Director, designer, and cookbook author Claire Thomas’ Bramble House is a family affair. When the property became available a mere 20 feet from her Hollyhock House (available to book on Airbnb!), she snatched it up as an extension to the beloved cabin in Big Bear, CA.
“After we refurbished Hollyhock House, the grandparents got very excited at the idea of ‘grandma’s cottage,’ sort of a guest house where they can be close to the family—but have a place to escape from rowdy grandchildren,” Thomas explains of Bramble House’s serendipitous acquisition.
A Barren ‘Before’
The cottage was built in 1921, with a kitchen that was outdated and cramped. An upper rung of cabinets made the room feel even smaller than it already was, and the color scheme didn’t have enough flair or personality.
Inspiration from the Early 20th Century
Thomas wanted to pull from the Arts and Crafts movement, which prioritized decorative design and fine craftsmanship over mechanization and industry in the early aughts, as an homage to the home’s history.
“I went to an architectural salvage and found these beautiful 100-year-old English tiles,” she says, which she then matched with Fireclay field tiles in Evergreen in a striking countertop-to-ceiling display.
Thomas took the Arts and Crafts inspiration even further by adding a copper countertop and sink: The material was favored by followers of the movement and flourished in the 19th century as an artistic medium. The cherry on top? It complemented the cabin’s natural features beautifully.
“There are already so many wood elements in the cottage that I thought a pop of copper would be eye-catching, especially in such a petite kitchen space,” she recounts.
Though Thomas is a DIY expert after redoing next-door Hollyhock House (and a few other properties), there was a new element to consider with Bramble House.
“I was 9 months pregnant when Bramble came together,” she notes, “so I would usually have been a lot more hands-on.”
But Thomas emphasizes that her look can be easily replicated.
“The copper countertops are pretty straightforward—you connect two pieces of plywood sheets to get the right thickness (about 1.5”), cut to size, and then wrap the copper sheeting around it, sort of like a Christmas gift.”
“Semihandmade is my go-to for kitchens. They make the process so easy, and the result is always gorgeous,” Thomas says of her space’s exclusive-to-Semihandmade Sarah Sherman Samuel DIY Quarterline cabinet doors, which can be painted in any color you want.
Thomas went all in on the theme, picking Dunn-Edwards Linden Spear—the perfect shade of muted forest green to make it feel like you’re cooking dinner in a cozy tree trunk.
She topped off the look with Shelfology floating shelves and Rejuvenation hardware.
A Family Affair
Now, with both the Hollyhock and Bramble projects complete, Thomas and her family can sleep up to 14 people in their “mountain compound”—the whimsical (and well-located) forest getaway they’ve been dreaming of.
“When we have large groups of friends there, it’s been incredible. It’s cozy and comfortable, like a Hobbit house,” she raves. “I especially love Fawnskin, the corner of the mountain where Bramble is located. It’s close to the lake, hiking, sledding, and very quiet, but downtown is only ten minutes away if we want to pick up dinner or get a fabulous diner breakfast.”