Log cabin contemplations: reacting & reflecting

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Cabin lavender

Last week was the Puget Sound’s final week of 80-degree weather this year, and it also marked the end of my time staying in the log cabin on my mom’s property. Not that we won’t be back to Sacred Groves, but we won’t be staying in the cabin when we visit.

As I was sweeping the first of the yellowed leaves from the cabin’s porch, I was trying to line up all the ways that the homes I’ve created for myself in my adult life have been both a reflection of this space, and a reaction against it.

It was an interesting exercise, actually. In many ways, our adult lives are just a hodgepodge of reflections of and reactions to our childhoods, and it felt pretty telling to look at the ways that I’ve framed my own home-spaces as a rebellion against my childhood home, or an attempt to recreate the parts I loved.

Reflection: cozy & small

Growing up in a small home, I seem to always feel most comfortable in smaller, cozier spaces. Not that I don’t eventually want my son to sleep in a bedroom instead of a closet, but I just don’t see needing an enormous amount of square footage. Even when I walk past the gorgeous million dollar homes in our neighborhood, I think to myself, “Ooh, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could live downstairs, and then our geighbor Brett could live upstairs?” Economical and compact works for me. It always has.

Reaction: urban neighborhood

This is maybe the most obvious reaction against my childhood home: I now live in a dense and busy urban neighborhood. Maybe the quiet solace of the woods just weren’t a good fit for my personality, or maybe I’m still trying to fill my ears up with sound from all those whispery years in the forest. Whatever the reason, I’ve spent most of my adult life in the OPPOSITE environment from the one I grew up in.


As the crow flies, I live about 10 miles from the Island clinic where I was born. Granted, I’ve spent time trying on life in Boston, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles … but I’m a hometown girl at heart, and nothing fits my cultural and climate needs like the gentle grim grey of the Pacific Northwest.

Reaction: Modern living

I grew up without a dryer, dishwasher, or microwave. Everything was rustic and rough-hewn. Now I live in a freshly-remodeled condo with a robot that cleans the shiny veneered flooring. We have a dryer, dishwasher, and a microwave — plus halogen track lighting and 4 computers. I grew up with “back to land” parents, and have become a thoroughly modern, tech-obsessed home-owner.

My list kept going (reaction: close neighborfriends, reflection: lots of bookshelves, etc etc), but I’d love to hear about y’all’s reactions & reflections. In what ways is your home now a reaction to how you grew up, and in what ways is it merely a reflection?

Comments on Log cabin contemplations: reacting & reflecting

  1. Reflection: I love stairs. I grew up in a house with three floors, so when I was a kid, I always felt just the slightest bit uncomfortable walking through houses that only had one level (even though they were still awesome houses!). Obviously while looking for apartments with my fiance, I was resigned to not having stairs, because I knew I’d still love apartment living. But then? We ended up in a two-level apartment. With stairs.

    Reaction: for almost my entire life, I had to share a bedorom with my younger sister. The only time I ever had my own room was the second half of college, when I lived with roommates in a townhouse. Fast forward again to apartment-hunting: I didn’t want a one bedroom apartment for my fiance and I. I wanted a spare room so that, if needed, I could retreat to it when I needed some time to myself. Sort of like the “my own room” I never had growing up.

  2. Reaction: Grew up an only child on a farm. Moved to a city and crammed my house full of people.

    Reflection: Grew up with lots of antiques, vintage farm equipment, an appreciation for the old. Couldn’t buy a “new” house — anything built after 1960 — and now we fill our house with old junk.

  3. Reaction: The house I grew up in was painted in light, pastel colors. Light blue, light pink, eggshell, white. We bought a house 4 months ago and I’m going to start decorating my computer room to a reading/compy/nap room and the wall color will be a deep purple color. No more light, impersonal colors for me!

  4. These two go together:

    Reflection: reuse, repurpose, rebuythingsthatlast. My mom loved restoring old furniture and instilled in early an appreciation for furniture that lasts forever and has history. Through that, we loved finding new ways to use old pieces. My bedroom is filled with antiques!

