Rustic decorating with heart and history.
Article and Photography by Johi Kokjohn-Wagner
As a self-described design junkie, I love nothing more than a stealing time out of my busy days to peruse design magazines and websites. A well-designed space is inspiring; it stirs my urge to create and reinvent areas in my own home. It motivates change, be it freshening a room with paint, creating art or simply moving furniture. All that aside, one of my favorite places on Earth has hardly changed at all in 75 years, yet it inspires breath and presence, which leads to creativity. It’s an in-the-moment location filled with time-worn pieces that don’t necessarily meet ever-changing standards of design, but instead whisper stories of well-chosen people who live life fully. This is a simple, roots-deep place filled with something far more powerful than a “perfectly” designed space; it’s filled with a rich history of love.
Sheryl Wieghaus started visiting Pinebrook Cabins, tucked into a valley of the Colorado Rockies, in 1959 with her family. Traveling from Illinois, time spent at the rustic cabins was always treasured. When the cabins came up for private sale in the early ’70s, Sheryl’s parents jumped at the chance to own their own piece of the mountains. Ever since, she and her husband, Tom, have raised their children in the same fashion, instilling a deep love of the pine-scented air and rugged mountain terrain. Their hearts are all in that mountain valley, which envelops the little cluster of cabins where seeds of love and family have been planted and grown.
The cabins of Pinebrook, now privately owned by two families, are nestled onto the side of a ponderosa pine-covered slope, where tuft-eared squirrels, native birds, foxes, black bears, mountain lions, deer and elk make their homes, where mountaintops touch the cornflower blue sky above and the icy cold West Creek rushes below. The Wieghauses’ now own four of the pine-clad homes, each emblazoned with a Native American name. In English translation, the cabins are named “Knotty Pine,” “In the Woods,” “The Hummingbird” and “The Star.” Each has a different floor plan and unique décor that compliments its moniker.
Knotty Pine is the main gathering place for the family. Clad, of course, in knotty pine paneling and decorated with an eclectic mix of equestrian, Native American, mountain and Shabby Chic pieces, it best reflects the well-rounded and dynamic Wieghaus family. Each piece, carefully chosen and displayed, tells a story of their journey. Cozy hand-me-down chairs are grouped to spark conversation and vintage tables are placed near sunny windows overlooking the stream below, beckoning card games following family meals. When you are invited into Knotty Pine, you are treated like family.
In the Woods is a log-sided, three-room getaway with a quaint, mountain vibe. It’s the perfect canvas for traditional cabin-décor depicting pine trees, elk and black bear. Wooden bunk beds in the front room and a vintage double bed in the back room make perfect sleeping arrangements for a family of four. Two overstuffed, mossy green chairs call for settling in with a good book or some music, laughter and a margarita. A sunny yellow table sits in the center of the kitchen under a colorful ’60s-style stained glass light fixture, inviting folks to gather for meals grilled on the generous outdoor deck. Every bit of the space evokes togetherness, both inside and right outside the screen door.
The Hummingbird (at top) is a beautiful three-room retreat that was recently remodeled by a Wyoming master carpenter. It boasts a beautiful stone hearth, wide pine planks, high ceilings and a variety of primitive antiques. It welcomes all who enter the tiny home with surprising interior spaciousness flooded with natural light. The log-framed, buffalo plaid couch is perfectly accented by the delicate, crocheted curtains and wicker baskets. It beckons to couples wanting time away in a quiet place surrounded by nature … who doesn’t feel inspired by that?
The Star (at right) sits high atop a rock overlooking all the Pinebrook Cabins and the bubbling West Creek. The cozy, one-room cabin has a retro feel, complete with a turquoise blue antique refrigerator, vintage art, kitschy tchotchkes and steeply sloping floors. It does not pretend to be fancy; in fact, The Star is the only cabin without running water. It’s unpretentious, and with that comes rest, acceptance and peace. Imagine sitting on the screened porch at the pine-topped table with mismatched chairs, sipping coffee in the early morning. The cool morning air fills your lungs and refreshes your senses; the only sounds are the stream rushing below and the birds chirping above. It is ultimately restorative and centering. The Star is my first-choice cabin. Always.
All of these cabins share a common bond; they are filled with pieces that evoke stories from the Wieghaus family. They are not flawless spaces—most of the 75-year-old, non-winterized structures don’t contain one plumb wall—yet they offer something else. Aesthetic charm. Soul. A sense of home. Peace. Restorative wholeness. History. Grounding connectivity to nature. A sense that sometimes it is absolutely perfect to be completely and utterly imperfect. Each cabin at Pinebrook embraces you with a deep, welcoming sense of comfort and love. And that, my friends, is successful design.