Cabin life

One family feels right at home at their Girdwood getaway

Story by Amy Newman • Photography by Optic Nerve Photography & Design

For years Andrew and Carmen Romerdahl dog-eared design magazines and snapped pictures of home exteriors, seeking inspiration for the home they dreamed of someday building.

Designer & General Contractor:
Eric Trevithick, Trevi Builders
Windows & Doors:
Builders Millwork Supply
Allen & Petersen
Florcraft; Haden's Carpentry
Kitchen Cabinets:
Haden's Carpentry
Bathroom Cabinets & Shower Enclosure:
Haden's Carpentry
North Country Stoves
Ingall’s Roofing
Hernandez Enterprise
Siding & Deck:
Far West Enterprises
Garage Door:
Ram Services
Cassidy's Plumbing & Heating
Vannoy Electric

That someday came the summer of 2015. Through word-of-mouth, they learned that a plot of land in a highly coveted Girdwood subdivision was for sale. Tired of holing up in Alyeska Resort’s day lodge every weekend during their daughter’s Mighty Mites practices, the couple decided to take the plunge and make those dog-eared pages and photographs come to life.

The result is a sleek, contemporary two-story cabin built to maximize family togetherness, with plenty of stylish touches pulled from those pages – and that put the Romerdahls on the receiving end of some all-too-familiar attention.

“The kids (ages 7 and 5) come running in from the deck and are like, ‘Mom, Mom! Somebody took my picture again!’ ” says Carmen with a laugh, referring to the many people who pull into the driveway to snap a picture of the cabin.

Yet the paparazzi-style attention is a small price to pay for what has become their weekend and summer refuge from what they laughingly refer to as Anchorage’s big city living.

Contemporary style on a budget

Andrew and Carmen had a clear vision for the cabin. But they also had a budget, which proved to be the biggest challenge.

“Every decision we were making, we had to remember: This is our cabin, not our house,” Carmen says.

Eric Trevithick, owner of Trevi Builders in Anchorage, was up to the challenge of trying to meet both their vision and budget.

“They came with parameters of what they were hoping to spend and general ideas (about) materials and layouts and things like that,” Eric says. “Then we took their budget and tried to make it fit with what they were looking for.”

Working with Eric, they settled on a two-story design that combined an efficient use of space with durability and functionality. The sleeping and living areas were separated, with two small bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor and a large, open living space on the second.

The split-level layout allowed them to add a mudroom off the front entrance to keep the ski gear organized, and a partial wrap-around deck on the second floor that adds extra livable space. The wall of windows on the second floor looks out over Alyeska Resort and the surrounding mountains.

“The first time it got dark, you could see the ski lights,” Andrew says. “That was pretty neat.”

The attention to detail in the home’s interior was higher than the average project, Eric says, and the Romerdahls say they increased their budget slightly to accommodate some higher-end finishes, like concrete countertops, stainless steel appliances and grey and white cabinetry with a flat façade. Carbonized bamboo for the upstairs living area and a luxury vinyl tile for the mudroom are both durable and easy to clean, a priority for the couple, Carmen says. Cork flooring in the bedrooms adds a feeling of warmth in the absence of carpet.

Metal siding on the lower level of the home’s exterior, a tongue in groove cedar on the second, and a nettle roof provided the contrast the couple was looking for.

“It’s a really cool, unique building that fits very well in the flavor of Girdwood,” Eric says.

A work of art, in skis

One of the home’s most eye-catching features is a 5 ½’ x 8’ sliding barn door made of reclaimed pallets and old skis that adds a pop of color to the upstairs living space and separates the eating area from the adjacent den.

Andrew and Carmen decided to make the door themselves when they couldn’t find one that fit their vision. Andrew tore apart dozens of wooden pallets, which Carmen then sanded and stained. They scoured Craigslist, ski swaps, and friends’ garages in search of skis that were not only reminiscent of those from Andrew’s childhood, but tied the door into the reason they were in Girdwood.

Andrew says any doubts he had about how the door would turn out soon evaporated when Kevin Nuss of Haden’s Carpentry in Anchorage put it all together.

“It turned out even better than I ever expected,” Andrew says.

Little splurges

Although Andrew and Carmen’s budget didn’t allow them to install all the high-end finishes on their wish list, they did manage to work in a few splurges. One is the glass-enclosed wood-burning stove nestled in the corner of the main living area.

“This is one thing that was probably half as functional, twice as pretty and four times as expensive,” Andrew says. “But it’s neat, and it looks fantastic.”

Another is the surround sound speakers both inside and outside the cabin. They weren’t a high priority for Carmen, but after many impromptu dance parties on the deck with the kids, she admits that Andrew was right to insist on them.

Though the plan had been for the cabin to be a weekend getaway spot, Carmen says the family enjoys its time in Girdwood so much, it’s become their summer home as well.

“We really are spending a lot more time together,” she says. “I think it turned out just how we intended.”