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Virtual Vacation: Great Smoky Mountains

Dave and I have elected to spend our Christmas vacation at home again this year, and while I welcome the opportunity to indulge in a bit of a "staycation," I can't help but wish we were sitting around a slightly more festive environment -- like, say, a cozy cabin nestled in the mountains.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a girl who likes to "rough it". To pull a few lines from Troop Beverly Hills (a favorite movie of mine as a kid) [In reference to the Troop "camping out" at the Beverly Hills Hotel]:

Velda: "Is this what you call roughing it?"
Phyllis: "One bathroom for nine people? Yes."

And so, while I may be a fan of the Great Outdoors, I've always preferred to spend my nights in slightly more luxurious surroundings -- and I wouldn't normally consider cabins as qualifying. But in the talented hands of Atlanta designer Suzanne Kasler, this cozy English-style cabin (dubbed Toad Hall) nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee manages to be both rustic and luxe. It also happens to be the kind of place I'd love to escape to for the holidays: the perfect spot to cozy up by a big wood burning fire with the hubby, pup and a good book.

I love the warmth that the tapestry, rug and heavy curtains bring to the exposed wood walls and ceiling. The overall feeling is to reminiscent of an English country house, where the cold wood and stone walls and floors are covered with heavy fabrics and tapestries to insulate against the harsh British weather.

Decorating Tip #476: A beautiful Chinoiserie screen works anywhere, even in a log cabin. Perhaps what I love most about this cabin is that there's nary a moose head or stuffed pheasant in sight. Just goes to show you that there's no reason to slavishly adhere to "hunting lodge style" if you want to create a rustic, cabin mood.

Should you decide to invite a large group over to your winter hideaway, there's plenty of space for entertaining in the dining room. Anchoring the large table with two wingback chairs in a buttery yellow brings in a more modern touch, a nice counterbalance to the traditional dining set, candelabra and curtains. While much of the furniture and the walls are dark, plenty of light streams in from the french doors.

I'm fairly certain I'd be parked in front of this fire for much of the day, watching the snow fall outside the window while enjoying the crackle of the fire. Divine.

I love how the kitchen is both rustic and modern. The cabinetry has the look of fine furniture and the lack of upper cabinets gives the kitchen a more refined look that you might find in a dining room. Indeed, the lower cabinets resemble a buffet that just happens to have a gorgeous oven in the center of it.

Of course the master bedroom has a large stone fireplace -- all the better to snuggle up by on a cold winter's night. I love the height of the room as well, but the canopy bed keeps the feel cozy rather than cavernous. The juxtaposition of the floral fabric and the rustic walls and fireplace makes this room perfectly suited for both men and women.

This beautiful canopied bed has me simply dying to dive in it head first. Nothing like a big, fluffy duvet and a roaring fire for sleeping in over the holidays. My only question: where are the side tables and bedside lamps?! As an avid reader in bed, I'm at something of a loss to explain their absence (especially since there's clearly room around the bed for small tables).

Of course though, like any good cabin worth its salt, it's the view outdoors that's the most compelling, the most awe-inspiring. This time of year you might need a space heater and a few blankets to make this porch comfortable, but I'm sure the views across the lake would be well worth it.

Who doesn't love sitting on a rocker on the front porch chewing the fat late into the night?

The "Writer's Cottage", another guest house, is nestled between the garden and the woods beyond. I'd imagine it's exactly the sort of place a writer might go looking for some inspiration.

One of the guest houses, adorably dubbed "Tadpole Cottage".

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