May 29, 2014

Lighting the Cabin

In a reno there are a lot of huge projects.  Building walls, adding doors, laying new flooring.  There's also super labor intensive projects like striping wallpaper, scraping ceilings and finishing furniture.  But sometimes, it's the little projects that make a huge difference.  Like lighting.  Glorious lighting.

This new Dining Room light is a game changer, and it took only about 30 minutes to install.  It says rustic, but it says modern.  And I'm in love with it.

I had been eying up similar versions at Ballard Designs and Pottery Barn, both of which were definitely out of this Little-Cabin-That-Could's budget.  And then magically, has my Dad and I were shopping Menard's for supplies, I suggested we run through the lighting department quick, and this beauty was hanging with sale tag on it for just $109.  The perfect size.  The perfect budget.  I couldn't contain my excitement.

You might be noticing another fun upgrade- the new Dining Room table.  Our extended family recently sold the big family cabin that both my Mom and I grew up spending our summers and holidays at.  This table stood as a gathering point there for decades.  We were thrilled to bring this beautiful piece over to our cabin to bring on generations of more meals, board games and memories. 


But that's not all- the pendants got an upgrade too!

 This pair from Lowe's are the perfect compliment to the dining table light.  Enough similarity to draw them together, but enough difference to make them unique in their own way.

But that's still not all.  Remember this bare bulb I left you with in the kitchen?


This light is also from the Allen and Roth collection at Lowe's, which I've come to love for their modern styles and low prices.  I touched up the paint on the ceiling and put a first coat on the window, but I'm definitely going to need at least another coat of paint.  Try to envision this though with the paint done, and a beautiful apron front sink actually centered below the window.  It's going to be amazing.

Back in our new Entryway/Dining Room, I'm just so thrilled with how everything is coming together.  I still need to hang some pieces to the right of the bench to fill up that empty wall where the door swings open. 

But let's look at my favorite part- the before and afters.

Move In Day
Add the Bedroom
Add the door, lighting and table

Huzzah for progress!  I'll be staring at these photos non-stop until we can get up North again and back to work!

May 23, 2014

Door Updates

There's one thing I didn't mention in the last post about our new front door.  Can you spot it?

Let me give you a hint.

We have a "new" floor.  During the demo of our exterior wall, we noticed that there was an interesting, blue painted wood floor below our carpet.  We're fairly certain that this side of the cabin used to be an exterior porch of some sort, and these painted blue floors match some of the painted blue window frames we found in the wall.  So we pulled up a little of the carpet, and before we knew it, we had adios'ed the whole thing.

While this cute, rustic blue wood floor is really fun and achieves that vibe we're looking for, unfortunately I don't think we'll be able to keep it.  This flooring is only under the Entryway and the Dining Room, not the Kitchen and the Living Room that connects to it.  Plus, the Kitchen has 2 layers of linoleum, one of which we've confirmed is asbestos, so we can't pull it up and disturb it.  Which means our best bet is to lay new flooring over the top of all of it, making it one cohesive space like our plan below.

But in the mean time, it's a fun element to add to the room.  And it certainly makes meal time clean up with a toddler easier not to have carpet under the table.

Then things started to look even better after a coat of primer on the paneling.  So fresh and so clean, clean!

I cut and painted the trim out in the garage while I applied coats 1 & 2 of paint to the walls.  The next morning I attached the trim and touched up the nail holes.  And then I did a happy dance.

I'm so excited about how this space turned out.  There is more than enough room to enter and take off your coat without crowding the table.  Even though there is still a lot to do, the space is finally starting to take shape.

I keep catching myself looking at the photos on my phone.  All times of the day.  I can't get enough.  I'm excited to get back up there and give some more love to this little cabin that could.  I hope you all have a great holiday weekend too!

May 21, 2014

Make Room for A Door

Not long after getting our new entry way bench set in it's new home:

We started to get this nagging feeling.  The "You know what would be better?  If there was an actual entryway..." feeling.  And then the Hubs went and did this.

That's his, "What?  Me?" face?  No turning back now.  I guess it's time to make room for the new door.  After a few minutes of demo we discovered that this wall would put up a little more of a fight than we intended.  It had a crazy collection of studs and wires secretly enclosed within it.

Boo for home improvement surprises.  You never know what you're going to find lurking behind the walls, but for the record, this is what you don't want to see.  Which means in order to get it re-framed, we had to open up a little more of the wall than we intended.  Good thing it was a nice day out.

Don't worry, those electrical lines look menacing, but they're all dead and harmless. 

And so the rest of the day became: Operation Close the Wall Back Up So Wildlife Can't Enter Our Cabin While We're Sleeping.  I'm not going to lie- it was one of those soul crushing DIY days when the project is way more intense and complicated than you signed up for.  But what did we expect?  We were cutting a hole in the side of our house.

For those of you interested in the Cabin's new side entrance, let me explain.  Main door is currently very understated and located at the far left side of the cabin.  Besides the sidewalk and steps that lead to it, there's not much happening here, and it's pretty off balance.

In fact, the original entrance to the home was actually located in the center of the home.  See that door shaped trim located between the two center windows? 

We are guessing that the front door was moved when the far left of the house was converted from a porch to interior space that was then the Dining Room and Den, and is now our Dining Room and Third Bedroom.  The current door just feels like an after thought.  But after 2 days of hard work (and one night of boarding the hole shut because we hadn't finished yet), our main entrance looks like it's always belonged here in it's new home:

Pretty awesome- huh?  Just imagine it with a perfectly pitched portico over it, a set of steps on the right side leading up to the door and a deck that extends to the left side, and meets up with the deck on the lake side of the house.  If you can't envision it yet, don't worry, I can and it will look amazing!

