Tucked away in the northwoods is Lilla Norr, a 1978 A-frame cabin located on five acres of woods along the Snake River in Brook Park, MN. Pronounced lē-la norr meaning “Little North” in Swedish, this stylish cabin is a breath of fresh air and a tranquil place to getaway up north.
However, it didn’t always look quite this magical. Remember, it was built cera 1978 and while we can appreciate 70s vintage, the cabin was sorely outdated.
Twin sisters Ashley and Jamie, whose full-time jobs are running the Minneapolis vintage store Arlee Park and also full-time photographers at Ash & James Photography, saw the little bungalow and recognized its potential. The foundation of the cabin was sound, all it needed was some tender love and care—meaning strategic remodeling and a sharp eye for design.
Starting in November 2018, the whole cabin remodel project took just seven months to complete. With the help of their husband’s skills in home repairs and carpentry, they transformed an outdated (and dare I say tacky) cabin into one of the most sought after luxury cabin rentals in Minnesota.
Lilla Noir isn’t a tiny home, but it is quite a small cabin—992 square feet to be exact. One of the sister’s biggest priorities was optimizing the little space. By nature of the triangle structure, a lot of valuable square footage is lost due to head-hitting hazard zones. Creating space, both for layout and for storage, became their biggest challenge, especially when it came to high traffic areas like the kitchen, where they made sure to maximize cabinet and counter space. Minimalist furnishings, white painted walls and ceiling, and strategic layout also helped create a more spacious home.
We can’t get enough of the natural light! The wall of windows is without a doubt one of the most iconic original features of Lilla Noir. With an unobstructed view outside, the backyard acts as an extension of the living room.
The sister’s passion for vintage led them on a mission for sustainability, with a focus on restoring the A-frame, rather than demolition. They wanted to preserve it’s architectural origins while making meaningful and resourceful updates. Nearly all the furniture is second hand or vintage, except a few essentials like the bed frames and barstools. Two of our favorite vintage pieces are the 1970s Morso wood stove ($350) and the 1987 Bernhardt Flair Division modular sectional ($80) in the living room.
Ashley and Jamie made this make-over look easy. However, like with many old home remodels, there are unforeseen challenges. There ended up being far more damage to the floors due to mold and rot than the two had previously suspected. Removing and replacing all the floors turned out to be the most labor-intensive aspect of the project. Despite this setback, the sisters turned the problem into an opportunity. They found a local millworker who milled the new flooring out of storm-felled birch trees in Minnesota. The new hardwood floors are not only a beautiful, cand crafted feature of the cabin but will last for years and years to come. The dining table set was originally sourced to to sell in Arlee Park, but they felt it fit the cabin too well to pass up. They secured the set for just $130.
Both bedrooms really show how smart remodeling and interior design can transform a space from small and outdated into cozy and trendy.
Cramped and old-fashioned, the bedrooms sorely needed some TLC. As seen throughout the rest of the cabin, white painted walls and a new coat of stain toned down the original wood panels and elevated the spaces. Updating the furniture and bedding was the final touch for more mature yet cozy bedrooms.
Before the remodeling, the bathroom looked like someone had a bad self tanning accident. The original wood paneling was a harsh orange. A white washed wall opened up the space and gave it a cleaner feel. The skylight pulls in natural light which illuminates every inch of the space. But it’s the tiny details that transformed this space like the geometric tiles and inlay wall storage. The very best feature of the bathroom, the rosy 1950s Crane Diana bathroom console sink, didn’t even cost them a cent—another reason why going second-hand-sustainable is so smart. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
The dark exterior compliments the deep natural greens of the forest. It’s a great example of how even minimal landscaping can really go a long way. The cabin fuses harmoniously into the property and no longer sticks out like a sore thumb. Just outside of the photos’ frame is a firepit with chairs, a storage shed, and a beautiful view of the Snake River.
In a remodel, it seems like the to-do list is never ending. While Ashley and Jamie got the bulk of their renovations done in half a year, they are taking larger and more expensive updates bit by bit. For example, the sisters had hoped they could simply clean the living room windows but found that their original seals had broken. Replacing a whole wall of windows is no easy (or cheap) task so they decided to replace the sliding doors and the windows on either side first, with the replacement of the remaining windows happening gradually. They are also planning on installing a sauna that overlooks the river, meaning there needs to be some larger power upgrades as well. It’s a healthy reminder that renovations can happen one step at a time.
We love how Ashley and Jamie were committed to staying true to Lilla Noir’s original architecture, working with the A-frame instead of against it. Keeping original details, like the wood panel walls and, of course, the spiral staircase, and only completely remodeling where there was real, like the flooring. This, and their use of vintage and scandinavian-inspired interior design is what brings this unique project so much success. Everywhere you look, there is a deep sense of serenity.
You can enjoy your own getaway at Lilla Norr by booking on Airbnb or on their official website. Be sure to follow them on Instagram @Lillanorr_aframe for updates as booking dates are typically released 1-2 months in advance since the cabin is so popular. And I mean, why wouldn’t it be?