A coat of jet-black paint was all it took to transform this Coal Creek Canyon cabin’s log exterior from tired brown to Scandi sleek. Inside, the refresh required considerably more effort, but not so much that husband-and-wife homeowners Sarah and Hunter Lawrence—owners of commercial photography studio the Lawrence House and the Instagram-famous golden retriever @aspenthemountainpup—and their general contractor, Joshua Brink, couldn’t knock it out in just under 30 days, and for just over $30,000. How’d they pull it off? Sarah shares their time- and money-saving moves that never skimped on style.

5280 Home: Your vision for this cabin was all things light, serene, and inviting. Your reality was just about every 1960s design trope imaginable, from orange walls to brown wall-to-wall carpeting. What changes did you need to make to bridge that gap?
Sarah Lawrence: The updates were mostly cosmetic—new flooring, paint, lighting, doors and trim, appliances, countertops, and plumbing fixtures. We wanted to vault the living room ceilings, but when we learned it would cost $20,000, we decided to add interest by putting MDF shiplap on them instead—a budget-friendly alternative to real wood.

Is sticking to cosmetic fixes the secret to a speedy remodel?
That, and our contractor suggested things we could do ourselves to save time and money. Once the baseboards were in, he showed us how to caulk everything. He showed us how to wire lighting. We installed handles on the new doors, and we painted all the interior walls.

A coat of black paint gave the cabin’s exterior a handsome new look­—without any structural updates. Photo by Sarah Lawrence

Which brings us to that fresh vibe you envisioned.
I’m just all into neutrals! For the kitchen, dining, and living room walls, we went with a creamy white paint. I wanted some texture in the bedrooms, which led me to a lime wash finish from Portola. And for the bathroom, we used Portola’s Roman Clay [plaster finish] in a taupe color. When you touch it, it has this soft, velvety feel.

Speaking of soft, where did you find that fluffy rug that’s beckoning from your living room?
It’s an 8-by-10-foot rug, which you don’t usually find in sheepskin, but we spotted it at a Denver rug shop, and it was a great price and just perfect for a Colorado mountain cabin.

Were other furnishings found in a similar fashion?
I really value unique pieces and not having all of it look like I just went to Target and Ikea and West Elm. Pieces from those places are sprinkled in for sure, but there’s also fun pottery we’ve collected from overseas; antiques from Round Top, Texas; pieces from [local furniture company] Denver Modern; and our white linen slipcovered sofa from Cisco Home. I had my eye on that sofa for a couple of years, but it was over my price point—until I found it on sale for 50-percent off!

Did such savvy spending allow for any splurges?
I’ve had my eye on [U.K. brand] Devol’s brass faucets for forever, so I said, “I don’t know how much shipping is going to be, but we have to have them over our sinks.” We also splurged on Devol kitchen cabinet pulls, Café appliances, and Circa Lighting fixtures—things that were really important to us.

Any tips for sticking to those design priorities?
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with all the options; creating mood boards of how we wanted the space to feel really helped us stay focused on our vision. Find a contractor who sees your vision and can advocate for the improvements you’re wanting to make at the budget you set. And finally, take a step back and breathe.

Design Pros

Interior design: Sarah and Hunter Lawrence
Construction: Joshua Brink, Carpenters, LLC