South Dakota’s pioneer spirit drew this family of seven to the Black Hills, where they rehabbed a modern cabin to corral their full life.
family portrait in vaulted ceiling living room
Credit: Austin Day

It's early Monday morning, and somewhere on the roads edging South Dakota's Black Hills National Forest, seven heads bob along at a jog. They belong to the Mockabees: Jodi, Jason, and their five kids, aged 11 to 17. "This has been our habit ever since the children were toddlers," Jodi says. "We discovered if you run them down in the morning, they are attentive in homeschool, their countenances are high, and everyone's happy."

Morning runs and learning at home are just two ways Jodi and Jason orient their lives around nurturing their kids' minds, bodies and characters. In 2020, they moved to South Dakota from the West Coast for immersion lessons in a frontier work ethic—a life full of sourdough baking and sauerkraut fermenting, plus fishing, golfing, hiking and camping. "We appreciate the industrious spirit of this state," Jodi says. "Neighbors help one another and work together as a community, and that's the culture we want our kids raised in."

overhead view of black hills home
With new deck boards and fresh paint, Jodi and Jason Mockabee transformed their home's exterior personality. The dark color (Onyx 2133-10 by Benjamin Moore) plays off the pines that gave the Black Hills their name. To accentuate the house's contemporary lines, the couple painted virtually everything but the deck and fascia. Eventually, they hope to install a cable railing.
| Credit: Austin Day

The scenery didn't hurt either. While searching Rapid City listings, the couple spotted a 1977 cabin with seriously groovy vibes. The green carpet? Removable. Brick walls and fireplaces? Workable. Tongue-and-groove wood paneling literally everywhere? Potential! And anyway, details hardly mattered after they saw the view framed in the double-story living room windows. "The natural light and exposure to the forest really sold us," Jodi says. "You can't add that to a house. You have to buy a location."

airy and bright neutral tones living room
cabin cozy mid century modern living room
Left: Jodi considered painting the living room's rough-sawn paneling white, but with so much natural light, the space didn't need brightening—and, she realized, wood suited the home's spirit. But the multicolor brick fireplace was distracting, so a contractor friend coached her in how to plaster it with mortar. | Credit: Austin Day
Right: In the decor details, Jodi harmonizes mid-mod with cabin-cozy—all in the key of neutral. | Credit: Austin Day

While planning light updates, Jodi played to the architecture's strength. "Wood is expensive," she says, "and typically people are trying to add character to a home. This one already had a bunch of it. The question was how do we make it current and enjoyable and not just like we're in a wood box." She dismissed her first instinct to paint over the paneling, but cleaned up a few more lodge-like features, plastering over the fireplace and replacing a chunky wooden stair rail with a sleek iron one. She furnished with mid-mod simplicity, but you can spy hits of cabin-perfect plaid in many rooms—soft ones, no Paul Bunyan red here.

kids doing school in home classroom
Jodi homeschools the kids in the walk-out basement. "This is a creative space for us, so there are different types of art, and I pulled in more colors," she says. A big name in the homeschool world, Jodi runs an online business sharing her curriculum materials and recently wrote a book, The Whole and Healthy Family (Revell, $17).
| Credit: Austin Day

Downstairs in the schoolroom, the mood shifts with bright white walls, strong colors, books and paintings that reflect Jodi's art-heavy teaching style. A sectional hosts morning reading sessions, and hammocks hung from the beams of the upper-level deck extend the "classroom" outside.

mother and children preparing food in kitchen
Jodi hid her kitchen's brick wall with several coats of an easy-clean flat paint, applied limewash to the wooden hood and splashed out on Schoolhouse Allegheny sconces. Open shelves hold pottery and everyday dishes. "I absolutely love earthenware," she says, "especially that '70s hippie kind of cabin pottery." In this house of the same era, those pieces sing.
| Credit: Austin Day

With easier work done, Jodi and Jason tackled the kitchen, a closed-off time capsule of avocado green cabinets and brown brick. The couple originally planned to save for the project, but with an eye on rising lumber prices and long wait times for appliances, Jason urged Jodi to move ahead. After knocking down the wall between the kitchen and dining area, Jodi drew plans for inset wooden cabinetry to complement the home's modern lines. The rush and a tight budget meant a few compromises along the way, like abandoning custom floor-to-ceiling windows in favor of using what could be found on Facebook Marketplace.

back porch with seating area tree view
An inexpensive used French door inspired a new deck off the kitchen. The family used to keep their grill on the main deck, but this one is much closer for carrying food outside (and adds a shady, tucked-away sitting spot). "With a budget, you have to cut corners in different places," Jodi says. "In this case, we got a solution to a problem we didn't know we had."
| Credit: Austin Day

When Jodi turned up a bargain-priced French patio door, she added a small deck to her plans. Other setbacks, like mismeasured countertops and trial-and-error cabinetry construction, just became part of the plan. "I kept using the term homemade," Jodi says. She means her cabinets, but the spirit fits her family—and their life—just as well.

huge flag hanging in kids bedroom
blue wrap around couch and gallery wall in basement
basement bedroom with blue and green accents
Left: Twins August and Elias, 11, made two requests for their room—a huge flag and a bare floor for Lego projects. | Credit: Austin Day
Center: In the basement classroom, each piece of thrift-store art ties to books or places the family has experienced together. "It's a total hodgepodge, but every kid can tell the story behind each piece," Jodi says. | Credit: Austin Day
Right: This lower-level bedroom belongs to Carter, 17, and doubles as a guest room. The plaid chairs were a lucky find online at Target. | Credit: Austin Day
wood paneled bathroom with sauna
built in night tables in primary bedroom
small bedroom workspace with built in shelf
Left: The primary bathroom came with a sauna (that the Mockabees have slowly learned how to use). New flooring and lights modernize the wood paneling. | Credit: Austin Day
Center: Nera bed from Article fits perfectly between the primary bedroom's closet and bathroom doors. The couple hard-wired sconces and cut holes in the bed frame for light switches. | Credit: Austin Day
Right: Jodi staked out a small workspace in the bedroom with a desk, chair and secondhand bookshelf. For a built-in look, she painted it to match the doors and trim (Benjamin Moore's Manchester Tan HC-81). | Credit: Austin Day