A secluded retreat, River Cabaan sits where the river and the forest come together. In the midst of nature yet conveniently located, the property is just over an hour’s drive from Portland, Oregon. The midcentury cabin has been beautifully renovated, with interiors that feature natural materials, layers of texture, and a subdued yet colourful palette. Generously-sized windows both fill the space with light and provide ample views of the surrounding nature. A wide stretch of private riverfront beach is only moments away.
Owned by Kiwis Karie Higgins and Lee Gibson, the couple purchased the cabin in 2017 and have been renovating it over the years. Karie is an interior designer and Lee has a background in architecture, giving them an expert perspective on designing the space.
We had the opportunity to speak with Karie to learn more about River Cabaan—the vision for the design, the nature nearby, slow living, and more.
Photo by Karie Higgins courtesy of River Cabaan
Could you tell us the story behind creating River Cabaan?
The property is an original 1950s midcentury fishing cabin, which we bought it in 2017 and have been slowly renovating. We’re definitely DIYers, so we did a lot ourselves to renovate the property. My husband is a former architect and I’m an interior designer, so we just chip away at projects. The cabin has really great bones—a beautiful midcentury aesthetic with exposed ceiling beams, a lovely covered porch area, and big windows. Just earlier this year, we finally renovated the kitchen, adding mixed marble countertops and giving it a brighter look.
We also built a little studio space where you can listen to records, do yoga, and relax—all overlooking the river. It had formerly been a garage that was basically not being used, and now it’s an amazing relaxation and hang out space. We also added a breezeway, extending the deck through to where the carport/garage was, to create more indoor/outdoor space.
What was your vision for the interiors of River Cabaan?
Overall, we wanted the space to feel really calm and cozy—my natural inclination is to embrace lightness. We loved the bones of the cabin, but it felt very dark and heavy on the inside. The bedrooms had a dark veneer wood, it felt almost cave-like. While I love the feel of the wood, we wanted to mute it a bit. So, we lightened up the walls and the floors, and also replaced some of the older, heavy fixtures. We have kept a lot of original features though, like many of the original dark wood doors and some old rusty yet beautiful 1950s light fittings. It’s become a nice contrast of the new with the old, bringing together character and texture.
It was also important for the space to be centered towards the view out of the windows and the forest beyond. The living area is about all orienting outside, so it’s this cocoon where you can look outdoors.
We also wanted to use lots of natural materials in the design. I love to bring in stone to give a space more texture and weight, and to have it feel more solid and grounded. We also didn’t want things to feel too precious and wanted to keep a really relaxed feel, so we used a lot of linen and fabrics that can creased.
Can you tell us about a moment of pause at River Cabaan?
In the summer, there’s a beautiful moment when the sun is starting to set and moving along the river, and lighting up the leaves on the trees. As you sit on the deck or in the wood burning hot tub, you have this beautiful view. Maybe someone brings you a warm drink, or an aperol spritz. There’s nowhere else to be, and nothing else to do, except for being here. It’s a really meditative moment.
Another moment comes to mind—spending time on the river. There’s a private pebbled beach at River Cabaan, and it’s such a great place to have coffee in the morning or dinner at night. It feels totally unplugged, like it’s changing your body chemistry as you’re completely enveloped in nature.
Photos by Kelsey Hayden courtesy of River Cabaan
What’s it like to soak in the GOODLAND Wood Burning Hot Tub at River Cabaan?
In the summer, you feel like you’re in the trees, nestled in the greenery as you’re in the wood burning hot tub. You have a beautiful view of the river through all of the green. And in the winter when the leaves have fallen, it’s more starkly beautiful and the water of the river gets much higher. The river is really loud and close, and you feel so immersed in the landscape.
There’s also a little speaker for music, and a little stool nearby that can be used for towels. The space is designed to pull your eye out to the edge of the property, and into nature.
What does the Wood Burning Hot Tub add to River Cabaan?
We really wanted a hot tub at River Cabaan for a while, but we couldn’t quite figure out how it would work. The place felt like it was perfect, and just missing some kind of hot tub. We never liked the look of a classic jacuzzi, and wanted to nail the hot tub as another element to the experience.
As a designer, when I saw GOODLAND, the beautiful visuals really spoke to me. Also, the idea that you could move it was really cool, rather than having to commit to it being in one spot. We have a flagstone paver path leading out to the tub. It’s not so far from the house, but it feels like you can have your own space if you want to.
It’s 100% been worth it. When you’re on vacation, you can center your activities around the river, around cooking, and now around being in the Wood Burning Hot Tub. We’ve found in the summer with friends traveling with kids, the kids love coming up and warming up in the tub after they’ve gotten a bit too cold kayaking or swimming. We do a lot of cooking outside on the fire.