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24 Design Features for Your River Cabin

Designing a river cabin can be an exciting endeavor. You get to make all the decisions inside and out to make your dream house, from colors and patterns to the layout of the space. Western North Carolina is filled with so many fun activities that will influence some of the features of your home. From a kayak rack on the side of your home to outdoor furniture to host friends and family. Here are 24 features to help you get started on designing your river cabin! 

Consider the Layout

Before you consider the layout of your river cabin, it is important to note whether you will be in your home full time or only seasonally. For full-time residents, you may need to design extra storage spaces, closets, pantries, etc. Consider your movement throughout the day, popular activities, and lifestyle. For example, if you love to spend time outdoors, a deck or porch might be a welcome addition. If you don’t want to lug laundry up and down flights of stairs, maybe consider a laundry chute or a downstairs master. Think about daily living in your layout before you build your river cabin.

1. Lofts

Master Bedroom loft

A loft can be more than a bedroom, but with high ceilings and large windows, it could even be a nice office space, art studio, or reading area.

2. High Ceilings

high ceilings with wood beams

Originally a necessity to make cabins look larger, high ceilings are still popular in cabin design. It is a great way to not only enlarge the space but highlight the craftsmanship that went into the home.

3. Family Space

family living room

Cabins are meant for family time and escape. Placing bedrooms along the edges of the home surrounding the living area helps to center shared family spaces.  

4. Multi-Level Decks, Balconies 

Building a Home by a River

The beauty of being along the water is you can maximize the views with the layout of your home through multilevel decks and balconies. Consider this in your layout before you shop for land because some lots may be difficult to angle your desired home into. 

5. Mudroom


Because there are so many outdoor activities you can do in WNC, and a river right in your backyard, a mudroom is almost essential for the outdoor enthusiast. It is a place to keep boots, fishing waders, coats, umbrellas, and other things that may get messy. 

6. Sunroom


A sunroom is a multipurpose room, similar to a porch, but inside the home. It features large, wide windows to let in light and make you feel like you are outside. They are a great feature because they provide the feel of being outdoors even when the weather won’t allow you to be. 

Interior Design For Your River Cabin

The décor in your home will often be determined by the style of your home. You can go with a modern minimalist design with open shelves and pendant lighting or rustic traditional with a stone fireplace and wood features. 

7. Lighting 

unique lighting

A chandelier is a pleasing lighting feature for cabin homes with high ceilings in the dining room or living room. Metalwork frames are popular, especially in homes that use a lot of wood. Uplighting or accent lights that angle upward along walls are an excellent way to showcase ceilings, beams, or high windows. 

pendant lighting

Pendant lights can be used in the kitchen space over an island, and adjustable task lights can be used to highlight features of your home such as a mantlepiece. 

8. Colors

black and red room

Calm, flat colors do a great job of not taking away from the natural beauty of a cabin, especially for a modern motif. Red, blacks, and flannel patterns can go a long way to reinforcing the rustic cabin accent. 

9. Fireplace

stone fireplace

A fireplace is an absolute must for every cabin. There are several options available. Gas, electric, or woodburning. A lot depends on your personal taste and desire for maintenance. Wood fires burn hotter and provide more warmth, wood fires also smell based on what type you use, and that traditional crackle of burning logs can add to your cabin home. But you, of course, have to chop or buy the firewood and maintain it regularly. Gas fireplace are hassle-free and you can build it with real looking wood. Electric fireplaces are a simple choice and you can place real logs next to it for aesthetic purposes. Another option is a wood-burning stove. It gives the cabin a very rustic feel, reminiscent of a time when they were used for cooking as well.  The use of stone or wood around the fireplace can really provide a focal point for the cabin family area. 

10. Rug

cottage living room rug

Because cabins have mostly hardwood, rugs are an easy way to decorate any cabin style. From runners through the hallway or rectangle rugs under the dining table to the must-have large rug in the living room, rugs can fit just about anywhere in your home. For houses that are open concept, they can also provide structure to a space and define its parameters. Certain patterns are common for a rustic cabin, but it mainly depends on your décor and design!