    Reaction: OMG IKEA MINIMALIST MODERN EXOTIC EVERYTHING. Since mom’s taste stayed country chic and antique, I love everything that’s… not that. Wabi-sabi, contemporary minimalism, over-junked, Indian-influence, kitsch and so much everything. I have no specific design taste because I desperately want it all, in bold colours and out loud.

  5. I grew up in a city-like area, minuntes outside of Chicago. I love the city and everything about it but I could NEVER live there again.

    There is a part of me that wants to retreat into the woods where there are no people. I’m on my way there. I live in the boonies of Northern Wisconsin and I long to live even further North. I want to live in a place that you “just can’t get there from here”.

    I don’t know where this came from? I was a complete city girl and certified mall-rat. I found myself in the woods and I, for the first time, was comfortable with who I am.

  6. I grew up in Southern Africa and in the US in a series of homes that were fully furnished and not owned by my parents. They were also not rentals. So there was a very strong feeling of not-mine, like the way you feel staying in a friend’s vacation house.

    Reflection- I move a lot, last count 16 rental apartments in the last 8 or 9 years. I have very few personal possessions and am able to pack and move an entire house in only a few days.

    I’m not super comfortable with dense urban living, although I’ve done it. I like space to grow stuff and explore.

    I still like hand washing clothes in a tub and hanging clothes on a line in the sun.

    I’m not really that attached to possessions. If everything burned up in a fire, I wouldn’t be sad.

    Reaction-I’m super attached to the idea of owning a piece of land. There’s nothing on earth I want more than to throw myself to the ground, clutch the earth and say ‘This is mine.’

    As a result, I’m sort of a back-to-land type. Although I do love having a dishwasher.

    Also, growing up there were always all these unrelated people staying with us…for months or years on end. Always people in the house. I love entertaining, but only a couple times a year.

  7. Reflection: I’m the oldest by almost 9 years, and the only girl, so I’ve almost always had my own space. I now live in a 2-bedroom apartment with a cocker spaniel, and rarely have people over.

    Reaction: STUFF! My mother loves stuff. Furniture. Clothes. Shoes. Books (ok, I love books too). She has STUFF. Everywhere. I am fairly minimal – all my clothes fit on one side of a closet, with my dresser on the other side. I recently upgraded to 2 nightstands. And actual bookcases (ok, two small ones, but still!). I have two bath towels, and a terry cloth robe. I was looking around the other day and decided that I have too much STUFF, so I’m going to upload all my CDs to my hard drive, and donate them, as well as most of my books.

    Reflection: I now live in the same neighborhood that I spent most of my youngest years in. I had NO idea when I moved here, until i was walking around and so many things seemed eerily familiar. A lot of my mother’s friends lived in this area, and we visited them a lot. All the feelings (since I don’t remember it) are good ones.

    Reaction: I live in an apartment in the inner-city, and have been resisting pressure to buy a house for years. I grew up in a house in the suburbs. I really detested living in the suburbs.

  8. Reflection: When I was a kid, we couldn’t afford an extension cable long enough to allow my mother to mow the furthest third of the lawn. To this day, I love long grass and wildflowers like we had in that garden.

    Reaction: Our house was dark. My mother picked dark ‘practical’ colours and there was a lot of stuff in a fairly small space. My house has 10ft high windows and is (sparsely) furnished in cream and white.

  9. What a fun exercise!

    Reflection: nature. I grew up on a big wooded suburban lot with many visits to our northern Minnesota cabin. I now have a little busy city lot, but I still try to incorporate nature into our indoor space and try to make the outdoor space as great as I can.

    Reaction: color. In my parents’ house (and many of my sterile dorm rooms and apartments), nearly every wall is the same shade of white. Their style and furniture is muted and very bland. In our current home, we’ve painted every room a different color. Only the bathroom is still white, and it’s not going to stay that way. The rooms are furnished with a mix of classic and contemporary, with much more color and personality than I had growing up.

