Photos by Nick Hirschmann Photography.

“They said, ‘We have a project, it’s with the YWCA,’ and I instantly said yes,” quips Justine Ma, who spearheaded the renovation of two cabins at Camp Yowochas. The Edmonton camp faced some pretty tough times due to COVID-19, as large-scale summer programming was basically out of the question. Instead, the nonprofit pivoted to smaller programs and rental space for families or groups looking to spend some quality time on the edge of Wabamun lake. The space was there, but it wasn’t quite set up for rentals: the two cabins had bunkbeds galore, but weren’t quite suitable for adult guests.

xMa is a graphic designer who sometimes dabbles in interiors, but taking on this renovation was a no-brainer. “It breaks my heart that all of these kids didn’t get to do their normal summer activities, and the last thing I want is for these organizations to disappear,” she says. “When we eventually get back to normal, and I want us to still have these facilities to go to.” She set out to transform the two cabins into spaces a little less camp-y and a little more cool.

xThe first cabin is actually a yurt, and is circular with soft sides. Ma nixed her original plan of changing up the flooring—it was too difficult given the shape, and they were on a clock. “We had to source everything all the furniture, bedding, and accessories in a day,” she remembers. The cabins’ new look is largely due to the generosity of in-kind donations from Ikea Canada, Home Depot Canada, Cloverdale Paint, Divine Floors, Priority Printing, Cory Christopher Design and Nick Hirschmann Photography. Ma loves colour, and the result has a rustic-meets-rainbow vibe. “I think it just honestly brings a lot of joy and happiness when you walk into a space,” she says. With a giant open space no flat walls to push furniture against, the designer created smaller zones using carpets, and moved the queen bed to the centre of the room. The cabin’s original bunkbeds were given a fresh coat of yellow paint.

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The second space had a more traditional design, which the team freshened up with white paint and light wood floors. New bunkbeds got a functional makeover (with adorable people-shaped hooks), and bits of colour pop throughout. “When you see this flash of rainbow, I think it warms you up in a very cheerful way,” says Ma. The “mega-challenge,” as she describes it, was really a team effort: it took a lot of people and local businesses to transform this special space. “It was a feel-good project,” Ma says.

More photos below—and if you’re looking for your next Canadian destination, you can book a cabin here.

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