11. Wood 

reclaimed wood

From kitchen and coffee tables to chairs and couches, the use of reclaimed wood provides a natural rustic look to the décor of your home, continuing the feel of the surrounding outdoor mountain experience. Also, the use of logs whether for function or decor provides a cabin aesthetic even in a modern cabin. Reclaimed distressed looking wood for the flooring is a great mix of the old with the new in a modern style cabin.

12. Wrought Iron, Metalwork

metalwork light

Wrought iron is a popular choice in any mountain cabin homes. From wrought iron light fixtures or chandeliers to spiraling staircases, the metalwork provides a complementary contrast to the use of wood and stone. 

13. Floating, open shelves

floating shelves

Depending on your needs, open or floating shelves are an excellent choice for any cabin home. It gives the kitchen a minimalist, tidy look, and makes the cabin feel like a retreat. If you are there full time it may not be possible to fit all your dining supplies on the shelves, however you can install a few open shelves for plates or coffee mugs for the same effect. 

14. Timber or Log features

timber feature exterior

Whether you have a timber or log cabin, the use of visible wooden beams on the ceiling are a popular way to reinforce the cabin aesthetic. Another popular way to showcase the wood is by the use of a truss, or arch-like structure. A truss is also a great addition on the exterior of your home along entrances.  

15. Blankets/ Flannel

flannel blankets

Snuggle up by the fire with your favorite flannel blanket. More than just warmth, blankets, especially ones with Flannel patterns can provide a traditional design aesthetic draped over couches or rolled in a basket by the fire

16. Bookshelves

built-in bookshelves

Cabins are all about a cozy retreat for the family and what better way to enjoy it than with books! Bookshelves are a functional and exciting addition to any cabin. They can provide a place for not only your favorite books but board games, pictures, and other decor or memorabilia. You can even add in a reading nook surrounded by large windows for light and views. 

Exterior Features For Your River Cabin

The exterior design of your river cabin should complement and highlight the river view, not take away from. Here are some features to consider for your outdoor space. 

17. Decks 

Building a Home by a River

Decks are the perfect way to enjoy your outdoor views and fresh mountain air. Open-air decks, raised decks, or even screened in or covered porches are a few of the options available. Spend time with friends or family, host game nights, or even dinners! Floating decks are becoming increasingly popular.

18. Firepit 

fire pit

No cabin exterior is complete without a fire pit. Gather with friends and family to roast smores and cozy up under blankets on cool mountain nights. 

19. Outdoor Room

outdoor room

An outdoor room is an outside feature almost like an outdoor living room with furniture and such covered by a pavilion. It will allow you to host, provide shade, and protection from the rain. 

20. Hammock


A hammock is a great addition to any deck, especially at a cabin by a river. Let the sound of rushing water wash your worries away as you lay outside. 

21. Porch Swing

porch swing

Sit down and swing a while! As any southerner can tell you, sitting on the porch swing with your family is a part of almost everyone’s childhood. And surrounded by the sounds of nature and a cool breeze coming off the water, you are sure to continue the tradition for years to come. 

22. Rocking Chair

rocking chairs

A rocking chair is a classic staple for a cabin deck. Fit the motif of your home with a log rocking chair and that matches your home’s exterior. 

23. Solar Lights

solar lights

Solar lights are a great eco-friendly way to light to your outdoor decks, porches, and balconies. They charge by sunlight throughout the day and are ready for use at night. Perfect for anyone who loves to host in the evenings along the water!

24. Chimney 

stone chimney

A chimney is a traditional part of any cabin. One of the ways people add a touch of the modern to their cabin is to install a stone chimney along the side of the cabin to provide a contrast to the wood structure.  

No matter what features you decide to design your river cabin with, it’s the little things, family heirlooms, pictures of the family, that will make it home. Make a home in Cullowhee and take advantage of everything that Western North Carolina has to offer including festivals, unique shops, tons of outdoor activities, and so much more.