Interiorssneak peeks

A 1900s Cabin in the California Wilderness

by Lauren Chorpening Day

Dawn De La Fuente, founder of s/he apothecary line, and Ian Ernzer, lead designer at Butchershop creative agency, are lovers of the outdoors. Dawn studies herbalism and Ian is a surfer, climber and nature photographer in his free time. Their connection to the wild inspired a move to Mill Valley, CA three and a half years ago, when they found an early 1900s cabin for rent, tucked away in the redwoods. Their home and environment have been sources of inspiration for Dawn and Ian. “To live in the forest with access to boundless nature is one of the greatest gifts we could ask for. [It] reminds us that we’re all connected — it’s like medicine for the soul,” Dawn says.

“Most all of the home’s original features are intact, but they’re also slightly antiquated and very rustic. Our goal was to honor [in decorating] and embrace the history of the home, but to brighten and simplify the interior with more modern elements,” Dawn says. “To me, a home is a reflection of the people within it. Our home is our sanctuary filled with relics from world travels, art from dear friends, and treasured vintage finds. Every touchpoint holds a story or memory, from the blankets and rugs to our morning ritual with our favorite tea and coffee mugs. Building a home is a forever work-in-progress.”

Natural wood, white walls and cherished furniture and decorations fill their home in a meaningful way. The trees surrounding their home have become part of the aesthetic as well. This cabin away from the city is the perfect place for Dawn and Ian to call home. —Lauren

Photography by Caddie McCumber


A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
Dawn and Ian's cabin home draws the outdoors in with massive windows, natural textures and plants.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
"One of our favorite features is that the living room windows open wide enough to make you feel like you're outdoors. When we entertain, all windows are open so that guests can step in and out freely," Dawn says.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
Dawn & Ian in their living room. The vaulted ceilings and spacious layout make it hard to believe this cabin was built in the early 1900s.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
"Though it may not be a collector’s item, this green velvet chair holds sentimental value as it’s one of the first pieces of adult furniture I purchased on my own nearly 10 years ago. It was only $100 at my first Rose Bowl flea market," Dawn says.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
"We’ve been working diligently to balance mid-century modern pieces with antique and other flea market finds. Our color palette is fairly neutral with shades of white, brown and subtle pops of color," Dawn says. "We spent more than a year looking for the right combination of dining table and chairs. The table is a solid maple mid-century piece by Russel Wright and the chairs were a steal from an antique store in Reno."
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
The updates in the cabin are modern without taking away from the historic integrity of the home.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
This ladder leads to one of Dawn and Ian's favorite parts of the house, the Crow's Nest.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
"The Crow’s Nest is pretty much what sold us on the house. This is the main attraction in our home, for kids and adults alike. We’ve hosted many late night talks, giggle fests and sleepovers. Though Ian wants to put a desk up here, I’ve reserved it as a quiet space for napping, reading and meditating." Dawn says.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
"As if having a room made of windows wasn’t enough, the Crow’s Nest features a door that leads to the roof." Dawn says.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
"The outdoor space provides a nice extension to our living room," says Dawn. We hung a hammock that we bought in Tulum and outfitted the space with equipale chairs that neighbors were letting go of. The space was made complete with a chiminea."
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
The kitchen is surrounded by windows that open up to the redwoods.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
"Our bedroom is on the lower level facing the backside of the house, making it perfectly quiet and shaded for daytime napping. It’s modest in size, but features everything we need, like the coziest bed fitted in plush cotton linens. And positioned above our bed is a watercolor Ikebana painting by our pal Libby Wood," Dawn says.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
The vintage mirror and used dresser were thrifting jackpots, less than $100 combined.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
Each piece that enters Dawn and Ian's house complements the cabin and the setting.
A 1900s Cabin Tucked Away in the California Wilderness | Design*Sponge
"What I love most about our home is that our home is a reflection of our lives - eclectic, natural and lived in."

Suggested For You


  • Stunning. I feel more at peace just flipping through these photos. And yes, the Crow’s Nest (and out to the roof) would no doubt be my favorite features. The only thing I would change are the light fixtures in the kitchen!

  • It’s absolute perfection, a total sanctuary! Kudos on the decorating. It looks so serene yet sophistocated.

