Gina Valente has always had an affection for photography and social media. “Even back in the Myspace days, I loved how you could combine the two,” the Detroit native says. In 2013, she and her sister combined their love of food and Valente’s passion for photography and social media with an Instagram page aptly titled Girls Gone Hungry, followed by a blog two years later. The blog and social media page (which has more than 54,000 followers) are devoted to highlighting restaurants in the greater Detroit area.
But it was a visit to Iceland that same year that made Valente branch out to writing about local travel and design. “While I was there, I saw all of these really amazing cabins,” she says. “You drive around Iceland’s iconic Ring Road along the coastline, and there are cabins by waterfalls, cabins by rolling hillsides, all very Scandinavian in design. It really sparked my interest in cabins and their architecture.”
Not long after, Valente began renting cabins throughout Michigan as well as Ohio and Wisconsin, documenting her travels along the way on her personal blog and Instagram page, Moody Cabin Girl.
“Michigan and the Great Lakes have such vast forest areas chock-full of cabins and beautiful scenery,” says Valente, who has stayed in approximately 70 cabins throughout the Midwest.“There’s a huge cabin community here.”
Valente has garnered a following of more than 23,600 on Instagram and has earned her mark as an expert in “cabincore culture,” a term used to describe the trend of cabin-chic interiors and fashion.
Here, Valente gives an inside look at her favorite Michigan getaways.
Harbor Springs is one of Valente’s favorite Michigan destinations, so it’s no wonder she has a strong fondness for Cabin 6. The newly renovated A-frame cabin is located in the heart of Harbor Springs and is the brainchild of owners Brooke Schwartz and Steven Edelman. With their background in design, the couple transformed the space into a home that’s clean and modern yet welcoming.
“This is a very design-forward cabin, but it still retains its coziness,” Valente says. “The striking black exterior is a jaw-dropper, while the inside is very light and airy.”
The hike up a long set of stairs to the entrance is worth it; the view of the nearby all-seasons resort The Highlands is stunning and one of the cabin’s highlights. The home’s location on top of a hill makes it feel like a secluded, tranquil treehouse, while the large wraparound porch offers a bit of respite after a long day exploring the area.
Inside, white shiplap ceilings and walls lay the foundation for rustic modern details such as a cowhide with oak floors underfoot. The kitchen boasts open shelving accented by a modern black tumbled gloss backsplash that gives just the right edge to the overall aesthetic.
Cabin 6 has three bedrooms and two bathrooms and accommodates eight people. The cabin rents for about $299 per night. Book at micabin6.com.
While its proximity to Lake Michigan near Glen Arbor is one of Clarity House’s biggest draws, it’s the interiors that Valente loves most. Owner Marcus Trombetta sketched the modern chalet and enlisted an architect to bring it to fruition in 2020.
While the exterior seamlessly blends with its rustic setting, the interiors are modern, with clean details and finishes throughout. Heated polished concrete floors (a bonus in the cold Michigan winters), sweeping cathedral ceilings with weathered oak beams, and a black-and- white color palette with warm organic accents such as a leather Chesterfield sofa and a weathered wood coffee table on casters make this a unique and inviting cabin retreat.
“The main living space of this house has a very open floor plan,” Valente says. And with Glen Arbor nearby, this modern chalet is the ideal home base for day trips to Lake Leelanau and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Clarity House features three bedrooms and three bathrooms and accommodates eight people. The cabin rents for about $461 per night. Book at airbnb.com.
Great Lakes Modern’s 1960s Chalet
Valente loves this property from rental company Great Lakes Modern in Harbor Springs — not only for its amazing setting but also for the cabin’s interiors. Cabin owner Meghan Warner Baker is a professional antique hunter and helms an Etsy page — appropriately named Great Lakes Modern — where she sells her treasures, including finds such as vintage faux-horn knives, midcentury Danish bowls, and antique ship doorsteps.
“Many of these amazing finds are used to decorate the cabin,” Valente says. “The midcentury furniture and decorations utilized in the cabin make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.”
The back patio, though, is the star: a large deck built around a towering tree with views of The Highlands just beyond. The cabin is situated directly next to Nub’s Nob ski resort, and its proximity to downtown Harbor Springs makes it secluded yet accessible — ideal for a private getaway or a more adventurous one.
Great Lakes Modern’s 1960s Chalet features three bedrooms and two bathrooms and accommodates eight people. The cabin rents for about $395 per night. Book at vrbo.com. For more information on Great Lakes Modern, visit glmodern.com.
True North Cabin on Lake Superior
If you want to go completely off the grid, True North Cabin is a must-visit. The ultra- secluded 2 acre retreat is located by Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula along the rocky shores of stunning Lake Superior. And with no Wi-Fi or cell service, there’s nothing to do but take in the epic scenery.
