This article was written by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans and was featured in our October issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Avery Smith and Suzanna Scott. To visit the original Home By Design article and view more photos, click here.
A RIVER RETREAT GOES FROM LACKLUSTER TO INSTAGRAMMABLE
When Daniel Epperson and his wife, Brit—the architects and designers behind California-based Studio PLOW—first saw this 1974 A-frame cabin, it wasn’t exactly earning an A. And yet they had hope. “We happened upon this modified A-frame right on Austin Creek that feeds into the Russian River, and kind of fell in love with it,” Epperson recalls of the Sonoma County, California location. “We saw the potential.” But it was decidedly down on its luck. “It was very much a river home—with all the charms of the architecture of the area, but hadn’t been touched since it was built. It was in good shape, but out of date.” Think faux-wood paneling, thick shag carpeting that “hadn’t been replaced in a really long time,” and a porous redwood structure that had soaked up the most unpleasant scents of a previous owner.
What a difference two visionaries working in tandem make. “We started working together on the project and it was an effort to maximize impact on a tight, limited budget,” says Epperson. “We really had to flex that muscle of creative solutions for unique problems.” One of their biggest impact decisions was a no-brainer: pulling out the aforementioned carpet of horrors. “And then we found a sealant we could seal the wood with,” he says. “It was this penetrative oil that we could lock in the smells with and then paint over it.”
The coats of fresh paint provided an efficient, cost-effective fix for the existing dark feel, now transformed into the successful short-term rental known as Caz Cabin. “The redwood itself made the space really dark, and being under the trees themselves, it’s kind of compounding,” he recalls. “We wanted to lighten up the space and bring the light that you get from the creek. So we made that decision to paint it mostly all white, and then it was more about stripping things back and trying to keep it minimal and quiet.” Occasional Instagrammable touches give the ’70s-era property a very “now” look, including the artful Flos light fixture in the kitchen. “Having some key moments that were really special, whether it’s a light fixture or fireplace—the kind of hearth of the home—really popped.” The cookspace was an Ikea hack: “We bought Ikea [cabinet] bodies and had custom fronts and side panels made. We did all the installation work ourselves.” One other pièce de résistance? The fireplace, including a show-stopping porcelain-tile wall they built behind the original wood-burning stove. “We wanted to maintain [the stove] because it’s kind of rad. It’s super cool.”
While the couple initially sought to use it as their primary weekend getaway, they toyed with it becoming a short-term rental—and it’s been a boon. “We try to provide a bit more than your standard Airbnb, where we create itineraries for guests depending on the weather and have cabin-specific cocktail recipes that we recommend,” he says. Locally sourced touches also help give guests a luxe, regional feel. “The ceramics we have for guests are by a local artisan, which we mention in the guidebook we send out. It’s important to us that the things that made it special for us were there for guests too.”
Indeed, it’s a short-term rental version of the golden rule: treat others as you’d wish to be treated. “We want to ensure those that stay with us have that same magical experience that we had when we fell in love with the place.” One wonderful thing about the locale is that it’s both riveting and restorative in all seasons. “It wasn’t dependent upon the weather, which was kind of amazing,” says Epperson. “Whether it was raining or whether it was 80 degrees outside, there was all these amazing things that you could do, from reading a book by the fireplace to getting out in the creek. There’s even a little swimming hole about fifty yards up from us that you can wade up to. We want to make sure anyone that stays there knows all about these little secrets.”
|SWEET SONOMA COUNTY|
|Here, three things to see in one of California’s most iconic getaways, all on the must-do lists of the Caz Cabin proprietors.|
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Wander through a pristine grove of towering Sequoia trees . . . some of them up to 1,000 years old. (Go in the morning to catch them swaddled in moody fog, a frequent visitor in these temperate rainforests.)
Bodega Bay. Whale watchers flock here (or should we say swim here?) to spy migrating gray whales, who often pass through these waters January through May. Like the sequoia, they’re eye-poppingly large; an average sized gray whale can reach 90,000 pounds.
Williams Selyem Winery. A mainstay of oenophiles thanks to their perfect Pinot Noirs. Become a member to attend a private tasting in the aptly named Tasting Salon, or just pick up a bottle to tote home (the 2020 Central Coast Pinot Noir is one of the rare great things to come from the infamous year).