See How One Family Modernized a 1977 Cabin in South Dakota
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.