build | back yard cabin finishing touches

Last summer I set out to build my boys a club house in the back yard. We call it our back yard cabin. It’s a place to spend summer days, or to while the time away outdoors. It is our little safe-haven for stolen quiet moments when the house gets too noisy. I only wish I could have built it faster, even several years ago, because this will be both the first and last summer we will enjoy with this little house. More on that will be explained in a later post. For today, however, you get a peek at the finished cabin. And if you are interested in looking back at the “before” you can see it here.

DIY backyard cabin & Summer Camp on

One of the things I have always loved about our house, is that the backyard is completely secluded. Our property line shares the back wall with a storage unit on the next street over. My husband has always dreamed of adding rock climbing fixtures to that wall, but it hasn’t ever materialized. Instead vines and trees cover the wall in the summer time, and the wall nearly vanishes. Leafy green branches tower over the back of the yard in a way that makes it feel like the trees and greenery could go on and one. A perfect place to nestle the cabin.

We opted not to build in a door with additional windows, and left the cabin feeling like a glorified outdoor tent. I ordered some waterproof canvas, which hangs from the ceiling, and added two nails on each side for tie backs. It works well, and when closed, it really shelters you, and adds to a feeling of privacy.

The only “unfinished” part of the cabin is the roof. Originally we planned to purchase corrugated metal to finish it off, and we waited until this summer to tackle the project. But with Jared’s job loss, and this being our last summer, we never found the time or extra hundred plus dollars to really complete the project. Surprisingly, the tarp on the top of the cabin’s frame withstood a rainy winter, and has been a good option as far as being a place-holder goes. I sometimes forget the roof isn’t permanent, especially when inside the cabin.

Inside the DIY backyard cabin -

Decorating the interior was by far my favorite part of the whole project– the icing on the cake as it were. I used an old dresser I’ve been carting along my entire adult life from apartment to apartment, and now to this house, ever since college. I still remember stuffing it into the hatch back of my roommate’s little car. And of course even then I was obsessed with furniture. Everyone else just shook their head at me for buying this five dollar little number. But I knew it had good lines, and a Mid-century feel. It has been a great piece of furniture ever since.

The vintage fan is something I inherited from my grandmother. It’s one of those things I never see myself parting with. The fan even works, though it sounds like an airplane trying to take off when plugged in. I purchased the wool blankets from Ikea (which are sadly no longer available), and the rug came from H&M.

Though a few of the pennant flags (vintage) came from an Etsy shop, I made my own to fill in the gaps using felt and paint markers you can find at any craft store. It was nice to add some personal touches. Like a flag that represents my sister’s family from Mesa, Arizona. The fox pennant reminds me of my mom. She used to write to me when I first left for college about the little fox she’d see out in the field near her home while going for her daily walk. And of course, the mountains! Anyone who has ever left Utah will say how much they miss the mountains. It’s like a backdrop that envelopes you.

DIY backyard Camp Cabin (detail) -

DIY Camp Medals for a backyard Summer Camp -

The window coverings are pretty simple, just a few scraps of painters cloth, with a little bit of trim sewn around them. I crudely secured them to the window frame with small finishing nails, and attached a bit of rope to use as tie backs (or ups in this case). In addition, I used a decorative leather belt to display the camp medals I had made from felt and clay. The enamelware cup and the wooden pencils it’s filled with are both from Amazon, but I also came across a set of colored pencils (pictured below) at World Market.

finishing details (World Market pencils) on the DIY cabin -

camp cots inside the DIY cabin -

The folding cots are a favorite feature of the cabin. It gives my boys a piece of the cabin that is their very own. And, I consider it a good investment for camp outs, overnight guests, and the like. Given how space-conscious we are, choosing cots that folded up into nice neat little packages, was a must. It makes it easy to fold up and stash to the side when the weather gets wet.

DIY camp cabin -

The oars are for hanging coats, and decoration. When my husband was a kid he painted the one above (if you can’t tell that’s a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle). And the coat hook oar was plain from Amazon, until I painted it and added the hooks. I also purchased toy canteens for outdoor play, and dressed them up a bit with pieces of wool felt. I had at one point considered a small locker, but decided against it, since the cost was so high, and it would take up valuable floor space. I pictured using the little table as a great place to play cards between the two cots. Or even as a place to set some snacks/ drinks.


I really love this photo. It was one of those unexpected moments where the light was just right, and it captured a moody morning with a lot of contrast. You can see this and other photos on my Instagram.

The cabin has been a great addition to our back yard. Already I can be sure to find someone stealing some quiet moments out there–even once I found Jared on a cot napping. It’s been a happy family memory of building it together. I hope it will bring joy to whomever ends up with it, after we leave.


// Resources of Note //

metal cots – Amazon
dresser – thrifted
wool blankets – IKEA (2014)
vintage pennants –  Etsy
pendant light – Target
occasional table – Target (similar to shown)
rug – H&M (similar to shown)

Photo Credits // All : Ann Neslen via Drippingpaintbrush


* Would you consider making a little hideaway like this one?  What kind of play space did you have growing up?












5 thoughts on “build | back yard cabin finishing touches

  1. My 10 year old is enthralled with this post. He has so many questions and thinks this is the coolest thing ever! How sad that you have to leave it. But I am so excited for you and your family’s new adventures.

    1. Yay! I’m so happy that your 10 year old loves our little cabin! It’s nice to hear that the magic of a play place like this isn’t lost in translation. It’s fun to see such happy reactions from children, since I tried to make something that would appeal to them. I will have to get moving on a follow-up post showing our cabin in action. We made our own backyard day camp with cousins and had such a fun time. We are trying to soak it all in before we have to leave.

  2. I think things like this are so fun. I remember as a child always begging my dad for a “tree house” and the shed in our backyard was as close as that was going to get (and the major downside to that was that it was an enclosed area that got way too hot). I think even now as an adult how nice it would be to have a space to just get away from roommates, and a place to just cry alone would be great too! I also have to say that I thought your decorating was so cute!

    1. I can just imagine the heat waves in your backyard shed (we nearly roasted in something similar growing up), it’s funny how no one really outgrows that desire for a little space of their own. The allure of play and tree houses never really dies, does it? Thank you for your kind compliments. I’m really glad you stopped by to share your thoughts.

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