Just around the corner from Itasca State Park lies the Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins property, the vacation cabin rental passion project of a nurse and architect couple. Opened to guests since the summer of 2022, these secluded cabins are the perfect compromise between a camping trip and a traditional vacation with modern amenities.
Keep reading to learn about how this passion project came to life, the intentionality behind every design element, and how to book one or more cabins for your next Itasca State Park adventure!
A Couple With a Dream
The Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins wouldn’t have existed without owners and creators Mary and Tyler, a nurse and architect respectively. After the South Dakota couple settled down in Fargo, North Dakota, they began spending a lot of time in Minnesota cabins across the state border in Itasca State Park.
Consistently seduced, rejuvenated, and healed by the beauty of Minnesota’s nature and God’s creation, Mary and Tyler had a dream: to build their own nature getaway for their family to enjoy for years to come.
Luckily, the answer to their dream came faster than they’d expected. In January 2021, they made the leap and bought a 40-acre plot of land near Itasca State Park. The following summer, they began to build three Minnesota cabins.
And though Mary and Tyler admit that they are still adjusting and tweaking elements to bring the property as close to perfection as possible, Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins, their rustic design and modern feel, and their gateway to nature have been available to guests since the summer of 2022.
The biggest building on the Northwoods property is the A-Frame cabin, a three-story house with three bedrooms with queen-sized beds, two full bathrooms and a half bathroom, a full kitchen, a living room, and a dining room, plus wifi, electricity, and air-conditioning/heating.
When asked why they chose the A-Frame shape, Tyler answered: “There’s something iconic about the simplicity.”
Though it might look like a house, the feel is undoubtedly that of a cabin thanks to the unique A-Frame shape that keeps the outdoors close no matter where you are in the home.
Every element of the A-Frame was chosen intentionally, from the wood-colored shiplap that frames most windows, to the traditional staircase at the center of the building, to the orientation of the furniture in the living room.
Mary and Tyler had one goal in mind: to create a space that complements its natural surroundings and brings together the beauty of nature with the comfort of modern amenities.
Book the A-Frame for your next nature getaway!
The Makerspace is undoubtedly one of the coolest and most unique features of the Northwoods A-Frame Minnesota cabin. The Makerspace is exactly what it sounds like: a place to create arts, crafts, collages, and anything else your heart desires.
A favorite activity is card-making with stamps, and one of Mary and Tyler’s most beloved stories is that of a girl who brought her sewing machine and made a bow tie for her dad.
Located in the basement of the A-Frame, it’s the perfect activity for a rainy day or that moment of inspiration that results from spending time closer to nature.
Though the Makerspace is mostly enjoyed by children, it creates the perfect opportunity for anyone to get their hands working and their creativity rolling.
So much of daily life suppresses our imagination and boxes us into rigid, structured schedules. Mary and Tyler ideated the A-Frame cabin and its Makerspace as an escape from corporate chaos and the chance to ground yourself in nature and inspiration.
The Nord + Wald Tiny Cabins
The Northwoods Tiny Cabins, called Nord and Wald, are two modern cabins, each decked out with a queen bed, a two-person table, a mini fridge, and a coffee/tea corner. Guests at the cabins have access to one of two private bathrooms and showers in the Bathouse, as well as a shared kitchen and dining table at the Local.
Both spaces are within walking distance from the cabins on gravel trails with pedestrian lighting, and guests can even rent golf carts to make the journey even more comfortable.
Both Nord and Wald have electricity, heat, air-conditioning, and wifi. Just like the A-Frame, Mary and Tyler created the tiny Minnesota cabins with the vision of finding the perfect intersection of comfortable living and the chance to realign with nature.
Secluded Cabins with Personality
Similarly to the A-Frame cabin, Mary and Tyler chose every detail with care and consideration of their guests and natural surroundings with the goal of giving each cabin its own personality.
In fact, the Northwoods website says that Nord is the “dark and moody one” while Wald is the “light and airy one.” These personalities are further defined by the interior design colors, the light fixtures, and the orientation of the secluded cabins: Nord is north facing, while Wald is west facing.
During his own latest stay at Wald, Tyler talked about the beauty of seeing fireflies at night after the sun had set, and waking up with the sounds of birds early in the morning. And while Nord isn’t all that far away from Wald, it does convey a different feeling. It is slightly further north, which means it’s a bit more secluded and a little darker than its sibling cabin. Perfect for people looking for an isolated getaway.
