Imagine that you live deep in the woods. There are no houses, no roads, and no people; only the trees, the wild animals, and the weather.
That’s the fantasy behind cabincore, an aesthetic that came from internet culture and migrated to fashion and interiors.
In many ways, it’s winter’s answer to cottagecore, the TikTok and Insta-driven style that dominated the summer months. Both are rustic, nostalgic and romantic, but there are significant differences between them.
Cottagecore is pastoral. It favours applied decoration: frills, florals and lace. Cabincore is rougher, tougher, and more masculine.
Its structural materials are iron and stone, leather and rough-hewn wood. fabrics are flannel, corduroy and wool. Its palette is autumnal, with earthy greens and tones of terracotta.
If Cottagecore was inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, Little House on the Prairie, cabincore springs from the first book in the series, Little House in the Big Woods.
The book describes a late nineteenth-century childhood in the forests of Wisconsin:
“They were cosy and comfortable in their little house made of logs, with the snow drifted around it and the wind crying because it could not get in by the fire.” That’s cabincore in a nutshell. It’s a survivalist aesthetic for a dark time of the year.
Cabincore is a fundamentally American fantasy, but there are ways of making it Irish.
Often, it’s more about learning how to make things than about buying them in shops. Many Irish craftspeople run courses that teach people to make things from locally harvested materials.
Although their work is in no way trend-driven, its appeal is often similar to that of cabincore. When you live in the wilderness you make your own stuff.
Alison Ospina of Greenwood Chairs is based near Skibbereen. She makes furniture from green hazel wood, which is coppiced during the winter months.
“I get my supply for the year in January and that has to last me all year. You can’t coppice hazel when it’s in leaf.” Her courses, where you can learn to make your own chair in a number of days, run in the summer months.
“This year they were ridiculously popular,” she says. “Last year I sold a lot of chairs, often sight-unseen because people couldn’t travel. This year everyone wants courses. I think it’s for the soul.”
Ospina’s own work is inspired by the Shaker aesthetic and American porch furniture. Her recent pieces are made in collaboration with Irish textile artists, weavers, and designers.
Their work adds elegance and nuance to the simple design, but it also pushes up the price. An upholstered armchair from Greenwood Chairs will cost between €750 and €900, and footstools range from €350 to €500.
One of Ospina’s collaborators is Nicola Brown, a feltmaker based at Clasheen, County Kilkenny, who makes natural dye using locally sourced vegetation.
“I use leaves, bark, seed pods, flowers and onion skins to create lasting print and colour on handmade felt, locally woven yardage or up-cycled fabric,” she says. Instead of using traditional powdered mordants (metal salts) to fix the colour on the fabric, she uses the metal of the pot itself, sometimes adding rusty metal to the liquid.
This gloriously witchy cauldron is called a “dirty pot” and different metals give different results: a cast iron pot brings depth and darkness, aluminium offers lighter colours, and copper gives peachy tones.
The land around her workshop is planted with trees and herbaceous borders which support wildlife and are used to colour her textiles as part of a sustainable practice.
Brown runs courses in eco printing, both online and in person (contact her to make a plan); she also makes items for the home including eco printed lambswool throws (€345), large feather-filled lambswool cushions (€165), vintage Japanese kimono silk wall hangings (from €140) and vintage French linen wall hangings/table runners (from €120).
For smaller items that are also handmade in Ireland, Emmet Bosonnet of Kopper Kreation sells his bud vases in sets of three: €30 in brass and €40 in copper.
They’re made from salvaged metal piping and recycled test tubes from a science lab with an industrial look that sits comfortably on the cabincore spectrum. This is because the aesthetic, in terms of fashion, has roots in urban streetwear.
Cabincore, as seen on Instagram and TikTok, is fairly fantastical, with an emphasis on A-frame cabins that probably don’t have a toilet.
In the real world, elements of the style can be adapted in sophisticated ways.
The Monkey Puzzle Tree is a Northern English brand of fabrics and wallpapers designed in collaboration with local artists and produced in local factories.
They continue to ship to Ireland, although the Brexit-associated paperwork has slowed down deliveries. Their wallpaper, Hit the North (around €227 per metre) is designed by the graphic artist Drew Millward and printed onto sustainable Portuguese cork.
The juxtaposition of Millward’s post-industrial landscape with the natural material is something special. Likewise, the dreamscape fabric, Between Certainty and Oblivion (around €135 per metre), an abstract monochrome pattern based on drawings by conceptual artist Joel Weaver and printed on linen. Both work well with cabincore.
“It’s an aesthetic that I like,” says Charlotte Raffo, founder of the Monkey Puzzle Tree. Being half-Norwegian, she probably has cabincore in the blood. “I still visit the cabin that belonged to my grandparents. It looks out over a lake and backs onto a wood – there’s an amazing smell of the forest and everything inside is made of wood.”
Then, she admits that the cabin has an outdoor toilet that smells less wonderful after a week of habitation. Cabincore is really more about an escape from the city than the rigors of living permanently in the wild. Think of it as hunting-lodge-goes-vegan.
One of the lovely things about cabincore, which it shares with other internet-driven aesthetics, is that there’s no global brand behind it.
Mainstream retail, though, is never slow to cash in on a trend. In one way, this diminishes the innocence and authenticity of the dream. In another, it means that cabincore-themed items are cheaply available in the shops.
Homesense has a Cabin Cosy collection; Penneys has a Global Retreat collection; Next has a Core Country collection. There’s a lovely irony in being able to accessorise your survivalist fantasy with mass-produced stuff.
greenwoodchairs.com, nicolabrown.ie, kopperkreation.com, themonkeypuzzletree.com