...because home doesn't happen overnight.

space saving cabin 1

We recently stayed at this amazing modern cabin in Lake Leelanau, Michigan. The home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms plus a powder room and is modestly sized. (If I had to guess, I’d say it’s roughly 1,800 square feet.) Immediately upon arrival, it felt airy and spacious thanks to numerous windows throughout, vaulted ceilings in the main living space and, of course, the innately uncluttered decor that typically comes with a vacation rental. Once we settled in, however, I noticed several space-saving tricks that weren’t as obvious. I thought I’d share them with you since many of the clever ideas could easily translate to a residential property. Here they are…

space saving entry 1

1. A built-in entry closet. The small entry is sandwiched between a powder room and exterior walls, leaving very little room for a legit closet. Recessed IKEA cabinet frames maximize storage space for outerwear, bags, sports equipment and other miscellaneous.

space saving entry 2

The top cabinet provides hanging space while the lower cabinet houses several drawers. Often times, the space below a hanging rod is underutilized, so I thought this setup was ingenious. In a real home, I could see the drawers being used to corral mail, parent-teacher communication and children’s homework. You could even designate a drawer for each child.

space saving kitchen 4

2. Loads of kitchen drawers. The kitchen occupies one wall. The owner opted for a trio of windows with lake views in lieu of upper cabinetry. (Duh.) The base cabinets open to reveal ample drawer space.

space saving kitchen 1

Shallow drawers are ideal for smaller items like silverware, cooking utensils, cutting boards and baking sheets. Deeper drawers are perfect for pots and pans.

space saving kitchen 2

A single pull-out below the sink provides hidden storage for trash and recycling bins and also houses dish soap, dishwasher detergent and extra trash bags. The lower drawer to the left of the trash is actually a drawer dishwasher hidden by a cover panel. The compact size allows for a separate drawer above which houses silverware and makes the task of unloading the dishwasher a breeze.

FYI – I mentioned my thoughts on having a trash pullout at the sink in this post, and my concerns were validated. The setup worked well for us when there was only one person in the kitchen, but we tend to clean up after meals together and prefer separate zones for trash/recycling and dishwashing. Otherwise, the person at the sink is constantly being asked to move out of the way. That’s just our preference.

space saving kitchen 5

Yes, this is an IKEA kitchen and, no, I didn’t know about it when I booked the place. I was so excited (and, quite honestly, surprised!) when I opened a cabinet and made the discovery. All the cabinet frames and drawers in the house are IKEA, even the bathroom vanities.

space saving kitchen 3

From a design standpoint, I liked the seamless look of the single panel fronts versus several individual drawer fronts. Opening one drawer to gain access to another drawer really wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be. Inside and out, the cabinets are tidy. The custom fronts are furniture grade plywood outfitted with raw brass pulls. I loved the warm, natural look. I also loved the owner’s decision to repeat the cabinet design in the bathrooms. It just made the entire house feel really cohesive.

space saving pantry 1

3. A freestanding pantry. With no room for a walk-in pantry, a floor-to-ceiling pantry is an effective alternative.

space saving pantry 2

Not only does it provide storage for dry goods, it houses dishes, bowls, glasses, mugs, serveware – even a slim refrigerator with bottom freezer! An open space above the refrigerator acts as a minibar out of kid reach. Note: There is no microwave in the house which perplexed us at first, but the only thing we missed it for was popping bagged popcorn.

space saving pantry 3

Once again, drawers, drawers and more drawers glide in and out for easy access and loads of storage. The placement of dishes and serveware near the dishwasher facilitates dishwasher unloading.

space saving kitchen table 1

4. A kitchen table. No dining room? No problem. A large table punctuated by a pair of oversized pendants takes the place of an island and acts as buffer between the kitchen and adjacent living room.

space saving kitchen table 2

Reclaimed wood and an X-base are reminiscent of a farmhouse table, but the waterfall edge is a modern touch. A mix of vintage chairs lends a casual vibe. I loved the juxtaposition of the rustic table and chairs against some of the sleeker elements in the space.