“It’s one of the most interesting locations I’ve ever visited,” Valente says. Cabin owners Lynn and Jason Makela renovated the two-bedroom “Scandinavian cabin-meets-Aspen ski lodge” with thoughtful touches such as cozy blankets, plush seating, and wooden accents throughout.
The cabin was designed in Portland, Oregon, as a ski chalet in the 1950s or ’60s, and the architectural blueprints hang in the kitchen. The highlight is the recently added back patio where Adirondack chairs and a firepit give way to views of the starry nights and the northern lights.
True North Cabin features two bedrooms and one bathroom and accommodates four people. The cabin rents for about $585 per night. Book at airbnb.com.
This charming, renovated farmhouse built in the 1900s is one of Valente’s favorites. “[Owner Marissa Wege] is an expert at decorating a space. From vintage National Geographic magazines to handmade ceramics, she uses interesting pieces to tell a story in each room. There are many decorative pieces everywhere [including a gallery wall of framed botanical prints and wooden duck decoys displayed throughout], and yet nothing ever feels cluttered — a feat not many can accomplish!”
The covered wraparound porch makes for a great place to read a book in the early morning hours or enjoy evening cocktails before heading down to cthe outdoor fireplace. The home is located just five minutes from South Lake Leelanau and 10 minutes from popular Traverse City and boasts private access to the 17 mile Leelanau Trail.
Martin House has three bedrooms and one- and-a-half bathrooms and accommodates six people. The cabin rents for about $471 per night. Book at airbnb.com.
Harbor Springs A-Frame
A-frame aficionados are a passionate bunch who appreciate the nostalgic element of this cabin style, and the Harbor Springs A-Frame does not disappoint.
Owner Chris Stranad renovated the home while maintaining its architectural integrity and original character, resulting in a classic, modernized rustic cabin. Valente’s favorite part about the charming cabin is the upstairs loft.
“It’s so cozy!” she says. “I couldn’t wait to hang string lights and spend time in that space.” Valente also notes that the Harbor Springs A-Frame features “a working wood stove, lots of fuzzy blankets, and a well- maintained outdoor space that is perfect for nightly bonfires.”
The setting itself is one of its biggest attributes, too. Nestled in the woods across from a nature preserve and just a few minutes outside of downtown Harbor Springs, the cabin is a short drive from hiking trails, wineries, restaurants, and the famous Tunnel of Trees on M-119.
The Harbor Springs A-Frame features two bedrooms and one bathroom and accommodates four people. The cabin rents for about $190 per night. Book at airbnb.com.
Valente describes the interior of this renovated lakeside cottage in the heart of Leelanau County as “Scandi-boho.” Owners Dana and Barry Kotler transformed the cottage with eclectic accents and decor; vintage glassware, Moroccan tiles, Turkish rugs, antique artwork, and an old French farmhouse table are layered throughout, complementing the timeless character of the cottage.
Located on Mougeys Lake, Stillwater Cottage is a short drive to popular destinations such as Traverse City and Lake Leelanau.
Stillwater Cottage features three bedrooms and three bathrooms and accommodates six people. The cottage rents for about $500 per night. Book at airbnb.com.
Valente’s 5 Tips for Picking the Perfect Rental Cabin
- Start planning early. “The best cabins generally book up months in advance, especially if you’re looking for summer weekend dates.” says travel blogger Gina Valente. “I recommend starting to look six months prior to your stay if you can swing it.”
- Use filters. “Airbnb’s search options have gotten a lot better over the last few years. Now, you can filter based on things like whether pets are allowed, whether it’s — you can even filter for A-frame homes.”
- Don’t judge a rental based on the quality of photos. “Some of my favorite cabins used terrible photos in the listing. Sometimes you have to look past the photo quality to see the diamond in the rough.”
- Be flexible in your location. If you’re willing to stay a half- hour’s drive away from a tourist town and don’t mind giving up things like being on the waterfront, you could pay a lot less money for an amazing property.”
- Look through every page of your search results. “Some of your favorite cabins may be on the last page of your search! Don’t give up too soon.”
Valente’s 5 Tips for Becoming an Ideal Cabin Host
- Don’t oversell the property. Be sure to post photos that< accurately portray the home, its setting, and the interiors, Valente says. Same with the “description in the listing, so you aren’t setting yourself up for mismanaged expectations. That leads to bad reviews.
- Splurge on the bedding. Guests love when you go the extra mile to ensure they enjoy peaceful sleep on their vacation.”
- Clean thoroughly. This should go without saying but a clean cabin is everything. “Guests love a pristine property.”
- Don’t go overboard on the checkout requirements. “Asking that they load the dishwasher or remove bedding is OK, but guests should not be treated the same as a cleaning service.” Read: don’t ask guests to take out the trash upon departure.
- Keep it professional and don’t bad-mouth guests on social media. “Airing your grievances with past guests will have potential ones running in the opposite direction.”
This story is part of the March 2023 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our Digital Edition.