Inspired by his cabin’s rustic architecture and its hilltop setting, a Missouri designer decorates with natural imagery, cherished heirlooms, and primitive pieces that tell tales aplenty.
Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. No one knows this better than Clive Gray, a designer who couldn’t resist the siren’s call issued by a dilapidated cabin overlooking the Finley River—12 miles from his primary residence in Springfield, Missouri. Corrugated tin siding and tin roofs give the rehabbed cabin a vintage look. “When it’s raining, there’s no better place to sit than on the porch, listening to the raindrops going to town,” says Clive Gray.
Clive looked past the unfinished second story’s lack of windows, floors and sheetrock, and perceived promise. He saw potential for a modern gathering space in the cabin’s original four rooms. The log cabin—built by Amish craftsmen in 1987—had fallen on hard times but offered a sturdy framework for the getaway Clive envisioned.
Clive loves browns and greens, but he balances those natural neutrals by introducing flashes of red to brighten both the cabin’s façade and its interior environs.
Clive furnished the porch with antiques collected over the course of decades, along with lodge-style oddities found while stocking his design store, Grayson Home, and all manner of period-setting pieces. Red metal furniture evokes nostalgic connections to the past, while the red trim and flooring complement the log walls.
Vintage sap buckets hold pretty flowers to soften the log walls that also showcase birdcages Clive’s mom brought home from England.
Modern lighting updates a 19th-century corner-set cabinet that partners with a period trunk to anchor comfortable leather furnishings, which supply modern, masculine vibes.
Stag-head towel holders support a distinctive drapery rod—it’s a bamboo pole Clive harvested from bamboo growing on the 3-acre property.
Majolica pieces—some newly collected and others inherited—contribute elegant contours and natural patterns and colors to the eclectic mix.
An 1869 bookcase and trunk that share similar finishes play coordinating roles in a second sitting area. Painted motifs on the bookcase mirror the color of the cabinet to the left of the sofa and the spice box hanging on the wall behind Clive’s grandmother’s lamp. “I come from a farming community and family,” he says. “I like simple. In fact, my childhood looked like this—my mother was a real country decorator.”
Antique books of all genres establish a period feel. Here, leather-bound tomes provide a textural background that highlights a pheasant-figured striker and a majolica bowl. “I love primitives and antiques because they have a story to tell,” explains Clive. “They are unique and make a home totally different than any other. I keep furniture finishes as they were—their original finishes are what tell their story.”
A conversation-starting elk equipped with an inkwell shares a trunk top with books and flower frogs; similar objects appear in different ways and areas to visually connect one space to the next.
White-painted logs spotlight mid-1800s furnishings from Budapest, vintage artworks in their original frames and a narrow antique table that optimizes space to seat lots of folks. The large cupboard holds Clive’s majolica; a dresser doubles as a storage-rich sideboard.
A lamp kit and a shade crafted from a curtain remnant convert an old churn into a modern lighting fixture boasting old-world attitude.
Carving sets with bone handles cut fine figures when grouped in a sideboard tray complete with a glass-topped leaf collage. Cows behind glass, a nearby bear lamp, and an elk-head wine stopper further the “little bit country, little bit cabin” design story.
“I decorate with things that are unique—old inkwells, egg baskets and my grandmother’s quilts—to get an eclectic look,” Clive says.
A work table makes a good-looking island that supplies a prep surface and drawers for kitchen essentials. “I tore the whole thing out and made the rebuilt kitchen look as old as I could,” says Clive. A galvanized steel sink (likely from a restaurant) was a housewarming gift from a friend.
An early gas range operates perfectly and provides a profile in tune with the home’s age-old disposition.
“I wanted to take the cabin back in time,” says Clive. “I used old sinks and other things that were functional but looked as if they had been here for decades. Instead of kitchen cabinets, Clive hangs vintage cupboards to maintain a period ambiance. The ancient desk light acts as an up-to-the-minute task light—it can be easily adjusted to illuminate operations taking place below.
Antique cabinets in the utility room supply storage for all sorts of things, including pantry staples. Framed artworks and pretty collections give this hardworking space furnished-room appeal.
A cowboy hat, horse prints and a cowhide evoke memories of Clive’s family’s cattle-raising enterprises. European antiques mix it up with a late 20th-century leather sleigh bed and a desk stacked with weighty law tomes and petite reads. “My cabin is all about nature and simplicity,” says Clive. “It has a sense of tranquility and serenity. Whenever I am here, I feel like I’m on vacation.”
A table near the master bedstead holds sentimental favorites, including a creamer and sugar set that was a gift from a friend. Rare 1800s barley twist candlesticks and a taxidermy lamp crafted of deer legs/hooves combine for a surprising still life.
© Caruth Studio