space saving media stand 3

5. A custom, low-slung media stand. An extra low media stand allows the flatscreen to reach just below the window line, allowing for uninterrupted views of the landscape.

space saving media stand 1

space saving media stand 2

The simple design raises the flatscreen to a comfortable viewing height and provides space for thin electronics and books.

space saving desk 2

6. A desk behind a sofa. Bringing in a console table is the knee-jerk reaction when considering the space behind a floating sofa, but what about a drop-leaf table that doubles as a desk? It’s an instant home workspace!

space saving desk 1

In a traditional setting, I could see it being used to pay bills, check email, work from home and tackle homework. It’s conducive to adults and children alike.

space saving headboard 3

7. Nightstand alternatives. In moderately sized bedrooms, nightstands can crowd the room and eat up precious floor space. Floating shelves attached to an extra wide headboard are an effective option.

space saving headboard 2

There’s just enough space for a glass of water, a candle, eyeglasses and nighttime reading material.

space saving headboard 1

They’re great in children’s rooms, too! Forgo lamps and mount wall sconces on the headboard.

space saving bedside chairs 2

space saving bedside chair 1

In one of the bedrooms there wasn’t quite enough room for shelves, so the owner brought in folding chairs to flank the bed. Bonus: The chairs can be used for extra seating in a pinch when company visits.

space saving pocket doors 1

8. Pocket doors. Here, a pocket door separates a powder room from the hallway. When space is tight, everyday motions like opening a door can be cumbersome. In hallways or in doorways that adjoin two rooms where the space required to accommodate a swinging door is minimal or non-existent, consider installing a pocket door.

space saving pocket doors 2

Another pocket door separates the master bathroom from the master bedroom.

I hope these ideas inspire you to think outside the box when coming up with space-saving solutions in your own home! Admittedly, there were so many great details in the cabin that I had a hard time condensing them into a readable post. (Still, here I am at 25+ photos and 1,000+ words. Are you still awake?!) I encourage you to go back through the images and make note of more features, like the simple trimwork, the flooring materials, the mirror-less powder room, the mirror at the end of the hallway, the freestanding soaker tub, the DIY platform beds (constructed of the same plywood found in the kitchen and bathrooms), the custom cabinet bases, the artwork and ALL. THE. CORNER. WINDOWS. What catches your eye?

P.S. – See more vacation houses here and here.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



I’m a big fan of pocket doors, but there was one place I used one that didn’t work out quite as well as I expected. That was my closet. A door that’s usually kept closed doesn’t seem to benefit as much as one that needs to be opened and closed frequently. I also missed the advantage of back-of-the-door storage space.


Love the house but I really just wanted to say that I hope you enjoyed your time in Northern MI. Beautiful, right?


Those headboards!!! Tell me about them please. :)


Love this little cabin! Do you know what ikea cabinets were used in the bathrooms and who did the custom fronts.
Thank you!


Love the headboards upholstered in National Park blankets! Great use of a traditional item for a modern cabin.


I’ve always wanted to visit Michigan, this cabin has me browsing airfare prices… gah, it’s so beautiful!


I’m wild about the Pendelton blanket headboards!


I love this post, and it wasn’t too long. Among many other things, the headboards caught my attention, and I’m fascinated that the beds are made of plywood. I’m searching for a better bed solution for my oldest daughter, who’s 16, and this might be it. If there’s anything more you want to tell about the headboards/beds, I’d love to hear – thank you!


What a beautiful space! And so many great ideas – that built-in foyer storage is genius!


Pinning everything!! I just love love love when you share your vacation rentals, you seem to pick the most stylish ones!


Great house. Love the extra wide headboards. Are the covered in wool blankets/fabric?


Yes, they reminded me of Pendleton, Hudson Bay and Faribault blankets although I didn’t notice any tags.


You need to learn to make stove-top popcorn! So much easier and tasty than microwave!


The headboards would be an easy DIY. Cut a piece of plywood to size, wrap in batting (these weren’t super plush but soft enough to lean against for bedtime reading), place a vintage wool blanket over the front, pull taut and staple to the back. You could get creative with your own version: Mexican blankets, mudcloth, vintage kilim rugs…I could even see dropcloths from the hardware store being used to upholster similar headboards.