Here it is all closed off back on the inside. 

Obviously we have work to do with paint and trim, but we were ready to call it a weekend, so instead we choose to sit around the fire and enjoy the warm spring day.  After a rough first day, we needed a quick and easy victory on day two, so it was nice to regroup and just spend some time enjoying the weather.  We're making so much progress so quickly, but I always try to remember to take a break and enjoy as well.   This cabin is supposed to be a relaxing getaway after all.  Well... eventually.

May 12, 2014

Tips for Wood Finishing and Staining

I have to tell you, my LEAST favorite part about building furniture is finishing it.  You have this beautiful, raw wood piece you've worked hard on, and the ability to majorly screw it up.  I've learned from a few projects that taking your time in the finishing is key to a good piece.  Which requires patience, which I don't have.... I'm working on it.

I started with a day of wood fill and sanding.  Here's my Tip #1- don't plan to stain in the same session you sand.  I've found when I do this I'm anxious to get moving with the staining, and I don't take the time to sand as well as I should.  Instead, I plan on an entire session of sanding, and come back to the piece the next day to stain.  For this piece I spent nearly 2 full hours filling and sanding, and it was totally worth it.

Wood fill goes in all of your nail holes, as well as the joints where 2 pieces of wood come together and leave a little gap.

I sanded every little surface until the wood felt like silk under my fingertips.  The kiddos were sleeping, it was a warm spring day, the radio was on... it was actually pretty cathartic.  I paid close attention to the seams were 2 pieces of wood united.

And gave a soft edge to my grid pieces on the back.

In the end it was beautiful, and I was still afraid to stain it, so I walked away and returned to finish it the next day.  Of course I found more areas to sand on day 2, but that only took about 15 minutes, and then I was ready to stain it.

Here's my Tip #2- use a soft bristled brush on a vacuum to completely remove all the excess sawdust from the piece.  Microfiber cloths work okay, but still leave dust behind.  The soft brush on a vacuum is a game changer. 

After the piece was clean I used a prestain to make sure the stain adheres evenly.  Tip #3 - never skip the prestain with soft woods like pine, maple and birch.  You'll always regret it.  It goes on quickly and easily like water.  You can see the inside of the square on the bottom right and the seat don't have prestain yet in the picture below, but the rest of the piece does.

Tip #4- Test your stain on a scrap of your wood to get the exact color sample.  I couldn't decide between Jacobean and Dark Walnut, so I tried each on the same piece.  I was leaning toward Jaccobean on the left:

Tip #5- Don't just test your wood piece, let it dry to confirm you still like the color when it's fully dry.  Once dry I realized that I liked the warmth of Dark Walnut much better. 

Tip #6- Don't skimp on the tools and materials.  Could you stain with your bare hand and rags?  Sure- but it would be a mess.  Invest the couple of bucks on a package of gloves and lint free wiping cloths and save yourself the hassle.

I started with what I thought would be the hard part, the inside of the cubbies.  Using a foam brush I stained the top, the back, the slides and finally the bottom, in that order, for each of the 3 cubbies.  I kept a good eye on time and after about 20 minutes of letting an area sit with stain I went back to wipe off any access stain with my clean cloth.

It took me about an hour and a half to finish the first coat, and I wasn't thrilled with what I saw.

Even with my prestain the first coat was pretty blotchy, but I remained calm and put a second coat on the next evening. (Day 3)

Which was better, but I needed a third coat the next day. (Day 4)

It's hard to tell in these late night garage photos, but the piece definitely needed a forth coat on Day 5.

Finally after four coats and 6 total hours of stain application, I had the perfect color.

But even worse than staining comes the next part- the poly.  I hate poly because it has the ability to totally ruin the look of your piece, but if done right you don't even notice it at all.  Which means you spend a whole lot of time for little-to-no visual result.  But it's definitely worth it to keep your piece nice for the long haul.   I spent another 4 days and 6 total hours applying 4 coats of waterbased poly.  I actually used the leftover can of my floor finish that I used on our new wood stairs project.  I love this stuff- it's odor free, goes on smooth and crystal clear.  I'm hoping the high traffic formula will keep this piece looking great after years of wet boots and jackets. 

Tip #7- Between coats of poly I rubbed the entire piece with #0000 steel wool until it was silky smooth again, and used my vacuum brush to remove all the dust.  I never "lightly sand" as some instructions say, as it has the risk of ruining your finish. I find with steel wool you get all the smoothing, with a lot less risk.  After the 4th and final coat was dry, I could finally apply my coat hooks.

It was a dark night out in the garage though, so here's what it really looks like, up at the cabin in all it's glory:

I found the wire basket at the Container Store, and I love it!  Not only is it the perfect size, but it has the rustic look I'm going for.  The plan is to use the basket for flip flops and toddler shoes, while the other open cubbies can hold other full size adult shoes to get them up and out of the entry way.  The felt pillow is from Target.

I am so happy with how this piece turned out.  I took my time and agonized over every detail, and I think it really paid off.  I'm hoping this piece stands as an heirloom in our family cabin for generations to come.  When I get a little sappy, I imagine my grand kids some day taking off their shoes on the bench that grandma built.  That's how I want this cabin to feel, warm and full of stories and memories.  And that's the best part of remodeling this place ourselves- we're making memories every weekend.