  10. Oooh! *raises hand* I have a reflection!

    My parents are very frugal, sometimes a bit to a fault, and growing up I thought that it was not an option to have some of the really nice (read: expensive) things I wanted and still be financially responsible, like a cell phone with a data plan, Sephora make up, or fancy TV channels.

    Now, I love to splurge sometimes and buy Sephora eyeshadow, or a $3 chocolate truffle. Plus, gotta love my iPhone. I basically just love making my own decisions!

    (And, don’t worry parents, I still have a savings account.)

    • Oh man, I feel you on this one! My parents are both live SUPER frugal, and I definitely reflect that in some ways (avoiding debt, living within means) and react against it (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST BUY A NEW ____ RATHER THAN DUCTAPING IT FOR THE 400TH TIME!)

  11. My home is, I think, only a refection. In fact, if I could afford it I would just buy my childhood home. Incredibly urban, but in a tight knit neighborhood. Its a duplex so we could stick our paramours downstairs (or other members of our tribe since they keep insisting they like suburban living).

    Instead I do my best to recreate it. My house is smaller, but I still throw holiday parties. The walls showcase the works of local artists. There are lots of books. We don’t have our best friends living across the street, but one of my big goals for the year is to befriend some neighbors. East Atlanta is a little bit grittier and a little less centralized (and a lot more affordable) than Midtown, but I can still walk most of the places I want to go on a daily basis just like I did in high school.

  12. Reflection: Not hoarding. I’m amazed by how much stuff I can quite easily get rid of without guilt.

    Reaction: Double bed. I have always had a tiny bedroom, in both houses. I love smaller spaces (more logistics and analysis and scale drawings to make things work and organising stuff! Yay!) but small bedrooms mean customised kids beds. I had a childs size bed (2ft6in wide rather than the standard 3ft, similar reduction in length). Then when we moved house, that bed had to have its foot board chopped off and the legs re-positioned for it to fit in my new room. My new room was so small that when we put laminate flooring down they couldn’t put the usual beading on the join between the floor and the skirting board. The loss of 5ml off each wall would have meant the furniture couldn’t all go back in again!

  13. Reflection : I grew up in an older home (1930’s) and my Husband and I just bought our first home it was built in 1950 but it looks more like a 30’s or 40’s home. I love all the character features in this house as well as the one I grew up in. The house we bought is a lot smaller than the one I grew up in but it has plenty of space for the two of us. We fell in love with the original fir floors and all the beautiful moldings and trim. I also love the the kitchen and bathroom have been updated so that they are both very functional.
    Reaction : My parents are big into garage sales and always have been. We moved to Canada in the 1970’s and it took my parents a long time to be financially stable in a new country, so they often “made due” with things from garage sales. I am not into making due and I am not into garage sales. I know second hand is very popular and it is a great way to recycle but all the life drains out of me if I walk into a second hand store or a garage sale. Sad but true just the smell of a second hand store is a enough to send me over the edge. What I did learn from growing up like this is to repurpose things and be creative.
    Since my Husband and I don’t buy second hand to speak of we do buy locally as much as possible and try to pay attention to where things are grown or made.
    I loved this exercise, it really made me think about choices I have made. I have tried living a bigger city life and I am Island girl at heart (Vancouver Island that is).

  14. About a month ago my child hood home went up for sale. My husband and I seriously considered trying to get enough money together to buy it. I remember it being the perfect starter home: A fairly big garden, an nice open basement, cute little bedrooms.
    We couldn’t get the money together and frankly I know that buying it wouldn’t have been the right decision. I was basing it totally on a longing in my heart to have that childhood space again.

  15. Reflection: furniture and decor, and the style of the space in general. My art still decorates the walls, just as it did in my room when I was a kid. All shelves are still packed with books, records and movies. I still go for the mismatched-dishes aesthetic of my childhood home, too. One of the couches looks a lot like the one we had when I was small, and I actually grew up with the other couch along with its 50’s modern endtables – the set belonged to a favorite great-aunt and -uncle. That’s one well-traveled furniture set, people– it’s gone with me to Denver from its original home in Illinois, and now it’s made the journey to Seattle.

