Renovating an old, heritage log cabin, DIY style (and inexpensively), isn’t really something I had on my bucket list. Nor did I ever think I’d ever even live in one. But in 2008 when I decided to pack up my son and finally leave the city to pursue my dreams of rural self-sufficient living, our old cabin was sitting there, waiting for us – and almost begging to be brought into the 21st century.
In case you haven’t read the story of our little cabin in the woods, it’s essentially this: back in the mid-to-late 1990s, my dad found an old homesteader’s cabin while exploring the woods adjoining a piece of our family’s property and I was lucky enough to be able to buy it (or what was left of it) and have my dad step in to restore in 1998/1999. At that time, it really was just a cabin, with a roughed in kitchen and no indoor plumbing.
Over the years, it served as a guest house (for visitors OK with sharing the outhouse with spiders!), and later, after a working bathroom was put in, a home for my brother for a few years, and finally a rental. By the time it came for my son and I to call it home, it had been empty for awhile, with bats, weasels and mice living inside, and was in need of a serious renovation. Being the city girl I’d become, I just didn’t see myself living in a rough, or as real estate agents coin it, ‘rustic’, cabin. I wanted some style, some pizzazz, a home that would be featured in a magazine one day.
So we set to work, planning and visioning what it would look like by the time we moved in. And there was a lot of work to do. Paint, new furniture, new draperies and finishings, wood floor refinishing, modernizing the bathroom, and most importantly, a new kitchen.
Here’s what we did.
The original kitchen was never meant to be used full time. It was really rough, and not very serviceable (it had virtually no counter space). As I worked through figuring out how I would put a brand new kitchen into an old log cabin and have it look like it belonged there, without spending a tonne of money, the guy who rents from us to have his carpentry shop on the property came to the rescue!
Mitch is a very talented carpenter and craftsman, and he has some brilliant ideas for reusing materials and building one-of-a-kind furniture and cabinetry. His thought was to design the cabinets so they looked like they’d been there all along – ‘cottage’ style, they call it. So that’s what we – or rather he (I take no credit) – did.
He built all the cabinets from bits and pieces of wood he had in his supply, much of it recycled, and old louvered closet doors. Then he applied many layers of different coloured paints he had lying around – mostly white shades and pale yellows – and finished it all with a rough sanding on edges and surfaces to give it that ‘aged’ look. I think they turned out brilliantly. They not only suit the cabin perfectly, but they didn’t cost much to build.
Finally, he added a custom-made spruce ‘butcher-block’ style countertop to accommodate the antique cast iron sink and drainboard, and the look was complete.