They also have another important differentiating factor. Wald is pet friendly, while Nord is not. Tyler and Mary thought that it was important to provide an option for people with four-legged friends, while keeping one of the two cabins safe for those with allergies.
Named after the concept of “true north” and the German translation of “woods” respectively, the names of the tiny cabins are what also inspired the name of the entire property. “Nord Wald” eventually led to “Northwoods”!
Hospitality at its Finest
One of the most loved aspects of the guest experience at Northwoods is just how much Mary and Tyler engage their guests, and in return inspire their guests to engage with the property.
One of the most prominent examples of this is in the A-Frame cabin’s full kitchen. Guests are encouraged to leave behind recipe cards of their favorite meals for future guests to enjoy, which creates a beautiful hand-me-down experience and a sense of community among visitors who might never meet each other in person!
Another example is in the Makerspace: it’s easier to fall in love with a place that unleashes your creativity and inspires you to create something with your hands!
As expected, Mary and Tyler give their guests the chance to share their creations with the wider Northwoods community, too. If you want, you can share the craft you’ve made in the Makerspace on social media with the hashtag #NWmakerspace.
Mary and Tyler’s decision to create opportunities for guests to engage with the Northwoods property on a deeper level is grounded in their belief in the power of hospitality. Mary is especially talented in this regard.
“Mary is really a great host, she’s always been about serving people and putting others before herself,” Tyler said about his wife.
Not only does that translate into Mary being an excellent nurse, but it’s the reason why both the A-Frame and the Tiny Cabins were created with so much intentionality and care for the guest experience.
Whether it’s recipe cards in the kitchen, a lantern for the walk to the Bathouse, or a forgot-box for things left behind, the guest experience was at the forefront of Mary and Tyler’s plan while creating Northwoods.
“I mean, it’s just a little detail, but it’s a fun nostalgic thing to have something like that. Whether it’s the placement of hooks on the walls where you might put a purse or hang some clothing, or artwork that goes over top of the electrical panels.”
And they love hearing from their guests! One of Mary and Tyler’s favorite memories is of a guest that left them a note in which they described a bird that visited them in Northwoods every morning.
“We love those notes because they make us laugh. We just enjoy hearing about the fun that people had and that makes the extra effort and the hard work that you do worth it,” the couple said.
An Excuse to Slow Down
Above all, Mary and Tyler started this passion project with the goal of creating a place of rest. And rest doesn’t have to mean lying in bed all day–we mean resting your soul. A chance to slow down.
“You feel like you’re always trying to get ahead and get caught up. When you come to the cabin, you have a chance to really slow down,” Tyler said.
Society pushes us to always be on the go. Everyone is guilty of getting lost in the chaos of day-today-life. But it’s incredibly important to make time to slow down, and that is always easier when you can actually remove yourself from your routine and get away for a while.
That’s why Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins are amazing: they give guests the chance to slow down and focus on what’s important: family and friends. And whether you do that by hiking ten miles every day or sitting around a board game is up to you.
“Itasca is so close to Northwoods so you can go be active if you’d like. That was a huge part of why we ended up building the cabins there,” the couple admitted. “But if you’re just in the cabin the entire weekend, somebody can still come away feeling really refreshed.”
Mary and Tyler also hope that the Northwoods property inspires people to reconnect with their creator while being in creation.
A Perfect Basecamp for Itasca State Park
Another great element of the Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins is that it’s a perfect basecamp for the beautiful Itasca State Park.
Minnesota’s oldest state park has something for every member of the family. Whether you’re interested in more traditional nature activities like hiking and snowshoeing, or prefer picnics and playgrounds, Itasca State Park won’t let you down!
With a variety of amenities depending on the season, plus historic sites, an interpretive exhibit, and year-round naturalist programs, you can enjoy the best that Itasca State Park has to offer from the comfort and beauty of any of the Northwoods properties.
Visit the Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins
Mary and Tyler’s hope for the Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins is that they continue to be a vacation cabin rental space that facilitates the creation of memories.
One day they’d love to expand their guest capacity (maybe with another tiny cabin!) but for now, they’re focusing on their present success.
Next, find more nature getaways in Minnesota!
- About the Author
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.