssneak peeks

An Author’s Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN

by Garrett Fleming

An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge

More often than not, our Sneak Peeks focus on the homes our readers share with their children, pets and fantastic finds. While we’re always über excited to take a look no matter a home’s setup, it’s such a pleasant surprise when we get to peek at other aspects of how you all live. Take author Edward Karlow and his housemates, for example. The group calls a duplex in Minneapolis, MN “home,” but today they’re letting us into the rustic guesthouse that sits beyond their bedrooms in the backyard.

The space has been on the property since it was first built in 1901, and throughout its 116-year history it’s been a barn, a dance studio, a place to store movie props, a studio/workspace and (most recently) a garage. While their groovy, orange VW looked fabulous sitting amongst the space’s bucolic wares, the group always felt a bit guilty about parking their car on the plot’s original wood floors. It was just too pretty of a space for that. Convinced they could make better use of it, after 15 years of debating the topic the housemates finally agreed that it should be turned into a fully-functioning guesthouse.

To kick things off, using loose wood they found lying around the property, they worked with local carpenters to install a full kitchen, dividing walls, bedroom and even a loft space. Once construction was complete, Edward and his friends peppered in colorful, secondhand finds to infuse the space with a relaxing, retreat-like vibe. They’ve done such a good job, in fact, the group says they oftentimes find themselves wanting to spend more time here than in their actual home. And after a few scrolls through the photos below, you too will be yearning for a little getaway to this Midwestern cabin. I guarantee it. Enjoy! —Garrett

P.S. You can book this charming property here.

Photography by Bob Orr

Image above: Edward and his housemates were inspired by a 400-square-foot apartment layout they saw at IKEA.

An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge
All the essentials for basic living are hidden around the kitchen. For example, a mini fridge sits beyond the sink, and tucked away behind the island's curtains are carts full of utensils and a microwave. The salvaged sink came from a chemistry lab.
An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge
The front door to the guesthouse is the only traditional one in the entire space. The rest are either sliding or hanging, as seen here with this divider. It hangs from the ceiling and separates the bedroom from the living room.
An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge
The bedroom's staircase leads to a loft space. It hasn't been renovated just yet, but its low ceilings and quaint feel will make it perfect for naps once it's complete.
An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge
Edward describes the look of the guesthouse as "Mexico meets Minnesota." He achieved the look through reclaimed materials and a colorful mix of patterns.
An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge
The original cinderblock walls were given a crisp coat of white paint to freshen them up.
An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge
The house is TV-free. Guests are welcome to pass the time listening to records or enjoying the garden instead.
An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge
The bathroom's ceiling is made from fence posts Edward and his housemates got on sale. They used durable patio stone for the floor.
An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge
The bathtub is actually a watering trough Edward spray-painted white.
An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge
"What we love most about our home is... we feel like we're in a cabin up north, but take-out dinner is just two blocks away." -- Edward Karlow
An Author's Cozy Guest Cabin in Minneapolis, MN, Design*Sponge

The entire guesthouse has a footprint of only 400 square feet.

Source List

Paint –  Clark & Kensington “Silent White”

Mirror – IKEA
Sink – Lowes
Shower curtain, towels, bath mat – Target
Grey towels – West Elm
Boat – Hunt & Gather
Birds – Succotash consignment
Light fixtures – Menards

Bed frame – Vintage
Bedding, clock, white lamp – Target
Blue blanket – Revolución Del Sueño
Side tables – IKEA
Lamp – Succotash consignment

Sink – Bauer Brothers
Ceramic wind chime – Sarah Dudgeon Pottery
Three fish trivet – Succotash consignment
Light fixtures – Menards
Mug in window – Ginny Sims Ceramics
Utensil bar – IKEA
Flower planter, bowl in window – Northern Clay Center

Living Room
Daybed – World Market
Futon – Depth of Field
Cocktail table – IKEA
Console table – Room & Board
Coasters – Jonathan Adler
Artwork – Pamela Valfer & Allen Brewer
Rio poster – Monocle
Beach photo – Christian Chaize
Barstools – Find Furnish
Basket, pillows – Target
Striped mug – Ginny Sims Ceramics
Pillows – Etsy
Books – Martin Patrick
White Vase – West Elm
Records – Flashlight Vinyl
Rug – West Elm

Suggested For You


  • I don’t see in Mexico in there at all, but WASP is fine in small quantities. I like the stain choices. The wood looks “reclaimed” but durable.

  • what a cool find! I have plans to go up that way for Spoon and Sttable’s Synergy Series in early December. I may have to book this gem.

  • It is very nicely decorated but a sink from a lab? Please do warn guests about it because it’s not safe. Some things are not worth recovering a sink from a lab being one of them!

      • Actually I think lab sinks are designed to be chemically inert and non absorbent. I wanted to use a new one in my kitchen but they are also pretty pricey. I love the idea of hanging the shelves from the beams. It solves a problem with walls that can’t be nailed to or drilled into.

  • I love it, what fun. It’s like a fantasy from my childhood about turning the barn into a place for me to live. One question, how many months a year is it useable in Minnesota?

    • Hi Judith,

      Thanks for the nice comments! We have heat and A/C, but we didn’t insulate the plumbing for the long Minnesota winter. We’re planning to open it from early May to mid-October.

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      We have a loft over the kitchen and bath, but right now it’s just for storage. Hoping to put another bed and reading nook upstairs someday. Thanks for your interest! -Edward

  • I enjoy the mix of woods with bright walls and colorful accents. The kitchen layout is perfect for temp visitors maybe challenging for a home. Clever wooden shelving to make use of the side of the fridge- might have to borrow that idea in the future.

  • If anyone is still peeking in on this post, please share more about the bathtub! Seems like a clever solution to a tight space.

  • Love the size, we’re building a tiny apartment right now. Do you know what the finish is on the barn board counters? Ive always used polyacrylic on shelves, but were looking for a food safe finish for the kitchen. thanks!krystina lankoen

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