The platform beds incorporated a simple base (the portion touching the floor) plus a separate platform (the portion supporting the actual mattress, no box spring). Steve and I checked, and they weren’t screwed together or anything. The weight of the platform and mattress were enough to keep things from sliding around. No issues there. The entire bed frame was made from the same furniture grade plywood as the cabinets. Raw brass screws finished things off nicely. I really liked the design of the platform beds. We have a platform bed in our own bedroom, and, more than once, we’ve stubbed our toes on the low bed frame. With these, the base is narrower and shorter than the actual platform/mattress so you can walk around it without losing toes. It also makes the room appear larger by taking up less floor space.


From what I could tell, the bathroom vanities were made using AKURUM kitchen base cabinets and RATIONELL drawers from IKEA. The vanities were wrapped in a water-resistant, solid surface material of some kind. It wasn’t like any other countertop material I’ve experienced in person before. I’m inclined to think it was PaperStone. IKEA has discontinued both versions of the cabinets and drawers, but you should be able to get similar results from the current SEKTION line. The powder room vanity has two individual, large drawers. The full bathrooms boast larger vanities which appeared to be two kitchen base cabinets placed side by side and screwed together. One cabinet houses the sink and a single drawer trash pullout (identical to the kitchen sink pullout) which was outffited with a trash can and plunger, while the other cabinet houses several shallow drawers for corralling toiletries, makeup, extra toilet paper and other smaller bathroom miscellaneous. Sorry, I don’t know who made the fronts, but it seems like they wouldn’t be too bad to DIY.


The headboards would be an easy DIY. Cut a piece of plywood to size, wrap in batting (these weren’t super plush but soft enough to lean against for bedtime reading), place a vintage wool blanket over the front, pull taut and staple to the back. It looks like Pendleton blankets were used here, but you could get creative with your own version: Mexican blankets, mudcloth, vintage kilim rugs…I could even see dropcloths from the hardware store being used to upholster similar headboards.


The kids brought microwave popcorn to pop themselves. That’s the only reason we were in want of a microwave. Stovetop popcorn would have been great if I’d have packed it!


The first headboard made me think of your boys room! But I loved the colors it brought to the room and with neutral bedding, I think I just found my next DIY project. :D


Love the cabin! Really enjoying looking at the details. But pocket doors are one of pet peeves. We have them on our master bathroom and half bath. Every so often after opening or shutting one, I’m like -“why couldn’t this have been a normal door?”


Thanks Dana – I liked all of the windows, especial the four-light windows in the kitchen.


I love that despite the small space, it doesn’t seem cramped or look like anything is lacking. I would have been worried about the lack of kitchen space because I kind of like to spread out when cooking but that kitchen table would work great for meal prep-and seated! And I can totally picture kids being able to help at that table too, making sugar cookies or something cute and yummy dusted with powdered sugar. The snow made me think of the holidays ;) Glad you guys had a great time.


Beautiful! I love a clever, uncluttered holiday space. I always come home and spend the next several weeks decluttering my own home. Makes you realise how very little you need to live well. I have a small writing desk behind a sofa where I do exactly what you suggested, pay bills, send emails etc. In the absence of a purpose built kitchen office nook, it works brilliantly. Although my father, when he visits, thinks I look like a school teacher sitting there…Love your reading material on the bedside shelves, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. A little touch of Australia. And I saw us facing out on the media stand globe too ;)


I just finished reading A Man Called Ove (the photo of the nightstand). What a charming novel about the importance of human interaction in our lives. Loved it!


If there’s any pocket doors or sliding doors that turn me off, it’s the ones installed for closet. You’re right about it being “the door that’s usually kept closed”. I hate the fact that I have to be extra careful when pushing two doors, the one behind usually gets my finger. Thank God, I’m only living with the in-laws temporaily. x.x


Dana, thank you for sharing this, I can’t get over the first one—entryway recessed closet. Thinking hard right now on how to make this part of my new home (note, it’s a small home). :) Thank you.


