The Cromwell couple turn their childhood home into an Airbnb – Up News Info

CROMWELL — Derek Nyberg stands in what was once his parents’ bedroom.

“My mother painted the hearts by hand; I had to leave it,” he says of the crown molding embellishments. “My dad did the scroll work with a salad plate.”

Nyberg bought her childhood home from her parents in 2016 and, along with her partner, Brandon Eilers, transformed it into the lush Northwoods rental it is today.

Nyberg’s father and grandfather built the three-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin in 1974 using cedar and pine from nearby woodlands. An 80-foot bridge connects the cabin from the mainland to a cottage on a private island – the fruit of Nyberg’s imagination and the family’s building skills.

In addition to a den and a sauna, the basement of Derek Nyberg’s Airbnb offers a bar and one of the three bedrooms in the house.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Airbnb rentals have been a “super lucrative” business during the pandemic, Nyberg said.

His family owns the land and its surrounding acres, a credit to Nyberg’s grandmother, Ebba Hedin.

She started the town’s assisted living center, lobbied for rural health care laws and helped build Cromwell while raising five children and milking cows at 4 a.m. It’s his entrepreneurial spirit that runs through the family, Nyberg added.

Nyberg’s parents have been together since second grade and he met his partner 10 years ago. “We’re both gay in the Northwoods,” Nyberg said with a laugh.

Cromwell's hut.
The Cromwell Airbnb’s lanai overlooks the property’s backyard, including a pond with a bridge and an island with a small cabin.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Although it’s a team effort on design and structural ideas, Eilers seems to be taking the lead on cabin styling details inside and out.

The ground floor has a stone fireplace.

A mounted bird, permanently in full flight, hangs from one side. On the other: a horizontal design in warm hues emerges through a deer silhouette. Mustard yellow textile upholstery and a bright turquoise TV cabinet rest beneath a mud-colored pastoral paint.

They change art often and being in their space draws attention to colors, textures and memory. “Cabin photos juxtaposed with globes and world maps make you think of home and travel,” Eilers said.

A custom painted antique table sits comfortably against the wall in the breakfast nook facing the granite counters in the full kitchen.

Nyberg’s father built the adjacent sunroom after Nyberg and his two brothers graduated from high school.

Cromwell's hut.
Derek Nyberg talks to a visitor in the living room of his childhood home on Sunday. The house is available for rent on Airbnb.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

In this one, a piece from the modern West Elm furniture store and an old cattle feeder serve as supports for an array of succulents. Backyard trees reflect off the glass dining set, and detail abounds in lamps filled with vintage wooden spools and a rusty yellow bin that reads “cookies in the sun.”

There are two saunas, a rain shower, and a vanity cast in bronze and made from 112-year-old wood salvaged from grain elevators.

“It was a testing ground for us because we knew we were going to flip our lake house,” Eilers said of their current home miles from the cabin.

Cromwell's hut.
The cabin on the island offers a relaxing retreat.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Although they changed a lot, there are still original pieces in the framed ticket stubs of Nyberg’s travels; bedside tables from his mother’s youth in a bedroom; and in the living room, a handwritten flag for “TrailWays,” an annual treetop amusement park built by Nyberg and his cousins.

Eilers playfully relayed his partner’s family traditions as “a bossy 10-year-old boy” and “a mean Cecil B. Demille director” while working on the project — which Nyberg smiled at, not refuting.

The basement has a chic, metropolitan vibe that gives visitors the feeling of stepping into a different world. They gutted it and added a speakeasy bar and custom cabinetry to reveal deep blue walls and rich camel-colored oak ceiling panels.

Cromwell's hut.
A four-poster bed sits in one of Airbnb’s three bedrooms.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

The power of the basement palette is offset by illumination from recessed lighting and antique sconces that surround the bar display.

“Lighting fixtures, to me, are the jewels of the house,” Eilers said.

Nyberg moved a shelf wall to reveal a hidden compartment. “It’s to hide your electricity,” he said.

And that’s not all.

A ‘secret’ door near the open staircase leads to the sauna and the lower chamber. Slide out another wall panel to access a wide egress window or to store the wall-mounted smart TV.

Cromwell's hut.
A cast bronze sink in a bathroom.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Family encyclopedias, Grandma Ebba’s Bible, games, puzzles, and little pieces in a small toy truck, a vase, and a heart-shaped musical jewelry box line the walls of the library.

“We really learned during the pandemic that your home is the only place you have. It should be a place to take refuge, not just a place to go,” Eilers said.

People come from Kansas, Switzerland, and the Twin Cities to bird watch, cross-country ski, and explore the Sax-Zim bog. Some come for marriage proposals, creative projects, and good old-fashioned R&R.

The only constant is the torque approach. “They’re not tenants, they’re guests in your home,” Eilers said.

Cromwell's hut.
Much of the Airbnb is decorated in a Northland pattern.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Laura Stearns, from Minneapolis, stays at Airbnbs across the Midwest, and this ranks in her top three. “You can see how much they love the property how much they’re getting into it,” she said.

While there, Stearns slept in the basement bedroom and worked on her book on the veranda, while a revolving door of friends and family kept her company.

“My goal was to write more challenging parts of the book, and I wanted to do that in a space where I felt really good. It exceeded my expectations,” she said.

Nyberg often shares photos of guestbook reviews and screenshots of Airbnb reviews with her mother, who appreciates that their family home is well loved and welcomed.

Sharing space is very important, Nyberg said. “Grandmother Ebba anchored in us, you share the time, the energy, the talents and the spaces that you have.”

Cromwell's hut.
Derek Nyberg’s childhood home sits among the trees north of Minnesota’s 210 freeway.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

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