Designed for Downtime

A vacation home is all about getting away from the everyday—work, school, day planners filled with obligations. For many Birmingham families, the place to find recreation and relaxation is along the shores of Lake Martin—close enough for weekend retreats, far enough for freedom.

Last summer, a new Birmingham couple joined the community of homeowners in Russell Cabins at The Ridge, Russell Lands’ answer to the demand for old-fashioned lake cabins, updated for today’s families. “My kids were always being invited down to the lake, ” says the owner. “We needed to buy a place so my husband and I could go too.”

The couple decided on a lot at The Ridge because it combined a private, getaway feel with easy distance to Kowaliga—a casual lakeside restaurant, Willow Point Golf Club and, especially, SpringHouse—the wildly popular fine-but-casual restaurant. That was important in persuading the husband, a committed beach guy, that he would enjoy lake living. “We are used to having fabulous places to dine at the beach, ” she says. Now, the family can enjoy a lake variety—including at-home entertaining thanks to the smart floorplan.

To accommodate family and guests, the owners chose the “2 Plus 2” houseplan from the cabin plans offered. The main level offers two bedrooms, each with a private bath, as well as an open living/dining/kitchen area. A kitchen is the heart of any house, and a lake cabin is no exception. (Early pioneer cabins were basically kitchens with sleeping quarters wedged in as needed.) This kitchen retains the rustic look, while providing the amenities, such as the copper farm sink and pecky cypress island, for easy meal preparation and casual dining. The island, with its barn-like crosspieces, is the homeowner’s favorite design element in the house.

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The design was perfect for the family with three kids ranging from 14 to 20. “I liked the second den and bedrooms down (on the “lake level”) where the kids could have their own space, ” their mother says. “Also, it fits the lot so well.”

The owners worked with designer Nan Jackson to create an interior that reflected the away-from-it-all feeling of a lake cabin.

The powder room mirror is framed with driftwood, the metal cage sconce evokes an old-time seaman’s lantern. The mirror and the copper vessel sink are offset to free up counterspace.

True to its location and architecture, the interior needed to be rustic, while maintaining the level of comfort and aesthetic appeal of a home. Pine flooring sets the right tone, enhanced with stained wood and beamed ceilings varying the look of distinctive spaces.

Furnishings for the cabin are a mix of things relocated from the owners’ home and things bought specifically for the lake. Comfort and simplicity guided the selection of furniture, with playful touches such as the hanging beds in the downstairs bedroom. Experts at Seibels Camp & Cottage Outfitters, a specialty store for vacation home decorating, were a major source for rusticana and décor such as the cheery living room pillows and willow canopy bed.

“We wanted a rich-looking interior, with a lake feel, ” says Nan. “You feel good when you’re here.”


Ever since Mr. Martin built a hydroelectric dam on the Tallapoosa River, the resulting Lake Martin has been a mecca for weekend getaways. Leases for the original Russell Lands cabins are hard to come by, often passed through generations of families.

Now it’s possible to own a piece of lakeside peace in The Ridge, a community of lake homes for sale. The latest section, Russell Cabins at The Ridge, “is a throwback to what lake life was like in the 1950s and ’60s, ” says Steve Arnberg of Russell Lands. “We wanted smaller structures on larger lots for privacy, ” Steve says. “We didn’t want them to be too house-like. We wanted people to say ‘That looks like Lake Martin.’”

The 2 Plus 2 design offers plenty of room for family getaways, with four bedrooms and two family rooms, without outgrowing its roots. “It’s reminiscent of the original Russell cabins, but larger, ” Steve says. “The challenge was to make it still feel cabin-like.” The two-story design has lots of windows that focus on the lake. A covered porch and a screened porch equals half the interior floorspace. The updated nostalgia is built into every step of creating the new Russell Cabins. “Everybody involved in the process has memories of coming to the lake, ” Steve says.

ABOVE The main-level living area keeps the focus on the lake, with a window wall opening onto a long screened porch. The homeowner especially loves the club chairs that swivel to allow for conversations all around the room, as well as gazing out on the natural beauty outside.


ABOVE The cabin’s open floorplan offers a dining area perfect for dinner parties while staying in the midst of the action. The area is defined by its ceiling, stained a shade off from the floor stain, and contrasting with the living area’s beamed ceiling. The little interior window is a wink to traditional cabin design that often added rooms as the owners’ prospered, with windows on the world subsumed into the home’s interior.

ABOVE A main-level bedroom shows that rustic can be feminine.The light-stained, raised ceiling adds a feeling of roominess, while a window seat provides a perfect spot for a rainy day read. The room is dominated by a twig bed from Seibels Camp & Cottage Outfitters in Homewood.

ABOVE In the children’s bunk room, bigger-than-twin beds provide lots of sleepover space. Taking inspiration from rope-swing beds, Nan rigged ropes from boat cleats for a nautical look, while keeping the furniture legs firmly on the floor. A colorful painting of a fish is a standout against the blue-and-white scheme. 


Construction and landscape architecture: Russell Lands on Lake Martin  256.329.0835 • 866.329.0835 •; Interior designer: Nan Jackson • Interiors etc. by Nan [email protected] Russell Home Décor 1836 Alabama 22 • Alexander City, Alabama • 256.212.9803; Kitchen: cabinetry: Creative Cabinets 1920 Radio Rd • Alexander City • 256.234.0842; Dining room: chandeliers: Restoration Hardware, 215 Summit Blvd., Birmingham • 205.967.1901; Dining table and chairs, Guest bedroom twig bed, Family room saddle stool: Seibels Camp & Cottage Outfitters, 2927 18th St S •  Birmingham • 205.879.3558.

text by Lucy Merrill • photography by Jean Allsopp

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