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Love for Nature and Design: A Passion Project in Northern Minnesota

If you’re looking for a nature getaway near Itasca State Park, look no further than the Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins in Bagley for a unique Minnesota cabin experience. This passion project came from owners Mary and Tyler’s love for nature and design, and is the perfect setting for a solo, family, or friend excursion! 

Whether you’re looking for a basecamp for your next hiking trip, are itching to try out the new kayak, or are simply looking for a retreat in the woods, Northwoods’ three different cabin options have something for everyone. 

One of the Tiny Cabins, a Minnesota passion project.
Photo by Erik Engstrom

Mary and Tyler’s Story

The Northwoods property was created by an extraordinary couple who has always been deeply connected with the outdoors—even before they were a couple! 

Mary and Tyler grew up in small towns in South Dakota: Mary on a farm, and Tyler on an apple orchard. They first met at a leadership camp during their youth and became high school sweethearts before going to college together and eventually getting married and settling down in North Dakota. 

Tyler and Mary in front of the A Frame Cabin.
Photo by Nelson Morlock

Over the years, they spent a lot of time in Itasca State Park, just over the border in Minnesota. These cabin romantic getaways were opportunities to disconnect from the business of everyday life, turn off their phones, and refocus on themselves and their marriage. 

And that is how the dream started. They asked themselves, wouldn’t it be great to have a place like this for our family on a regular basis? The answer was overwhelmingly yes, and so they began looking for a property to make this newfound dream come true. 

They checked out a couple of plots of land before finding what would become the Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins. 

“It came on us really fast,” Tyler said.

They loved how close it was to Itasca State Park, and how big it was. Tyler is an architect, and Mary is a nurse with a skilled eye for cabin interior design, so they immediately saw the 40 acres of land for what they really were: a goldmine of possibility. 

“It just felt like if we didn’t do it, we were gonna regret it.”

So they bought the property in January of 2021, began building the secluded cabins the following summer, and officially opened for guests in the summer of 2022.

In the summer and fall of 2021 Mary and Tyler were on the grounds almost every weekend, slowly but surely turning their passion project into the amazing Minnesota cabins they are today.

The Northwoods Property

Today the Northwoods property includes a large A-frame cabin and two tiny cabins named Nord and Wald. Mary and Tyler chose every element of the cabins with intention and consideration for the sort of design and decoration that best complements their natural surroundings.

From the orientation of the building to the direction of the skylights to the view from the couch and more, Mary and Tyler know that it’s the little details that make the Northwoods property such a special retreat. 

It’s not just a matter of how the Minnesota cabins look, but more importantly, how they feel. 

The A-Frame Cabin

Though the A-Frame has the look and feel of a cabin, it’s actually a three-story house with an A-frame design. It includes three bedrooms with queen beds, two full bathrooms, one half-bathroom, a full kitchen, and a living and dining room, in addition to fun spaces like a reading nook and a maker space. 

A main floor, a loft, and a basement make up the three floors of the giant cabin, with a unique Makerspace in the basement where you can find materials for arts and crafts. Outside you can even make use of an endless backyard (40 acres, remember?), a deck, and a fire pit. 

Book the A-Frame for your next nature getaway!

A-Frame cabin.
Photo by Erik Engstrom

A House with a Cabin Feel 

Mary and Tyler created the A-frame so that it could host large parties while still feeling like the perfect Minnesota cabin for a nature or romantic getaway. The rustic design contrasts the large space and further emphasizes the intersection between the intimacy of a small cabin and the comfort of modern amenities.

“Wherever you look, the shape of this cabin follows you,” Tyler said when asked why he and Mary decided on an A-frame shape for the cabin. The unique shape is a constant reminder to disconnect and refocus on the things that really matter.

The decision to use shiplap and stick to a wood and white palette for the walls was one of many intentional choices that Mary and Tyler made in order to maintain the cabin-esque character while also keeping it fresh and not making it feel too old-school.

It gives the walls texture and personality while still acting as a backdrop to more colorful accent pieces. 

And it’s no accident that the walls framing many of the windows in the A-Frame kept their natural wooden color. This was, as you might expect, also intentional: when guests look out the windows towards the woods and then back into the cabin, their gaze isn’t disrupted by unnatural colors. 