So happy you posted this cabin!! Love the light wood window trim and then the grouping of the windows in a different trim. Love that they hid the refrigerator and made the cabinets identical throughout the house. Visually it brings peace to me. Love the art of the ladies on the wall of the master bedroom. Love that one headboard has a Pendleton Glacier National Park blanket on it. Questions.. Do you think the headboard with floating shelves may be the IKEA Mandal headb–oard upholstered ? Do you have a picture of the interior bathroom drawers? I know you talk about them in a reply to a comment but if you have a visual that would help me understand it better. Any ideas where the kitchen runner rug and the livingroom rug are from? Thanks again–keeping this post for so many wonderful reasons.


Another question– what did the closets look like in the bedrooms?


Dana, this is just gorgeous–thank you so much for this. I’ve been wondering whether, in our someday kitchen, we could use furniture-grade plywood with the new Sektion series. Now I know.

I was wondering whether you have any idea who makes those rugs? (I mean, I’m sure you weren’t interrogating the homeowner, but maybe you’ve seen them somewhere?) They look familiar to me but I can’t remember where from–and the runner is exactly what I’m looking for for our now (and someday) kitchen. ( did look around on the web last night for a few hours looking, and can’t find anything exactly like this. This pattern reminds me of the Birmingham stripe by Dash and Albert, but the stripes run lengthwise on that rug, and I love the idea of making a long and narrow space look wider…anyway, if you’ve seen such an object, thanks in advance for sharing!


That place looks amazing! My Dad is originally from the Traverse City area and him and my Mom just finished up remodeling (but really gutting and doing A LOT of structural work) my grandparents old farmhouse (built in the 1880’s). My husband, kids, and I try and get back at least every other summer to visit (my parents spend summers there and I have family there). I’m really bummed I didn’t know about this place sooner! I would’ve loved to rent it for a week!
I love Leelanau County!!! You should seriously consider going back sometime in the summer!


This is lovely. I love the colours and the practical use of space.


I’m so glad that someone else finds the placement of the trash/recycling under the sink to be awkward. We stayed in a lovely flat in Copenhagen about a month ago, and that drove us crazy. When I redid my kitchen a few months ago, we decided that off to the side of the sink was the best place for the pullouts. I’m so thankful that my kitchen designer said, “No, they really don’t work out well.” when that came up.


I am obsessed with the free standing pantry. I really want something like this in our dining room which is open to our kitchen/living room and would really unify the space. But all the pre-made options seem so expensive, and I don’t really know where to start for getting a custom piece done. I’ve been wondering for a while about a potential ikea hack, which involves two tall Billy’s with two short ones in the middle and then maybe adding a walnut top to the short ones. If I get that ambitious I will send pictures. However, I wish I could purchase the one in this cabin. :)


We are a microwave free home and have been for nearly 3 years now. It was much easier to give up that I thought it would be! Counter top toaster oven has been wonderful as a replacement. Beautiful space, thanks for sharing.


LOVE the brilliant entryway closet! My husband and I live in an apartment with an absurdly small coat closet, and I’ve grappled with ways to maximize storage. This is perfect! Thanks for sharing!


The white striped blanket looks very similar to a Hudson’s Bay point blanket, a Canadian staple. The number of points has to do with the size of the blanket.


I’ll put in a message to the homeowner and let you know ;)


There were no bedroom closets! Which we didn’t pick up on right away. Not sure how practical it would be in real life, but for a short-term vacation rental it worked fine.


I believe the headboards were straight-up DIYs, but what a great idea to upholster existing, inexpensive ones! I happen to have a photo of the interior of the master bath vanity…


I sent a message to the homeowner asking for the rug source. I’ll let you know what I hear!


Thank you! I thought it might be a little rude to contact him directly (although you can be sure that I will do that someday just so my husband and I can stay at that house…).


I love this, we are in the process of remodeling our small home and this is great inspiration. I just love the built in entry closet! Do you happen to know what Ikea cabinets/system where used to make the built in entry closet?


They are from the previous AKURUM line, but you could definitely create something similar with the new SEKTION line.


I love your ideas! I feel like it’s very Scandinavian and also very modern, but still very homey! Love this!