A Cabin Reconstruction

By Candice Graham
Photos By Philip Slowiak

When the Smith family’s beloved Lookout Mountain cabin burned, they were heartbroken. But an expert reconstruction was built to emulate all the best aspects of what they had before.


A weekend retreat from their home in Birmingham, Alabama, the Smith’s Lookout Mountain, Georgia cabin is a place to unplug, unwind, and spend quality time with their closest friends and family. “We first bought a cabin in 2009, and it was an authentic log cabin with 100 year old timbers. We loved it,” explains Natalie Smith. “But a year ago, we had a fire which destroyed the structure.”

The Smiths knew the only option was to rebuild, and they soon put plans in motion with architect Jay Caughman to reconstruct a new cabin that retained the look and charm of the original.

Their new conventional framed house was built to salvage as much of the old structure as was possible. The exterior is now made of concrete siding made to look like the original hand-hewn timbers. Plenty of space both inside and out makes the house the ideal weekend getaway.

A cedar wraparound porch extending to the back shows sweeping views and provides an abundance of space for entertaining. “There hasn’t been a single weekend that we’ve been here and not had friends over,” Natalie says. “We do a lot of napping, reading, drinking coffee and wine, and playing cards out here.” A hanging swing, a large table with benches, and rocking chairs fill the porch to accommodate a crowd, and the Smiths recently entertained by having a live bluegrass band come perform for friends. Nearby, a fire pit was inspired by the family’s trip to Carmel and is a spot enjoyed by their children.

In the entry way, a mosaic of woods come together to form one cohesively rustic look. “The front door is knotty alder and floors are all reclaimed wood from a company in Nashville. The wood on the walls is old reclaimed barn wood,” Natalie explains. An antique cabin-inspired hanging light fixture allows the space to retain an old timey feel.

The living room was intentionally laid out in a large open shape to accommodate friends and maximize game playing. “We play a lot of charades and catch phrase. You have to get in a big circle, so we thought the shape of the room was great,” says Natalie. An otherwise neutral palate is accentuated by a jewel-toned rug and built-in benches by the window that provide extra seating. During colder months, the family lights a fire and gathers around the hearth to watch movies.

The kitchen in the previous cabin was a perfect place to gather, so the layout and cabinetry were recreated by Kris Keith at Classic Cabinetry. “Some things we just wanted to preserve,” Natalie recalls. The large island countertop is made of walnut and has a jagged edge for a straight-from-the-forest look. Reclaimed whiskey barrels make up the backsplash and perimeter countertops are a leathered black granite. Bell-shaped light fixtures hang from above to add illumination and a prairie-home feel. 

The Smith’s daughter’s room is a cheery space with two twin beds, and it’s another area that was replicated to match the former cabin, even down to the details. The quilts on the beds were salvaged from the fire and meticulously cleaned so that they could be reused. Nearby, a hallway features a built-in bookshelf that doubles as extra storage space. A sliding barn door leads to a laundry room.

Another bedroom houses guests and has window views that makes it feel like it’s set among the treetops. Non-stained wooden walls keep the look fresh and airy. Two side chairs create an inviting atmosphere and provide a spot to relax. Checked curtains define the windows, while a metal deer bust above the headboard maintains the woodsy feel.

Their recreated log cabin has proven to be just as sweet as the first, and special memories continue to be made. “Some of the best memories are when my family celebrates Christmas at the cabin,” says Natalie, explaining that the tradition is to cut down a tree from the nearby woods the week of Christmas before decorating it with pinecones and strings of popcorn. “Last year my nephews brought back a tree and were so proud of it,” Natalie adds. “It was definitely a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, but it’s everyone’s favorite. It’s a tradition we’d like to keep for sure.”