Mary and Tyler’s goal with every cabin interior design decision was to build something that complements its natural surroundings while providing a comfortable getaway experience for its visitors. 

That’s why they also decided to include a traditional staircase within the A-frame instead of a spiral one, which could have been a problem for guests with mobility issues.

“Making a stairway fit in an A-frame is a challenge because you have limited space to work with,” Tyler admitted. But Mary and Tyler aren’t the type to be put off by a challenge. 

They decided that they wanted the walkway to be the center of the entire A-frame space, and then built their vision from this starting point. They designed the A-frame to avoid dead spaces, capitalize on storage spaces, and emphasize natural lighting. 

They also knew that they wanted not just a full kitchen, but a kitchen that would act as the main character of the entire floor. A kitchen, after all, is more than just a space to cook food: it’s a place to make memories. 

With these guidelines, the design ultimately worked itself out. 

Writing desk in the A-Frame Cabin.
Photo by Erik Engstrom

Nord + Wald Tiny Cabins

While the Northwoods A-Frame is a full house, Nord and Wald provide the true tiny cabin glamping experiences at this passion project property.

Each of the two secluded cabins has a queen bed, a two-person table, an indoor wood-burning stove, a small fridge in a coffee/tea corner, in addition to electricity, heat, air conditioning, wifi—plus their own personality!

You heard that right. The Northwoods website describes Nord as the “dark and moody one” whereas Wald is the “light and airy one.” 

The Nord cabin is north-facing, fashions warm colors, and sits further into the woods than its other sibling. Wald, on the other hand, is west facing with a brighter interior design and is also dog-friendly. 

Guests at either tiny cabin have access to a private bathroom in the Bathouse and a shared kitchen and larger table space in The Local. 

The intention behind the creation of Nord and Wald was to provide guests with a more rustic experience that still has access to modern amenities of everyday life. There’s something special about having to go outdoors to get food or take a shower—something grounding that connects us with our ancient past.

And while guests have their own private bathrooms, they also have the opportunity to mingle in the shared spaces with other guests (or maybe their friends, who booked the second cabin!), potentially creating unexpected memories for years to come. 

Book Tiny Cabin Nord or Tiny Cabin Wald (or both!) for your next glamping trip!

Perfect Access to Itasca State Park

The Northwoods A-Frame and Tiny Cabins are located close to Itasca State Park, which makes them the perfect basecamp to experience Minnesota’s oldest state park. 

Itasca State Park was established in 1891 to protect virgin pine trees and the Mississippi headwaters, and its over 32,000 acres are now well known for their beautiful natural landscape, glacial geology, over 100 lakes, and diverse flora and fauna. 

Some wildlife visitors might spot include many different types of birds, deer, squirrels, chipmunks, porcupines, beavers, wolves, and black bears. 

Itasca State Park is equipped to entertain every member of the family! Besides the stunning beauty of its landscape, visitors can enjoy hikes, picnics, volleyball, biking, playgrounds, fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and snowshoeing, depending on the season. 

Itasca State Park

The state park also has an interpretive exhibit, year-round naturalist programs, historic sites around the park, a gift shop, restaurants, and rental shops. 

The beauty of enjoying all these great opportunities from Northwoods is that you have the feel of a resort while still being able to retreat back into your secluded cabin getaway. But Mary and Tyler emphasize that there is no “right” way to spend time at Northwoods.

Whether you go out every day to explore the natural surroundings, or prefer to stay inside to play board games and bake, what’s important is for guests to disconnect from the outside world and make lasting memories.

“What people ultimately love about staying at Northwoods is that feeling of being able to do your own thing,” Tyler explained. In fact, what ultimately sets Northwoods apart from other camping opportunities is just that: a reconnection with nature without having to give up the comforts of modern amenities. 

A Passion Project Turned Into Nature Getaway

What started as a passion project ultimately turned into a fully-fledged nature getaway experience. Mary and Tyler were able to implement their love for nature and design to create an experience that complements the outdoors while inspiring its visitors to reflect inward.

Whether you choose to stay in the A-Frame, Nord, or Wald, one thing is guaranteed: a shelter from the chaos of daily life, and a reconnection with nature. Next, find more nature getaways in Minnesota!