Monday, November 10, 2014

Our Cabin Make-Over - Renovation Hit List and "Before" Photos

Remodeling is complete at our lake cabin, and I'm excited to share the final results! This process was an interesting journey in patience, planning and creativity for Andi and I as it was our first time renovating a property together. Fortunately, we both have similar style preferences and I'd like to believe we make a great team, so design decisions came easily once we got the ball rolling. Thanks to Andi's legit project management skills, we were able to completely transform the interior of our lake cabin in as little as 60 days.

First, some back-story on the history of this cabin and why we chose to renovate. Andi and I purchased our Wisconsin lake cabin in October 2013 after renting the place for three years. The cabin came fully furnished and while renting, we never made any interior or exterior changes. The second after we bought it, however, the faucet of complaints opened and suddenly all the things Andi and I disliked about the cabin over the years came flooding out. Some changes were minor, such as window coverings and wall decor, and those things were remedied quickly. Other things like the monotone color of the walls and outdated kitchen weren't so easy to change.

The cabin's interior is a beautiful knotty pine wood. Knotty pine everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The walls, ceilings, doors, cabinetry and furniture were all the same color of blonde wood. Personally, Andi and I are bigger fans of dark wood, so the golden knotty pine wasn't exactly in line with our style. After much discussion about why we didn't love the wood, it finally dawned on us: everything inside the cabin was so the same that nothing was different.

So began our plan to change to change the interior knotty pine wood to meet our design style. Initially, we thought about painting the wood, even some of it, but painting perfectly good wood is basically like sinning in some people's books (i.e.: our parents, friends, family). We hired two interior designers for guidance and inspiration, but neither had any ideas that met our vision.

Andi and I continued to toss around ideas, and scour websites like Pinterest and Houzz for inspiration. We considered white-washing the walls, but couldn't due to the grade of knotty pine wood. We considered sheet rocking and painting some walls while leaving others as wood, or taking down the knotty-pine wood walls all together (seriously) and completely starting over. Neither Andi or I loved the monotone golden knotty-pine color, that we knew for sure, but we also wanted the cabin to keep its rustic feel by not modernizing the interior too much.

We made updates to the patio and backyard our focus in spring 2014, as summer approached and we knew we'd be spending the bulk of our cabin time outdoors. In fall 2014, Andi and I decided to tackle renovating the cabin's upstairs and middle-level, keeping the lower-level basement "as is" for now with future plans to transform it into a kids hang-out area when Tory and Aden are older.

This is the cabin's kitchen as it looked in June 2013, BEFORE removal of the old decor, dated window coverings or any of our renovation work:
(Kitchen - June 2013)
We love to entertain friends and family at the lake cabin with big meals around the table. One nuisance was the small breakfast nook / table left behind by the original owners. It seated six adults at maximum, and that was with everyone sandwiched together elbow-to-elbow. The people who sat in the corner of the table were stuck in one spot the entire meal, or else the people on the outside of the table had to get up and let the inside person out. It wasn't very convenient for parents with kids who are up and down a million times during a meal. (Oh, hey, that's us!)

(Dining area opposite the kitchen - June 2013)
The breakfast nook / table was on Andi and I's short list of items to remove during the renovation. We were certain it was affixed to the wall as it matched the golden color of the knotty-pine walls and ceilings perfectly. Fortunately for us, the table was removable. Unfortunately for us, there was a giant faded sun spot left behind in the exact shape of where the table had been.

In fact, faded sun spots throughout the cabin were a huge obstacle in our renovation. Everywhere there was an existing frame or shelf hung on the wall, or a piece of stationary furniture such as the dining room table, there were faded sun spots behind it.

Three guesses what these sun spots used to be as part of the original cabin decor ...

Answer: a picture frame and a mounted deer head.

This faded sun spot by the front door? ...

Answer: a wooden shelf, a moose decoration and a "welcome" sign  

See what I mean? Keep the original decor forever, or find a creative way to cover or remove the sun spots all together. Andi and I chose to cover and/or remove. So, solving the faded sun spot issue in the cabin's interior was high on our renovation to-do list.