    I guess the only reactionary thing about my home is its location: it’s 2000 miles away from the midwest, where everyone (and I do mean everyone) in my family still lives. I’m close to them personally… I just far prefer living on the left coast now!

  16. Reflection: i lost my dad at a very young age and moved back “home” to live with grama, next door to the house i grew up in. (we had only just moved away) That was hard, i only ventured back into that house 2 or 3 times in 14 years after coming back there. many of my memories of my dad were of him trying to give us a better life in a better side of town, that town being in the kingwood/newcaney area. We had bought a house in new caney just past the more coveted but more expensive area of kingwod, in the country. My dad raised my brother and Myself until he died at age 40 :/, anyways as halloween approaches, the 14th anniversary of his passing, I find myself back in kingwood, in an apartment, looking for houses to buy. I guess part of me won’t even consider another part of town because this is where dad wanted me to be.

    Reaction: we didn’t grow up poor but i faced a lot of hardships as a kid, “losing” my mom to drugs in 1st or 2nd grade, losing my dad at age 12, being “raised” in my teens by a grama who most definitely meant well. Because of all this, I made good decisions, I realized just in time i needed to be a good kid, stop smoking pot, go to school and get a degree in something, and that led me to nursing, and so i guess my reaction to my childhood would be overcoming what could have been my statistic making childhood.

    whoa! heavy!

  17. Reflection: Home ownership. My parents own their home, and even when things weren’t looking great (dad was running his own business, the economy was crashing), that at least was (mostly) theirs. I love knowing that I can do what I want in my house and no one can tell me not to or kick me out because they want it back – unless I stop paying my mortgage, that is!

    Reaction: All my life I wanted a cat or a dog, but dad always said no. Now I have two dogs, one cat and a rabbit!

    Reflection: Suburban living. I like the suburbs where you can walk safely and be friends with your neighbours while still having a bit of space.

    Reaction: Mum and dad were never big entertainers, whereas I love to invite people around. Our house isn’t perfect, but neither are we, and as long as we have good food and good coffee I love spending time with people in my space.

  18. Reflection: I grew up with my mom proudly displaying photos and trinkets of our closest friends and relatives. I do that too. I would much rather have something on my mantle that I was given by a loved one than something random from a chain store that *matches*.

    Reaction: We moved around a lot when I was growing up- I never spent more than 3 years in the same school district. Then I went away to college, and after that my husband and I moved to the town where both of our families live (as well as where my husband was born and raised). We have lived here for 2 years, and I would really like to just stay put. Even though I feel no particular allegiance or affinity toward this town, I just want to have a “hometown” for a while.

    Reflection: My parents taught me to cook at a young age, and cooking is my favorite pass time now. I love days when I can spend all day in the kitchen making tasty food.

    Reaction: My parents buy A LOT of processed food. My husband and I eat almost no processed food and make as many of our meals from scratch as is feasible. We are also willing to spend more money on local meat and produce, as well as buy from companies whose policies we respect.

  19. Reflection: I grew up in a rural area, and now that I’ve moved into the city the apartment I live in is in a small complex with quiet neighbors and a courtyard that fills my need for outdoor space.
    My decorating choices aren’t a reflection of my childhood home but where I went to college. I was forced to move back to the Southwest from the Northern California coast after I graduated and my decorating choices all remind me of the laid back style of the pacific northwest.

    Reaction: My mom hates to cook and dinner was always a chore that she dreaded. I’m trying extremely hard to not fall into that mind set and really trying to make good food choices and find a more zen like attitude when it comes to feeding myself.

  20. That’s funny, I’m one of those 60’s children brought up by parents and grandparents who came out of the depression into the 50’s. Conservative Lutheran German Midwesterners, in fact! I’m a conservative/liberal, living in the Pacific Northwest, in a home much like I grew up in. One TV, not very new, though we have to have cable or satellite to watch anything. We have a load of movies and CD’s, of course, where my folks went to movies and had records. Don’dt listen to the radio much since there isn’t much selection in our area. Conservative furniture choices, cars, clothes, decorating, like our parents. Piles of books too, like our parents! The biggest difference is we have two computers which our parents wouldn’t have had. I can’t live without them because we rely on them for some of our shopping and other things. So much of our life is similar to our parents in the basic ways, washer, dryer, kitchen appliances. I have lived like your parents and frankly, electricity and running water and the conveniences they come with are the best thing in the world as far as I’m concerned!