    I’m just curious to know if they get a lot of spiders in the house, not having screens on their windows, and living in the woods. I know that wolf spiders love ivy. When I had a garden flat in a converted Victorian mansion in Highgate in Lonodn, we also no screens, and the brick facade was covered in ivy. I have never see so many wolf spiders (and other spiders, wolf being the largest) in my whole life. They have a mean bite, and are quite aggressive. Maybe they spray their windowsills with detering essential oils? Would love to know, because it’s so lovely being able to open up to the outdoors like that, and my current Weho windows open up to stunning trees, but I have screens. If they have a trick, I’d love to get rid of the screens altogether.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      We do receive a fair amount of spider visitors, but thankfully the big guys stick to the ivy and other flora. I think that because we don’t have ivy growing on the house itself, more so the front and back yards, they tend to stay away from the house. However, we are often greeted by new webs that cross our doorways.

      We do not treat our window sills or any other area of the home. And I do think that closing the windows in the evening does help to keep many of the spider and other critters from coming in. This is really important for us to do because we often receive visits from neighborhood raccoons and other animals and it’s too easy for them to step right in.

      For all my years in California, I’ve never had screens. Coming from the east coast, that was a huge difference, and I love it! Maybe try removing screens from a couple windows and see if you notice any changes before doing so to the entire house?

      My best,

  • What an absolutely gorgeous home! This is very close to my own personal style and I loved looking through the photos and reading the thoughtful captions (more than once!) Kudos on creating such a serene and lovely space!

  • I’ve been looking for inspiration for my next home (which isn’t immediate), but I know I want to move out of the city and into the Redwoods. This is that home. Thank you for the gorgeous pictures and the beautiful inspiration. It’s like taking my dream and making it real, and affirming to me that IT IS POSSIBLE! That bird’s nest would be a dream come true for my meditation, yoga, and journaling!!! All the feels …

  • Had to laugh at the description of Mill Valley as ‘California Wilderness’ – it’s at most 15 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge and probably just as far from the nearest Whole Foods.

    From the title I thought the cabin might be in the Sierra foothills!

    • Rose

      Yes, it’s close to the city, but it’s also right on the edge of a redwood forest in Miur Valley. The bay area is amazing for many reasons, one of which being the close proximity of everyday conveniences (like a grocery store) AND pristine forest and wildlife. I think that’s what we’re going for here.



  • I love the natural wood and the mix of old and new. I love that it’s spare but not ascetic, that it has personal touches but isn’t “decorated.” And of course the setting is amazing.

  • Love the color scheme, so peaceful. My husband can’t get enough color on the walls and I can’t get enough white. So difficult to compromise in this area.

  • how does one find rental perfection like this? i live in the city and want this for my own! rent must cost a mint

    • Hi Sally,

      I’ve actually found rental prices outside of the city to be more affordable than within San Francisco. This home is actually less than what I paid in SF four years ago. That being said, it would likely rent for a fair bit more if put on the market now. Just keep scouring craigslist and other rental sites. They are out there.

      My best,

  • What an amazing home! I could easily live in it! Not sure about the kitchen counter tops or the bathroom vanity….they seem unnatural compared to the rest of the house’s vibe. I could see some reclaimed wood tops or something simple.
    I don’t know about the insect situation there, but here in Ireland we don’t have any screens either (I’m an American transplant) and I too love it! I have found that using thin curtains that let the light in but still stop the bugs work really well.
    I do love your lack of clutter and the white walls (I have the same) but I do feel it needs a wee bit more in the textile department. Like a few more soft furnishings.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Amy! And I totally agree about the need for natural elements in the bath. Not all of the updates made by the owners over the years jive with the original design of the home. A con to renting I guess… We try and work around it best we can but goodness how we’d love to make our dream changes!

      – dawn

  • That rooster print is fantastic! Where did you get it? I’ve been looking for something similar.

    • So sorry…but I’ve been trying to track down the artist’s name since Feb when this piece posted and still haven’t had any luck. Once I do, I will share!

  • Hi – Beautiful home. I’m also curious about the rooster print – could you share where it’s from?

    • I love he black and white striped rug in the first slide.
      Any chance of finding out where I can purchase one?

      • Hi Diane, the black and white rug is handwoven and made of wool. I acquired it while traveling through India a few years ago. If you have India on your list of places to visit, then I highly suggest the Kutch region of Gujarat. It is beautiful and home to many talented textile artisans.

        My best,

  • I love how D*S continues to celebrate real spaces. You inspire with attainable, authentic, personal HOMES. Hooray!

    • I’ve made several attempts to find the artist and still no luck. If/when this changes, I will certainly circle back!

      • Everyone loves the rooster print as do I!:) I live in Mill Valley too. Where did you buy the print?

  • Wow! And in Cali. That just feels right man. Such beauties should be taken into consideration big time. Thanks for the info.