Another renovation goal was to change the focal point of the living room. There's an absolutely gorgeous lake outside our cabin's windows and And and I wanted to see it - always. The original layout of the living room focused on the built-in entertainment center, and there were limited ways to arrange the furniture without further obstructing the view of the lake. Our family rarely watches television at the cabin, so the built-in shelving in the living room basically served as toy storage for the kids. Eliminating the built-in shelving and repositioning the living room furniture so the focal point is the lake was added to our renovation list.

(Upstairs Living Room - June 2013)
And, finally, in the upstairs level - the bathroom. Originally, Andi and I planned to leave the bathroom "as is" for cost-saving purposes and update it later. It wasn't that we liked the look of the bathroom - oh, I held a special distaste for the hexagonal-shaped shower - but it felt as if there were too many other projects to tackle. And, having never gone through a housing remodel before, we worried about digging ourselves too deep. But, near the end of our remodeling process, we decided to update the upstairs bathroom. It would've seemed funny to have a completely modern cabin, with every other room on the upper level renovated, except for that room.

The middle-level of the cabin is home to the bar area and Tory and Aden's bedrooms. (I wrote more back-story on why the cabin is built in three levels here.) Aside from the bedrooms, it's mostly a pass-through area for us with doors connecting to the garage and to the backyard on each side of the room. The garage is our most-used entrance point into the cabin, so imagine wet boots and snowmobiling gear piled on the floor in the wintertime and wet feet passing through on their way to and from the lake during the summer.

(Middle-level bar area / bedrooms - June 2013)
There also used to e a giant brown bear mounted in the corner of this room. The original cabin owners reclaimed the bear as part of their seller's agreement in October 2013, which left behind a patch of mis-matched carpeting where the animal mount cabinet used to be. So, Andi and I added "update middle-level flooring" to our cabin renovation to-do list.

(Mis-matched carpeting after bear removal - November 2013)

By proxy, the entry-way of the cabin also needed updated. It's a small landing with stairs that connects the upstairs to the middle-level bar area and to the downstairs basement. The front door of the cabin is located here, as well as a door to the backyard, but neither were used much. The front door handle was broken (either that, or it was hard to unlock) and the back door to the lake side felt like it led to nowhere. We remedied that problem when we added a new walk-out patio in the backyard during the summer of 2014, so Andi and I also planned to buy a new front door during the remodeling process and make the front door the true entrance point of the cabin for guests.  

(Entry-way landing - June 2013)

(Entry-way landing, just before construction - September 2014) 

Did I mention the Christmas tree stairwell posts? Those were slated for demolition, too.

So, essentially, Andi and I planned to remodel 3/4 of our lake cabin. We hired a local contractor, explained our vision, and he set to work while Andi managed the entire process. Two months later, our lake cabin is everything we always dreamed it to be. I can't wait to share the final results and updated photographs. Stay tuned!  


  1. Wow. You really weren't kidding when you said the knotty pine was EVERYWHERE. Can't wait to see the after shots!

  2. Oh my gosh, I'm soooo excited to see the final result! And I'm in shock that it was a total transformation in 60 days. My husband and I do several flips a year and that's pretty excellent timing for a gut, for sure!
    Also, the faded moose cracks me up, hahaha!

  3. I can't wait to see the result! I'm so jealous (in a good way, not a green-eyed envy sort of way) of your lake house. Such a wonderful place for your kids to grow up.

  4. Can't wait to see what it looks like now! Not gonna lie, I've been scanning the background of your (and Andi's) instagram posts for clues :)

  5. A sea of blonde. I draw the line at bears in the house...BUT you should have kept the moose imprint ha. Just frame that particular spot =) So that was a nice cliffhanger. Mean. Sharing soon?

  6. Wow! Your cabin looks nice before, and I can only imagine how spectacular it'll look now with the renovations finished. I'm so excited to see the after pictures. The sun spots look funny, but they really have to go. Hahaha! Kudos to you guys for doing such a great job! Thanks for sharing and until the next update!

    Fred Richards @ SGK Home Solutions

  7. I can't wait to see what you did! Those sun spots - oh my gosh - yup I understand why they needed go or be covered..... And 60 days is pretty impressive!