Carving wood is among the oldest human endeavors in history. While our ancestors may have started with practical efforts like the Clacton Spear, people have been carving wood to decorate their huts and their castles for centuries. Whether simple or complex, large or small, wood carvings tell a story, reflect the taste, traditions and interests of the people who live in the home and add texture and feeling to a rustic structure.

Wood carvings are particularly well suited to cabins, where wood is already a major element, inside and out. The woodsy nature of many cabins and their surroundings can also be a challenge, though, says general contractor Robbin Obomsawin, co-owner with her husband, Jules, of Beaver Creek Log Homes in Oneida, N.Y., and author of “The Not So Log Cabin.”

Wood carving for cabin

Overdoing wood carvings, or even a quirky log as a decorative element in a cabin that’s already literally stacked to the rafters with wood, can be overwhelming. “If you have straight logs everywhere and then have one funky log, that can have great impact,” she says. “But when you start getting 20 or 30 wood elements in a structure, it can become chaos.”

Wood carving for cabin

See also Reclaimed Pallet Wood

The way to ensure that wood elements like carvings add interest and depth to your décor is to be sure the scale is right, according to Obomsawin. If a carving is too small, it can get lost, while if it’s too big, especially in a smaller cabin, it can feel like too much. “Even really simple things can get oversized and bulky and almost a little ‘Fred Flinstone-ish,’ which isn’t good unless that’s what you want,” she says. “There are so many things that can affect that, including how it’s going to flow in the house.”

Some people are naturally good at figuring that out, our experts say, but an interior designer or architect could help you figure out how to employ wood carvings, whether inside or outside. Indoors, a carving like those from StairMeïster Log Works in Ft. Lupton, Colo., can be a nice accent to a staircase or fireplace.

Wood carving for cabin

“Typically, in the house, entryways or interior posts are spots that might need a little bit of highlight,” says Matt Enderle, CEO of Extreme Interiors International in McGregor, Minn., who has carved large eagles and other figures for homes he’s built. “If you have a big ‘plain Jane’ post in the middle of the house, build a dolphin in it if you’re by the coast, whatever fits the area. It’s a preference thing.”

Wood carving for cabin

See also Thrifty DIY Cabin Decor

Outside, large carved wood elements can help set off an outdoor eating or garden area. Obomsawin and Enderle suggest looking through magazines and on the Internet to find ideas. “One of the best guidelines for me as a general contractor is when clients save magazine or book photos,” Obomsawin says. “Even if it might not fit their house, it gives me an idea of their interest and taste, and I can understand what they’re trying to achieve.”