Decorating Our Off-Grid Cabin

One of the things I like most about our home in Katy is the art on the walls. Every item has a story behind it. In addition to art I purchased on my travels, we have oils and prints painted by my late mother-in-law, Frances Crane.

Frances painted until shortly before her death. Her works adorn many homes around Texas. She also had the honor of having one of her paintings displayed at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.

This week I will transport furniture to our off-grid cabin in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch. It’s hard to believe that our little place is ready to be furnished. Because we have limited wall space in the cabin, Cheryl and I have carefully selected what we will display on the walls.

We are especially excited about two pieces.

We have one of the last paintings that Frances was working on before she died. It is a scene of Native Americans on horseback in tall grass with rugged mountains and mesas in the background — a perfect piece for the cabin. Terlingua has a rich Native American history.

The next consideration was getting this oil painting framed. Instead of purchasing a custom frame, we decided to utilize some of the 100-plus year-old cedar fence posts that we had removed soon after we bought the property. We could think of no better way to honor Frances as well as those who had labored on Terlingua Ranch more than a century ago.

I consulted my good friend Mike Aronson who is an exceptional woodworker and furniture maker. Mike agreed to help make it happen. We wanted something that would feature the natural twists and imperfections of the aged cedar posts — a rugged and imprecise-looking frame.


I took the painting and the posts to Mike who looked at every possible way to wrestle a frame out of the old posts. Mike took lots of measurements, looked at the not-so-straight posts from every conceivable angle, and devised a game plan. And then he cut, planed, measured and cut again, and finally fine-tuned his cuts with a wood chisel until all the pieces made sense and fit together well.


Mike then put the pieces together, carefully counter-sinking and hiding all of the fasteners and reinforcing every joint from behind the painting. The result was better than I expected. I can’t wait to hang the piece in the cabin and for occasions to share its special story. It will serve as a reminder of the blessing of family and friends.

Last month we also had another piece prepared for the cabin. My old friend Bill Crenshaw had given me a window frame built by the German family who first homesteaded the property he purchased in Cat Spring. This old window frame became the perfect way to feature an old photo of my grandfather taken on his ranch soon after the turn of the Twentieth Century.

The best part of all this is that when we visit the cabin we will have comfortable furniture to enjoy as we are surrounded by comforting memories of parents and grandparents. And the frames that display these respective pieces will remind us of the blessing of having good friends like Mike and Bill.

4 thoughts on “Decorating Our Off-Grid Cabin

  1. Great looking pieces….frames……and memories. Congrats on having your cabin nearly finished. Have enjoyed watching it progress! 👍Ron

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  2. Omar, I love the way the picture in the window frame turned out. And the picture by your mother-in-law is exquisite! I love pieces that tell a story as well as “have” a story. Your cabin will truly be a special place.

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