A Little Bit of Thoreau in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Rustic Blue Ridge cabin near Asheville, NC

This blog has been inactive for several months. Where has the time gone? Well, most of it was taken up during construction of this wonderful little cabin in the Blue Ridge foothills of North Carolina. No, we are not leaving Gatlinburg, and the William Britten Gallery is still open along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd. The cabin is a quiet getaway near children and grandchildren. Read on, if you’re interested in a Thoreau-style cabin and the lifestyle within.

Blue Ridge Cabin

Little Bit of Thoreau in the Blue Ridge Mtns

The foothills directly behind the cabin are within the Pisgah National Forest, and if you were to set out walking, you would find yourself exploring miles and miles of uninhabited wilderness, much like in the Great Smoky Mountains. You could keep on walking all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. So, right from the start, we don’t have Thoreau’s Walden Pond, but we do have Pisgah.

Rustic Cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Warm Wood Interior of Reclaimed Barn Wood

Rustic Cabin Kitchen

Custom made kitchen cabinets from barnwood, with a Black Walnut counter made from sawmill planks.

A well was sunk 325 feet down into bedrock, and it greatly pleases me to think of this pure water flowing out of the undeveloped, pristine watershed. The cabin is less than 400 square feet of living space, plus a small loft area, and a generous porch overlooking the valley below. The cabin exterior is board-and-batten rough-sawn Hemlock, and the interior is all wood–some North Carolina harvested Hemlock, Oak, and Cypress, and some reclaimed from local barns. The exterior doors were made by a local craftsman, who also made the kitchen countertop from 2-inch thick Walnut found at a local sawmill.

Our little cabin is a riff on the Appalachian culture and its architecture. We tried hard to make it be as if it rose from the local woods. We were happy to find local craftsmen with the tradition of seat-of-the-pants resourcefulness. Hopefully it echoes the Appalachian traditions of small is beautiful, and richness in simplicity.

Rustic Cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

Nestled in the arms of Pisgah National Forest

The cabin is very spartan … nothing more than a bed, a few chairs, and a table barely large enough for two dinner plates. It does have electricity and running water, but Internet access requires a walk down the hill to get within range of my daughter’s farmhouse. This is where Mr. Thoreau comes into the picture: at first I thought this would be a temporary situation, that we would finish off the cabin with furniture, a fully outfitted kitchen, some more decor, etc. But after three months of weekly getaways, I have no desire to move beyond the sense of raw simplicity that the cabin exudes. I stoke the wood stove with a few sticks to take the edge off the morning chill, sit in a straight-back chair and watch the light change, follow the moon setting through the branches of a Hickory tree. Later in the day, I’ll look forward to grandchildren’s knock at the door (chocolate milk in the fridge!). I read books. And of course, tromp around outside with a little hatchet in my hand.

Rustic Cabin Interior

Small spaces are happy spaces.

No, I don’t need a microwave oven or a TV set. I don’t really need anything. Contentment comes in the form of observation, contemplation, appreciation.

A final observation: just above the front door, the grain in the wood appears to bless those who enter (photo below). It’s curious enough that the wood-grain carries this message, but to think of how it came to rest just above the door is miraculous. I asked the carpenters about it. Yes, they did take notice, but not until after the siding was nailed up.

I think of a large stack of hemlock drying in the wind. Hundreds of feet of lumber used over several months … cut this way and that … nailed up in various positions. And this special board came to rest in the perfect spot.

Message in the Wood

Message in the Wood

Click on any of the photos to bring up larger versions.


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  1. Patricia Haynes

    What a wonderful retreat for feeding you physically, mentally & spiritually. It is as if the Lord has blessed your cabin with a reminder of His words, “And of these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.” Corinthians 13:13


    i love this cabin…beautiful…nature…would love to have one just like it!

  3. Reid Adair

    William, it looks like an amazing place. Congratulations on the new cabin. I’m sure you will enjoy it tremendously.

  4. Theresa Bell

    I know you love it there..So peaceful…Love your photos and following your work..Theresa Bell

  5. Bill

    Thanks, Reid … it’s nice to just sit and do nothing sometimes.

  6. Bill

    Thanks Theresa!

  7. Carolyn Jourdan

    Wonderful. A beautiful piece of art and what a peaceful place!

  8. Bill

    Thanks Carolyn … a work of art sounds good!

  9. Rusty Schrubba

    What a perfect little cabin, I hope you enjoy it for years to come.

  10. Linda Rieck

    Absolutely love your cabin! How perfect!!

  11. Mamabug

    This is wonderful! Simplicity and contentment, what else could you want or need.

  12. Gene

    Each in their own words, each in their own way, let us all find our special place. Nothing more to say.

  13. Terry

    how do I get blueprints for this cabin. love it. thanks

  14. Deborah Lambert

    You have constructed a presence unto itself in the shape of a such fine cabin. Wonderful work!

  15. Aaron

    How much did construction of the cabin cost? It is beautiful!

  16. Betty Smith

    Beautiful. Such a beautiful small home.

  17. Trish

    Just beautiful…perfect. I love it!!!!

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