FAIRBANKS — The tidy little cabin sits like a jewel on a quiet corner in North Pole, a peaceful oasis so lovely that passers-by sometimes stop to take photos in front of it. Surrounded by a carpet of lush grass ablaze with delphiniums, irises, columbine and lilacs, the age-mellowed logs gleam richly in the July sunlight. A log swing shares space with a chokecherry tree and a small fountain burbles cheerfully nearby. Sheer pastel-green curtains flutter gently at the windows of the screened-in side porch, beckoning visitors to come sit in the cool shade.
It’s a sight so irresistible that some want to make it their own, according to owner Melissa Bidwell, a local real estate agent.
“Onetime I had some of my real estate signs sitting out because I hadn’t put them in the garage, and someone stopped by and said, ‘Are you selling your house?’” Bidwell said, laughing at the memory.
Bidwell purchased the cabin from the North Pole Assembly of God 34 years ago when her son, Michael, was 4 years old. Michael now lives next door with his wife, Heidi, and their children Emma, 10, Alexis, 15, and Christopher, 19, and Bidwell has improved the home throughout the years. The former parsonage has been transformed from its rustic state into an elegant home that feels remarkably spacious and modern despite its small size.
“The kitchen had painted plywood cabinets, and this was an island but it was done in log,” Bidwell said, gesturing around her kitchen. “It didn’t have a dishwasher or a double oven. I had Plumbing Showcase come in, and they actually designed all of this — it’s a very small area but it doesn’t feel that way. I have dinner parties or people over for wine, and I love the open concept.”
Bidwell opened the interior space by removing walls, sacrificing a small bedroom to enlarge the bathroom and create a pantry. The large green industrial floor tiles have been replaced by Mongolian cherry hardwood flooring, and her bedroom boasts a walk-in closet. All interior walls are covered with drywall and painted in soft colors. The old windows and leaking roof have been replaced, and the cramped basement was opened up and renovated as well. It now houses Bidwell’s office, a laundry room, an extra closet and a cozy den where her grandchildren like to spend time.
“They come down here in the winter and turn on the fireplace and they’re in front of the TV,” Bidwell said.
Bidwell said she added the screened porch out of necessity and frustration.
“We wait all winter for summer to come, and it’s either full of mosquitoes or bees, so I’d buy those screen houses that you see at Sears, and they would fall over. I’d finally had enough when my daughter-in-law called and said, ‘Your screen house is over there on the street,’ and I said, ‘That’s it! I’m having a permanent one built!’”
The roughly 10-by-20-foot porch is furnished with wicker couches and chairs as well as a large dining table. The composite decking is covered with large area rugs, and coordinating upholstery ties the look together. Bidwell said the porch is now one of her favorite places.
“I use it all of the time. Tomorrow night I’m having my book club here if it’s warm enough. We do family dinners on Sunday and we’re always out here,” Bidwell said.
Bidwell is an avid gardener who spends an hour or two every evening tending to the flowers and vegetables that grow in raised beds and planters around the cabin and in the back yard.
“There’s broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, zucchini, raspberries, rhubarb, different kinds of lettuce, beets and radishes,” Bidwell said, pointing at the robust plants. “It’s a therapeutic thing. Real estate can be a very stressful job, so when I come home and I can be watering or deadheading or weeding, it’s very relaxing to me. Of course, being on the corner here you can’t be out there without everyone stopping to visit.”