Before and After: This Cabin Remodel Is a Cautionary Tale

(Image credit: Ayanna Barton)

This cottage had so much going for it—charm, manageable size, outdoor amenities galore—but needed quite a bit of work. The entire retreat has been renovated, but the treatment given to the formerly nondescript floors deserves special attention, and might be the owner’s one regret.

Let’s learn a bit more about the challenges—and advantages—this cabin presented:

I found this little cottage/cabin in Kerhonkson at the end of 2017. I kept procrastinating on purchasing because it was not something that I had planned on at all. I loved the grounds. With the tennis court, pool and hot tub, it’s a complete retreat. With so much to offer, there really is no need to leave the property once you are settled. Additionally, I really liked that the cabin is small. I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with the prospect of renovating the house on my own because I knew I could handle the upgrades by myself.

I knew right away that I was going to change the feel of the cottage. I knew that white paint would brighten up the entire place and make it feel a lot bigger than it actually is.

If you’re not a fan of white-paint renovations, stick with me: This is decidedly not a minimal makeover.

(Image credit: Ayanna Barton)

Reader Ayanna Barton has completely, utterly, totally changed the aesthetic of this space. She did such a good job highlighting the pink and blue touches in the wallpaper by adding a pink rug and blue chairs.

(Image credit: Ayanna Barton)

If you look very closely, you can see that the throw pillows on the sofa in the other room are patterned with tropical leaves in a more muted palette, which is an amazing (and low-commitment) way to link the two spaces. I’m pleased to hear Ayanna thinks the renovation results are as fun as I do:

I love everything about the cabin. It has such a warm and cozy feeling. Sunrises and sunsets are amazing from the deck. It’s the perfect size for a single person/couple or a small group of people. The loft space is fun place to sleep and it’s surprisingly comfortable and safe. The fireplace makes for a perfect winter evening. We enjoy using the fire pit, playing tennis, or going for a private hike on the property.

My favorite room by far is the dining room. The large window and glass sliding door along with the leaf wallpaper and mirror gives the illusion of eating outside. As well, the kitchen, thou small is well appointed. It’s the perfect compact size with full size appliances to do major cooking.

I have to be honest, if I would have foreseen the painted floors not holding out at all, I would have bitten the bullet and spent the money on new tile floors. I was hoping to have the painted floors last me at least a year. However, at this rate, I will have to install tile floors before the winter. That’s my biggest regret and the pool needing to be refilled twice because of a hole in the old liner! That hurt my pockets a lot.

(Image credit: Ayanna Barton)

This is a good look at the floor that Ayanna had to deal with—as well as the original color palette. Here are all the steps it took to go from this to… well, you’ll see below:

Regarding repairing the house, right away I painted all the walls bright white. With the help of my sister and niece, I was able to finish painting the entire cabin in about two separate weekend trips. After painting the cabin, I hired someone to install the bamboo floors and install new light fixtures throughout the cottage. I painted the cabinets in the kitchen and changed all the knobs.

The biggest DIY project was painting the tile floors in the kitchen, dining room and bathroom. It took me about four straight weekends to finish those floors. It came out amazing but it was a lot of hard work. First, I cleaned the floors thoroughly and sanded the tiles to rough them up to help absorb the paint. I painted the floors white about four coats of basement concrete white paint. Then I started the stenciling (insert stress emoji). That took me a very long time. After the first weekend, I found a system to move along more quickly which made a big difference (I bought a small fan and multiple stencils). Stenciling the corners was a whole different beast. The level of stress was painful by the end! All I can say is I pushed through it and listened to the entire “Criminal” podcast while stenciling. Once I finished painting and stenciling the floors, I sealed it with a concrete sealer.

Honestly, I would not recommend stenciling floors. They look amazing but do not hold up well at all over time. I do understand that the kitchen and bathroom are high traffic rooms so they’re probably not the best place to paint floors. However, I can’t see painted tile floors lasting a long time at all no matter the room.

I installed the wallpaper on the dining room wall, which came out amazingly. I debated installing the mirrors which I had already purchased because the wallpaper ending up looking really nice on its own. I am glad that I kept with my original plan and installed the mirrors. It makes the dining room feel bigger and has a really nice effect in person. I also had to hire someone to repair the deck and landscape the grounds. As well, I had someone repair the shed which had the biggest spiders I’ve ever seen in my life. Even though they are gone, I’m still a little nervous going in there!

(Image credit: Ayanna Barton)

Ayanna’s reservations aside, the kitchen floor looks wonderful with the wood shelves and white walls. (And if any of you have discovered ways to make painted floors hold up even with heavy use, please share in the comments.) The flooring does a good job unifying the more glam, tropical feel of the dining room with the more cottage-chic look of the kitchen (keep scrolling for a full kitchen shot); and the art on the right cleverly helps too.

Here’s the detailed renovation budget:

All in all the outside work cost me a lot more than the inside of the cottage:

Outside: pool, $9,400; deck including power wash, $3,900; shed, $1,500 (including installation, painting, new floors, and walls); power-washing tennis court, $500; gravel for the driveway, $1500; landscaping, $500

Inside: paint, $225; installing floors, $1,450; bamboo floors (I had a credit at Lumber Liquidator), $359 after credit; day with electrician to install lights, $400; light fixtures, $500; wallpaper, $154; plus more money spent on furniture and decorating the house

(Image credit: Ayanna Barton)

Here is the kitchen from the other direction, so you can get a clear look at the rest of the room. The robin’s egg blue paint is beautiful, and so perfect for a sweet little cottage. Before this room was top-to-bottom brown with a bit of a cave-like feel, so the bright white walls, high-contrast floor, and pastel cupboards are a fresh change of pace. I also really enjoy the row of framed art on the left side; it’s a great use of space without feeling obtrusive.

After such a massive undertaking, Ayanna has some encouragement to share:

My word of advice to other homeowners wanting to do a DIY project would be to just do it! If you hate that dated room, floors, wallpapers, whatever, don’t feel discourage by the aspect of money. There’s always a way to do what you envision on a budget and a little sacrifice.

Thank you, Ayanna!

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