If you’re headed to the High Country and looking for one of the very best Blowing Rock NC rentals, Hemlock Hill Cabin has you covered no matter the season.
Here, we chat with owners Rachel and Peter about their journey to renovate this home. They discuss why they love being hosts, what you can expect if you stay, and more.
“Our intent was to find a place where our family can escape from city life and enjoy throughout the year while also sharing the home with others searching for a mountain getaway,” says Rachel.
Find out more about the rental and enjoy their chat below. Looking for Blowing Rock rentals or simply a vacation? Book at hemlockhillcabin.com
What gave you the idea to purchase and renovate the cabin?
Becoming the owners of our cabin couldn’t come have at a better time and has changed our lives for the better! During the summer of 2020, almost 6 months into a global pandemic, Rachel was feeling burnt out and frustrated by many facets of life. She was working in healthcare during the pandemic, living in high paced Washington, DC, and doing both all while raising two very young children.
Rachel found herself reflecting and daydreaming about her long held fantasy to own and manage an inn. While that particular fantasy was shelved, it led her to following through on another dream of owning a rental cabin. They went straight to Zillow searches specifically, the Boone/Blowing Rock area as both Peter and Rachel are from the mountains of North Carolina.
What came next?
It all happened very quickly. We were so excited when we came across the cabin listing, which had been sitting on the market for over six months. The next day, we connected with a real estate agent were under contract sight unseen within 24 hours of that call!
Regardless, we saw the beauty and unique qualities beyond the seemingly neglected (renovated but not lived in) property. It was actually another full two weeks of being under contract before we could make the trip from DC to see it in person. The cabin was just lacking attention, love and life: All things we were happy to provide and pump back into it. We bought it knowing that the improvements and renovations we envisioned could be done on our time and when it made sense.
What made you fall in love with the space?
What’s not to love about a log cabin surrounded by soft green moss and a large yard protected by a wall of rhododendrons and towering trees?! And it’s only minutes away from downtown Blowing Rock, the Parkway, and surrounding areas. We found the cabin itself so unique. There are numerous cozy spaces, hand-hewn timber log walls (original exterior walls), and bark covered accent walls. Plus, the rhododendron branch railings and numerous decks seem to extend the cabin into the natural surroundings.
What is unique about your rental for people looking for Blowing Rock rentals?
The cabin is especially family friendly and offer amenities with parents in mind. We know firsthand how important the right gear can be when you want to be adventurous with little ones in tow. We have two child carrier hiking packs and an all-terrain stroller available to all booking guests. In addition, there’s a pack-n-play, high chair, toys/games, and kid plates/utensils. No matter who you’re traveling with, the cabin unfolds with various nooks. There are comfortable, private spaces to relax and unwind.
The two main floors each have their own living room spaces. Outside, the sloping soft grounds around the cabin have ample space to explore the yard, run, play and sled (sleds also included). Our neighborhood backs up to the Blue Ridge Parkway land, in walking distance to Price Lake and other hiking trails. The proximity to the village of Blowing Rock is enjoyable for shops and awesome dining. A five-minute drive in the other direction gets you to the eastern slopes of Grandfather Mountain. While there is much to do in the area, we find many of our guests simply enjoy staying in and relaxing at the cabin.
Additionally, we want guests to feel taken care of by the space and amenities we offer within the cabin and beyond. Guests compliments often include that we “have thought of everything.” Because we know there is always room for improvement, we are constantly setting the bar higher for ourselves. This means investing time, thought, and resources into the entire processing – from first impressions to check out. Hemlock Hill is more than just a rental. We are a mountain getaway.
What is it like working together as a family on this project?
It’s great. We both fall into our own rhythm and responsibilities. We both very much recognize that running the cabin is a top priority, despite having our own careers and two children. I think we work great together because we both see value and and reward from tackling DIY projects.
While Rachel is mostly the one involved in day to day social media and communicating with guests, Peter is busy managing the cabin on the back end – everything from accounting, landscaping, and repairs. Together as a team we love tackling amazing projects. We do our own landscaping and mowing, rock work, building, painting, assembling furniture and decorating.
What was the most difficult part of this renovation or redesign process?
Thankfully, no major or functional repairs needed to be done before welcoming our first guests, just two weeks after closing. However, we had a vision for the property and how we wanted to manage it as a rental. So, it was difficult to live so far away and not be able to do it all at once. Every trip we made to the cabin from DC was packed full with a long to-do list. We took on everything as a DIY because we could work on our own schedule. It also meant there was minimal impact to the rental booking calendar and on a more reasonable budget.
Perhaps the most challenging (and one of the most exciting) improvements was building our own fire pit and boulder wall at the edge of the driveway. After realizing we couldn’t afford an estimate given to us by a rock mason, we decided to DIY it and bought sixteen tons of rock and learned to maneuver a skid steer.
What about the space are you most proud of?
While the inside is very cool and super cozy, the outside property is so special. One of our favorite parts of the cabin are the various outdoor decks. Namely, we love the large front covered porch where guests can spend time on rocking chairs while taking in nature. It’s great even when it’s raining or snowing! The outside is also where we have done the most renovating.
Including the fire pit, we have done all our own landscaping. This includes plant selection, planting, trimming, and mowing the entire property with a weed eater to protect the moss. Other outdoor improvements made this year (not DIY) include a new metal roof and a new entrance path made of giant rock slabs. We also rebuilt the back decks and upgraded to modern railing systems.
At this stage, what are some of the top things you’ve learned?
As a pair, we have learned that running a successful short term rental business takes more time and energy than we ever imagined. This was especially true when we lived in DC for the first 18 months of operating Hemlock Hill Cabin. Now that we’re back in NC, it’s so much easier and less stressful. We’re currently in the process of learning how to build and support a direct booking business. A more personal trusting relationship between host and guest is beneficial for all.
I know we will always be thankful and appreciative of our ongoing presence on Airbnb, but the truth is that the algorithm is constantly changing and competition is higher than ever. With that said, we’ve learned that the most important part of running our short term rental business is our guests. Everything we do is with them in mind.
What are some essential skills that you’ve had to learn in this business?
Rachel learned to build and design the property’s website is (still) learning to use other technology in order to support our efforts of gaining more independence and more direct bookings. We’ve also sharpened our handyman skills including rock work, electrical, carpentry, caulking, painting, landscaping, and more!
Anything coming up in the next year that will be new or different with the cabin?
We will continue deck upgrades in 2023 with new composite decking and modern guardrails on all three decks. Our wish list includes: upgrading to mini-split system for air conditioning and eliminating the window units. We also want to do more outdoor rock work, updating the aesthetic of the lower level design, and updating the bathrooms.
Peter is really excited about cutting a walking trail through the rhododendron forest along the property perimeter. Both of us are looking forward to enhancing the overall guest experience with continued improvements to the property, enhanced website features and social media networking. We are also looking forward to increased bookings in 2023 with more returning guests and a referral system in place
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own rental or Airbnb?
There is much more to it then it seems and prepare for lots of hard work! Find a unique place that embraces the surroundings and learn about other properties in the local market.
Do you or did you work with or source from any local vendors?
We’ve partnered with Hatchet Coffee to sell directly to guests that may want to try a local coffee brew. Our family loves to gift local food items to guests such as locally made apple (or pumpkin) butter and crackers.