Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cabin Update

A while back, I mentioned we're in the process of buying our lake cabin. Our summers of lake adventures have evolved over the years (way back when we had a boat slip on Lake Minnetonka in the Twin Cities, to our first cabin rental experience in Crosslake, Minnesota and the last three years spent near Turtle Lake, Wisconsin) and one thing Andi and I are sure of is that there's no place else we'd rather spend our free time. Life at the lake feeds our souls. It's a calm retreat for Andi after a hard week's work and the backdrop for so many of our favorite memories together. 

Renting a lake place has been a great way for Andi and I to "test the waters" and decide how we like to spend our precious summer weekends. Are we even cabin people? (Answer: Yes! But not everyone enjoys that lifestyle). Our tastes have changed over the years -- from cabin life with friends, playing late night drinking games and beer bongs on the boat ... to family time, building sandcastles on the beach and lake time coordinated around kid(s) schedules -- and through all of those experiences, we are more sure than ever that cabin life is a big priority for us. Renting has shown us what type of cabin / property lot layout we like best, allowed us to experience cabin life during the "off peak" seasons to see if we'd still get our money's worth and tested what distance from the Cities is "just far enough" to still feel like a vacation without requiring us to be in the car all weekend.

We're getting a deal on our current cabin digs and fortunate it has heat/air, enough space to grow, a sandy beach front and so much more. After renting the pre-furnished cabin for the last three years, one thing we're excited to do is make it our own space. Andi and I spend our weekends there in a constant daydream about what we'll do first and how we see the space evolving with our family as the years progress. Obviously we can't afford to make all of our ideas a reality at once, so we're researching and prioritizing. The good news is, the cabin is perfectly acceptable "as is" so there's no rush to complete our dreams today. Though, knowing Andi and I's personalities, it'll be hard not to complete ALL THE THINGS in one felt swoop.

The entire cabin is knotty pine and it's a lot. We like it. It feel cabin-y, but whoa. There's a lot of monotone wood in that place. Any change we make will be fairly permanent and costly, so Andi hired an interior design graduate from a local art institute to provide some expertise with little cost commitment. Just someone to say, "yeah, you're on the right track ... or no, that's a terrible idea." Great thought, right? 

OMG. What a train wreck that lady was.

The (highly recommended by her professor) design graduate showed up at the cabin six hours late for our consult a few weeks ago. She and Andi previously agreed she'd visit, measure and take professional-grade photos of everything, listen to our ideas and provide her opinion in a professional document for one low price. In all actuality, she showed up without a single piece of paper or design examples, only a smart phone in hand to take pictures and had the grand idea of "black-washing" all the walls black. In fact, that was her only input. Um, no. Somehow, two weeks later, she was able to produce a representable document which illustrated some of our ideas (listed below) so at least we have something professional as a starting base. Mostly though, it's just Andi and I's grand vision with the assistance of Pinterest.

First up on our "big dreams" list is to renovate the kitchen. It's fully-functional now, but dated very 90's. We'd like to add granite counter tops, a slate floor (to break up all the knotty pine elsewhere), paint the existing cabinets white, replace appliances with stainless steel and add a dishwasher, add a contrasting black splash for a pop of color and perhaps replace the island to make it a bigger breakfast bar with more storage underneath.

Current kitchen

Back splash inspiration / granite counter tops / white cabinets

Also on our "big dreams" list is to add a three-season porch in place of the existing lake-side deck. Bugs are fun-haters in the summertime and it'd be great to have a place to sit and enjoy the outdoors without dowsing our yard or our bodies in bug killer. One thing the cabin is lacking currently is a great place for family dinners (there's only a small breakfast nook in the kitchen / living area now and the outdoor patio table we added this year). Our big dream for the three-season porch would include a big dining table, fireplace, maybe a hanging bed swing or comfy furniture on one end and perhaps a little reading nook above. The walls facing the lake aren't load-bearing, so in the process we'd make most of exterior wall windows to capitalize on the amazing view. We'd also add some stone pillars on the patio frame to add contrast to the exterior.

Current breakfast nook with outdoor deck in background 

Current outdoor deck

Three-season porch inspiration

One topic Andi and I go back and forth about is whether to leave the knotty pine walls as they are. Options would be to paint the knotty pine white (or white-wash finish), or sheet rock over some of the wood and paint the sheet rock to give contrast. We wonder if making other changes (updated kitchen, three-season porch, adding our own decor / frames, etc.) will make enough of a contrast to leave the yellow-y knotty pine as is. Ask anyone over the age of 40 (our parents, extended family, etc.) and they all say painting wood is a downright tragedy. We don't love the idea of painting the pine either, but there's a lot of the same wood color everywhere. Our current plan is to add our own decor and move forward with the kitchen remodel, then see how that changes things.

Current upstairs living room

White-washed / painted white wooden walls

One last idea is to make the downstairs living area a "kids quarters." There's a bedroom, bathroom and utility room down there currently, and we'd like to convert these giant storage closets into bunks for more sleeping accommodations. I'm also thinking comfy carpet and furniture so the kids can play down here with their friends, have sleepovers, etc.

Existing downstairs area with two large storage closets on back wall
Built-in bunks

Of course, we'd like to update the floors and furniture all throughout the cabin, but with small children it doesn't seem like the brightest idea to conquer at the moment. (Said as Tory wipes her yogurt-covered hands all over our existing couch...).

It's a big daunting to think ahead to all the changes we want to make (and all the money it'll cost), but I also know how much we use and enjoy this space. After we officially own the cabin in October, we'll start by adding our own decoration. It'd be great to tackle one big project (maybe the kitchen?) in winter 2013 / spring 2014 before the peak summer season arrives next year and then see how things unfold from there.


  1. Wow, the pictures you've found for inspiration are gorgeous! I'll be excited to see what happens over the next few years to this space!

  2. Maybe I'm too close to 40 because I wouldn't paint the wood either.

  3. My last house had a lot of wood walls and I didn't hesitate to paint them white. It made a huge difference and brightened up the house. I'm not one to usually paint wood (over 40 demographic here), but it was worth it for me.

  4. There are definitely different levels of painting wood - I think entire whole walls of wood paneling? Yes, paint away!! I love beautiful wood trim but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing!! My parents cabin in the upstairs has the top half regular walls and bottom half knotty pine, with dark-ish tile floors and I think that looks really nice.

    I love the idea of turning the deck into a covered porch type place. I hate bugs.

  5. Pine? Uh yes that can be painted, I would not feel bad about that at all. I would maybe leave an accent wall here and there to remind you that you are in a cabin but I would cover most of it up...good luck with your plans!

  6. Congrats on the big step to owning your cabin!

    Can't wait to see all the decorating changes you come up with. The bunk bed idea is really cool.