How BOXHILL helped blogger Claire Thomas warm up her Big Bear A-frame’s exterior spaces
Claire Thomas is known for cooking up crowd-pleasing confections. So when The Kitchy Kitchen food blogger and Los Angeles-based bakery owner put her unique design spin on a vintage cabin in the nearby mountain hamlet of Big Bear, the results were—unsurprisingly—very sweet. We caught up with Claire for a chat about her vision for the Kitchy Cabin (currently featured in the Winter 2018 issue of Domino) and how Boxhill Design helped her put the icing on her outdoor living spaces.
Claire and her husband, Craig, had spent the day “getting the lay of the land” when a local real estate agent showed them a sight-unseen property in Big Bear’s Moonridge neighborhood. But the minute she laid eyes upon the rustic A-frame, her vision for the perfect mountain getaway began to take shape.
Admittedly, she had quite a few boxes to tick. “I wanted a place that could accommodate a group of friends, or two families for a long weekend,” says Thomas. “But now that we have kids, it was critical that there were not only cozy spaces for gathering, but also nooks for escaping—inviting little moments throughout the property where you could curl up with a glass of wine and book, away from the action.”
So, in addition to the cabin’s soaring common spaces and three bedrooms, Thomas created an oversized hallway downstairs with comfy seating, a second-floor catwalk boasting a cloud-like couch—plus an outdoor living room with central and vignette seating. Together, the effect is something of a retreat-within-a-retreat, giving guests the ability to come together and drift apart as they wish.
The Accidental Purist
“We spent a lot of time in Big Bear when I was a kid,” Thomas says, so she’s no stranger to its quirky mid-century charms. In the 1950s and 60s, the area was a popular location for Hollywood movie productions; Elvis Presley’s Kissin’ Cousins was shot there, along with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and other cult classics. After WWII, as the dream of owning a vacation home first started to become a reality for many middle-class families, humble little A-frames started popping up throughout the area.
Inspired by an era she calls “Avocado and Marigold Everything,” Thomas remained a purist about honoring the cabin’s visual heritage. “Right now, everybody on Instagram is doing these white-on-white, hygge-style spaces. When you combine that with mid-century design, you get something that’s beautiful and modern—but not necessarily cozy or fun. What I wanted was a something else: a visual mimosa.”
“Mid Century Modernism is one of my favorite places to play,” Thomas says, “You can get away with bolder design choices in a vacation home, because you’re only living with them in short spurts.” Case in point: the centerpiece of the cabin’s interior is a vintage, avocado-green freestanding fireplace, on a platform of sorbet-colored tile—a detail that provides a splash of color in the kitchen, and is echoed in the forest-themed dining room wallpaper.
But still, Thomas was adamant about exercising restraint. “Mid-century style can be extreme,” she says, “veering quickly into either the cold, or the cartoonish.” So, while the cabin’s candy-dish palette and period-appropriate interior do extend to the exterior spaces, she was careful not to let them overwhelm the back yard’s considerable natural beauty. “The Yosemite Rug was just the perfect outdoor expression of everything that was going on inside,” says Thomas, adding “I was immediately drawn to the graphic play of the Acapulco Patio Rocker—it looks like the string art we did as kids!” Adding the Savannah String Lights and Beekman Bird Feeder completed the transformation into a legitimate outdoor living room.
Ursa Major, Indeed
The final result is—by any standards—major. It’s like an open love letter to mid-century style, punctuated with friendly Big Bear flair. “When i’m going on a journey,” Thomas says, “I like to be taken on that journey. I want to feel like i’m on definitely on a mountain; like I’m enjoying an après-ski fondue party. That’s the whole point of getting away: to change your perspective.”
Looking at what she’s created, it’s easy to imagine oneself outside, sheltered by centenarian conifers, snuggled in a cozy blanket. Cocoa in hand, crackling fire ablaze. And beyond the twinkling string lights: the depthless, star-filled sky. And soon, you won’t have to imagine; Thomas plans to list the Kitchy Cabin on Airbnb early in the New Year.