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Cabin Revival

A lift, a ladder and an infusion of luxury convert a tiny historic shed into a plush 21st century Telluride guesthouse



Gibeon Photography

If only this cabin’s original owners could see it now. They’d never believe it’s the same little red shed they built in Telluride more than a century ago.

At first glance, not much has changed. The front door is where it’s always been. The shingle roof is identical to the original. Even the red paint is the same. But the interior is a whole different story: textured, sophisticated, cozy—a far cry from its early days as a simple miner’s shack.

Interior designer Catherine Frank and her team had recently remodeled the property’s main house, which stands behind the cabin. When Frank first peeked into the tiny outbuilding, “it was pretty rough,” she admits. But the owners wanted to transform the 310-square-foot structure into a guesthouse for their two grown daughters, so the renovation challenge began.

Because the cabin is a designated historic building, Frank couldn’t touch the exterior. But 300 square feet is hardly enough room for a pair of adults to share happily, even for just a few days at a time. So Frank dreamed up a solution: “We completely gutted the interior, and then we had the structure lifted and put on the street while we added a basement level,” she says. In the new space, the team added a bedroom, en-suite bathroom, laundry room and storage space. And, after some creative space planning that made room for a lofted bedroom above the kitchenette, the little red cabin now offers a much more comfortable 670 square feet.

Every inch is sumptuous, every detail fine. The floors are hand-hewn oak planks; off-white American Clay plaster, hand-troweled for the perfect texture, covers the walls.  >>  In lieu of a space-hogging staircase up to the loft, Frank designed a steel-and-wood ladder with treads wrapped in stitched leather. “We reversed the seams so there’s a little rib in the corners, which keeps you from sliding,” Frank explains, adding, “the little things matter.” Vintage lighting pays tribute to the cabin’s Victorian roots, with one twist: Rows of silver-bowl incandescent light bulbs uplight the oak planks and small raw steel beams of the kitchenette’s ceiling. “The exposed bulbs point back to the miners’ days, when they would have added electricity by throwing in conduit and having an exposed bulb,” Frank explains.

The designer characterizes the home’s finished look as “Victorian-industrial with modern style.” Consider the living room: A custom couch in luxurious leather sits beside an antique mining cart that acts as a coffee table. A pair of leather-wrapped steel Max chairs—designed and manufactured by Studio Frank—adds midcentury charm, and layers of Afghani wool blankets cover the floor and amp up the cozy factor. The space wasn’t big enough for a fireplace, so Frank and the homeowners decided on a playful twist: a photographic polyptych of a bonfire is the central artwork in the room. 

Comfort is king in the basement, where plush layers of feel-good textiles cover the bed, and the custom headboard is embroidered with Grey Watkins fabric. To save space and add privacy, Frank hung two sliding barn doors—one at the threshold to the bathroom and one in the closet. “The wood feels rustic, not too polished,” she observes. “It’s the right material, and I love the high contrast between the fresh, clean-looking subway-tiled bathroom and the doors.”

No doubt there’s a lot to love here, but Frank’s favorite part is the end result. “It lives like a modern-day dwelling, but it elicits nostalgia,” she says. “It feels like it belongs in the 21st century but hasn’t lost its 19th-century essence. I love that overlap.”  

HISTORIC RENOVATION APPROVALS JAMES HARDY, ARCHITECT, Telluride, CO, jharachitect.com INTERIOR DESIGN CATHERINE FRANK, CC ROCQUE, STUDIO FRANK, Telluride, CO, (970) 728-0662, studiofrank.com BUILDER EVANS CONSTRUCTION, Telluride, CO (970) 369-0870 CABINET AND DOOR HARDWARE Rocky Mountain Hardware, (888) 788-2013, rockymountainhardware.com KITCHEN SOAPSTONE COUNTERTOPS Aplin Masonry, Telluride, CO, (970) 728-5512, aplinmasonry.com ROLLIE STOOLS Designlush, New York, designlush.com LIVING ROOM MAX CHAIR (Steel frame wrapped in leather), Studio Frank, Telluride, CO, (970) 728-0662, studiofrank.com DOWNSTAIRS BEDROOM HEADBOARD UPHOLSTERY Grey Watkins, Shanahan Collection, Denver, CO, (303) 778-7088, shanahancollection.com BATHROOM TILE White Crackle Subway Tiles, American Import Tile, (708) 614-8100, americanimporttiles.com 

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