How to Create Authentic Log Cabin Curb Appeal: Skip the Country Kitsch

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Log cabin owners struck the lottery in 2020 when the coronavirus drastically heightened the appeal of remote getaways. A desire for more outdoor space and the urge to get out of the city top the list of this year’s moving motivators, our research reveals. Meanwhile, from June 2019 to June 2020, searches for rural properties increased 34%. With your name on a log cabin, you have both the perfect escape and a goldmine on your hands.

“Due to the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge influx of investors who aren’t wanting to invest their money in big cities like Chicago, or New York, or San Francisco right now,” says April Ganser, a real estate agent who’s part of a top-selling team in Knoxville, Tennessee, and resident log cabin expert. “Instead, they see the cute log cabin rentals in Tennessee that are making money hand over fist, so they’re investing in our market.”

Whether you’re looking to get more enjoyment out of your log cabin, sell it at a premium while the opportunity lasts, or rent it out to more Airbnbers, take a glance at your cabin’s exterior and how it’s held up in what’s likely a heavily wooded area.

A little spruce up and staging could be just what your log cabin needs to attract more interest and shine online. To achieve authentic log cabin curb appeal, skip the country kitsch and capture the cabin chic look city slicker buyers are looking for with these five tips.

A log cabin with curb appeal.
Source: (Peter Thomas / Unsplash)

1. Stain your logs — don’t paint them

Repainting your exterior might be the go-to way to spruce up the look of a traditional sided home, but paint is a definite don’t for log cabins.

“Painting the exterior of a log cabin basically destroys it. Logs are a natural material that needs to be allowed to breathe, and painting traps moisture within the logs. Plus, once you paint the exterior, you can’t ever stain them again. So it’ll never look like a log cabin again,” explains top-selling agent Carl Young, who leads the real estate team in Knoxville.

Proper staining and sealing won’t just improve your log cabin’s curb appeal, the condition of your logs will come up during a home inspection, so it’s best to get this done before you list or rent it out.

Staining a log cabin is costly, so you need to be careful when choosing your stain color. If you dislike the color after it’s done, you’ll have to pay to re-stain the whole cabin. Depending on the stain you choose, refinishing your log cabin exterior will run a minimum of $2,000 for a 2,000 square foot log cabin – that’s on the low end and doesn’t account for adding a sealing coat.

A quality finish coating to protect the moisture content (which is ideally 12%) is a top priority for home inspectors. Testing yours is as simple as spraying your logs with a water hose or spray bottle. If the water beads up, your finish coating is intact. If not, you’ll need to re-seal your logs before selling.

2. Reserve paint for architectural accents

While most of your log cabin exterior will have a rustic wood appearance, it shouldn’t be devoid of color. Front doors, shutters, and even the wood frame windows are a great place to add a pop or color. Just don’t get too carried away with your color choices.

Stick with hues inspired by nature, such as:

Which color family and specific hue you choose depends largely on the color temperature of the brown in your logs and stain color. Darker, cooler brown logs are the perfect backdrop for vibrant hues such as brighter greens and blues. Paler, cooler logs get a color pop from dark browns, blues, and grays.

If you have warmer hues in your logs, use cooler colors on your doors, windows, and shutters. Stick with crisp light grays and greens for darker logs. Paler, warmer logs that have a hint of red or orange in the stain; it’s wisest to anchor these with darker grays, browns, and blues.

A forest near a log cabin with curb appeal.
Source: (Ben Wilkins / Unsplash)

3. Embrace the landscaping mother nature gave you

Landscaping is another popular way that traditional homeowners amp up their curb appeal  —but you can’t go for the sculpted hedges and manicured lawn aesthetic with a log cabin.

“Most of the cabins in our area are hanging off the side of a mountain, so there’s not a ton of room for landscaping,” explains Ganser. “Even if there is room, it’s still better to maintain the outdoor, natural vibe that log cabin buyers are after.”

Rather than make a formal landscaping plan that includes bringing in new foliage, embrace the greenery mother nature gave you. Keep the natural growth properly pruned to remove dead branches. This will also help to train bushes and trees to grow away from any pathways on your property.

Mother nature isn’t always kind to plants on your property, so if you do have bare spots in need of greenery, stick with planting what’s native to your area. And don’t forget to consider the unique needs of your log cabin before planning your plantings.

Log cabins require a minimum of 3 to 5 feet of air flow space between the logs and any foundation plantings. This reduces the chances for problematic mold and mildew, as well as reducing fire hazards around your cabin.

A porch in front of a log cabin with chairs.
Source: (Colophotos / Shutterstock)

4. Create a leisure space to spend quality time outdoors

Log cabins are synonymous with rustic, outdoor living. So the best thing you can do for your cabin’s curb appeal is to create an entertainment area right out front that advertises the relaxed, back-to-nature lifestyle.

Log cabins with front porches out front are the perfect place to hang a porch swing, or even set a retro buckboard bench. Create a cozy corner for enjoying morning sunrises with a pair of classic rocking chairs or iconic Adirondack chairs. Top it off with a natural tree stump end table.

You can create the ambiance of outdoor enjoyment with the little strip of yard space between your log cabin and your property line, too. Just place a rustic log bench in the space flanked by inviting flowers planted in old-school whiskey barrel planters.

5. Transform country kitsch into cabin chic with neutral, natural decor

No outdoor entertainment space is complete without a few small decorative items that capture the spirit log cabin living. Just be careful that you don’t go overboard.

“Steer clear of kitschy and corny exterior décor. Stick to neutral color schemes and raw, industrial style materials, like wood and iron. These materials are going to enhance the outdoor experience rather than taking attention away from it,” advises Ganser.

While some buyers might love kitsch, like putting wooden bears or pawprints crawling up the doorways, others will hate it. Instead, embrace outdoor décor that hints at rusticity and suggests the outdoor recreation available in your area.

Hints of rusticity and outdoor recreation décor ideas:

Give the log cabin market what it wants

As millions of Americans transition to working from home, many are realizing that they no longer need to live in big cities for work. But this boom in rural real estate won’t last forever. If you want to get your log cabin sold at a premium, you need to step up your curb appeal game, especially if you have a newer cabin.

“Very few cabins are now built with genuine logs like the Lincoln logs you remember as a kid. Most of them are stick-built homes that have half logs nailed on the exterior. They’re basically log-clad homes,” explains Ganser.

Whether yours is a log-clad cabin that has a standard, painted sheetrock interior, or a traditional cabin with logs inside and out, your curb appeal should exude authenticity. Play into the cozy, rural vibe drawing buyers and renters into the log cabin market and you can’t go wrong.

Header Image Source: (Dancestrokes / Unsplash)