  21. Well I consider two houses the ones I “grew up” in. The first was a 1901 square, one floor house with a walkout basement, lovely backyard, and a glassed-in front porch (but we always used the back door off the kitchen as a main entrance). The second was a 1970s four level split with fully finished basement(s) with three bathrooms (and I just had one sibling, so everyone got their own bathroom).

    So, Reflection: My mom loved and collected old stuff, so I do too. My parents were both really frugal, so although I’m not quite as frugal as they were (we like high speed internet and cable), so that rubbed off as well. And collecting pretty china is in the maternal bloodline, so that’s definitely rubbed off, too.

    Reaction: I was almost never allowed to have friends over as a child (I think my mom somehow thought our house wasn’t clean enough, which was never true), so I LOVE to have people over and entertain now a days. Plus, it makes me clean the house. Lol… Also, because my sister and I were picky eaters growing up, we ate delicious, from-scratch meals half the time, and crap like hamburger helper the other half (our childhood favorite). Now I’m a big dorky foodie, so I cook and bake from scratch all the time.

    Other than that? More reflection than reaction. What can I say? The parents raised me well. 🙂

  22. Reflection: I had to implement the “NO visitors until the house is clean!” rule with my husband because apparently he grew up without this rule. The funny thing is my dad texted me last night to ask what we were doing and I told him my husband’s bff was coming to visit. To which my father replied, “Oh, so that means you are cleaning the house tonight.” It made me smile.

  23. Reflection:
    My parents house is very light and airy, with a very high ceiling in the living room (5 meters). They also have the bedrooms on the ground floor and living area on the 1th. floor. Because of this I have bought the topmost apartement in our complex with 3 meter ceiling.

    My mother is a cleaning-freak, and although I am not as bad as she, I like the “A place for everything and everything in it’s place” philosophy.

    And a good living room must have a big (or several small) bookcase(s).

    Reaction: I used to have a bedroom on ground floor growing up, and all my friends used to jump in front of the window to scare me. As a result (and other reasons) I don’t like apartements on ground floors.

    My mother has tons of things that are of “sentimental value”. Or just don’t want to throw stuff away. It does not matter that the decorative cushions in the sofa don’t go well with the new sofa, she will not buy new.Also, everything is brown and beige.

    I love colours, and will rather buy things and later give it away if my style changes than have all this “me 10 years ago”-crap in my home.

    Also, I need space and light. My home is very colourful, but still light and airy, and I don’t really collect stuff (like all things butterfly) if they do not have a purpose.

  24. Reflection: I grew up with my crazy redneck dad (i say that with love) and have been known to use half gallon Jack Daniel’s bottles as flower vases, have a metal Dallas Cowboys sign in my livingroom and still have one of the original big screen t.v’s that are like 2 feet wide 🙂 I also live in an apartment and am looking for an actual house because with the exception of a few months when I was five we have always lived in trailer houses, not that that’s a bad thing but I’m just a little burnt out on the single wide trailers 😉

    Reaction: There are dead black roses in said Jack vases, Jack Skellinton and Bob Marley posters in my livingroom, and a giant Kurt Cobain flag in my livingroom that my super awesome dad bought me when I was 13

  25. Reflection: I grew up in a small home with my mother, and my father was constantly renovating his homes. I appreciate all smaller homes, and ones that need a bit of work I can see the potential in..

    Reaction: I grew up in the city (well a New Zealand city so an American/European town), I crave the quiet dark of the country. I love the country farm house style aesthetic mixed with the rustic industrial look. I dream of rural life, homemaking and all around self-sufficient living.

    Alas the husband does not – resigning myself to city life forever…

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