A Cottage Update

We were only a few days away from the start of construction last December when I wrote about a planned one-room addition to our cottage. Then it rained nonstop. It was a miserable winter. Exterior work came to a screeching halt, and we spent the winter working on interior projects instead.

The Kitchen

September 2017: the kitchen and living room had been added onto the cottage in the 70s, and never touched again. It’s really better that way I think. The seller had left the cottage furnished, including a rooster in the kitchen – which you can barely see above the door in the photo below. The paneling had darkened around the rooster over the years, and I put him back in exactly the same spot after the remodel.

October 2018: our initial plan was to put the cottage on the vacation rental circuit for a few years. This picture was taken just before we changed our mind and decided to live here ourselves. The kitchen’s footprint is the same, but it seems larger with the wall fully opened to the living room.

I really loved the look of the kitchen, but it had practical issues. It was difficult to completely conceal the patchwork done to the paneling after closing off the original door and window on the back wall. A marble backsplash hides this world of sins.

The next issue was the appliances. Since the refrigerator was not counter depth, it extended too far into the room. Same problem with the dishwasher – when the door was open it was impossible to move around. The ice cream parlor table and chairs are adorable, but miserably uncomfortable and too small for everyday use.

April 2019: Over the winter, we replaced the standard dishwasher with dishwasher drawers, added the Bosch refrigerator with black glass door panels, switched out the chandelier, and exchanged the rug for a cowhide. We also re-stained the vent hood a shade darker than it had been, changed out the table and chairs, and opted for blinds instead of the ‘all-or-nothing’ shade. I’m on the hunt for swing-arm sconces, and a black stove is on order.

Living Room:

September 2017: the living room was in pretty good shape. I’m not sure the fireplace had even been used. I love all of the wood in this room and the large front window. However, the fireplace isn’t center on the wall, which makes me a little crazy. And the paneling had darkened around the bookshelves leaving an outline of the shelves when they were removed – just like the rooster. Eventually we painted the back wall white, and then re-painted it a pale shade of grey-green this winter. With great hesitation, we painted the fireplace too.

January 2019: We liked the fireplace painted white, but it seemed harsh – almost too white. My husband remembered a container of black glaze in the closet from another project, and we used it over the white. This last step softened the white just enough and allowed more of the brick to show through.

We snapped this picture of Bentley playing with Mr. Boggs in January when the wall was still white and before we experimented with the fireplace.


After four days of excavation last week the rain started again. Dump trucks came one after the other all day every day to export dirt from behind our house to some unknown location nearby. A couple of days into the process I remembered to ask them to leave some of the rocks for landscaping, and now we have a pile of rocks so large we’ll never summon the strength to move them ourselves. The sheer number of these large rocks leave us all convinced there was a rock wall at some time in this land’s past. Otherwise, the only buried treasures were a handful of old bottles and a tire.

By this time next week, we hope the dirt will be gone, the back yard will be flat – or at least partially flat, and there will be endless days of gardening ahead of me. Said differently, I’ll be in heaven.

The Heart of the Home


The kitchen of our current home featured 1970s-era dark cabinetry, a linoleum floor, dated wallpaper and an adorable french chandelier. There were stainless double ovens, a black dishwasher and a white refrigerator. And despite its dated decor, there was something intriguing about this house. It had soul, I suppose. History.



The adjoining Keeping Room ‘before’

It has taken a good long while to reach a point that I was willing to reveal pictures of the remodeled version of our home. Every inch of space, inside and out, seems to need more work. And work is not something that always happens fast.

We spent the first few weeks living in this house with no kitchen at all because the cabinets were delayed. Even after they arrived, we spent a few more weeks without a sink or countertops. When all the pieces were finally in place, it would be another 6 weeks before the backsplash was installed.


I saw the refrigerator on Pinterest and we ordered it immediately. It was probably the first thing we bought. My husband picked out the stove, which was more modern than I anticipated. We picked out the countertops together, but he was almost ambivalent toward the cabinets. I, on the other hand, spent hours ensuring there was a drawer or cabinet for everything: deep drawers for the pots and pans, shallow drawers for the utensils, two pullout trash cans – one on each side of the kitchen because he’s always standing in front of one of them.

It took awhile to find that perfect color of gray cabinet, and when I brought a sample door to the house to see it in the room we realized it was the same gray that was in the original linoleum floor. I had also wanted to use a dark gray for the backsplash grout, but was overruled. He realized I had been right all along when the grout was still wet and looked dark gray. Of course.


Gold seemed to be the right finish for everything in this house, although it was a little tricky to find a matching faucet, soap dispenser and filtered water dispenser in a style we liked. The light fixtures came from Pottery Barn in antique silver. We sponge painted them gold, including the chain.


I thought the keeping room would be one of the most used rooms in the house. It hasn’t worked out quite that way, although it’s still one of my favorite rooms. We mounted the tv so that it pulls out and swivels toward the kitchen so my husband can watch the news while he cooks. The sun shines so bright in that window that the begonias I put in the planter over the summer actually bloomed.


It’s always a mystery to me how a room becomes the first room to be finished, and it’s no different for the Keeping Room. How it came together so quickly I’ll never know, but it has looked just the same until a few weeks ago when we found the andirons at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for $4 (they’re solid brass!), and I found the animal print pillow on Amazon for $7.


My husband found the muntins for the windows and the sliding door in an upstairs storage room, and we thought they changed the room. The hydrangea along the patio just outside the kitchen door swallows the other plants all summer, and in less than a years’ time it has provided enough dried flowers to fill every container in the house.

The kitchen is the heart of our home with memories to last a lifetime.


After I snapped this picture I realized Bentley was in one of his favorite spots – under the table by the window watching for the neighbor that walks her dog every morning.


Everything but the kitchen sink.

Renovating a house is the easy part. Moving in is where it gets interesting.

We’ve spent about seven weeks living in our latest renovation. The ‘moving-in’ part happened in July, although that move-in day excluded us. When we made the decision to move ourselves into the house, it wasn’t necessarily because the construction phase had ended, but that it had gotten sufficiently close enough to being finished that we could save time by settling in while the last few projects were wrapped up. I asked my husband what he would say about living here over these past seven weeks. He said, “It’s been a trip.”

This was our kitchen for the first few weeks. My husband set the coffee maker and a toaster oven on a small table. What else could we possibly need?

We thought the kitchen cabinets would be installed by the first week of November. . . they were late. The stove arrived, but the propane tank sat down by the road for several days – which left the stove looking quite nice, but totally useless.

The cabinets finally arrived, but we had lost our install date for the countertops. When the countertops arrived last week, we discovered the drain didn’t fit our extra deep farm sink – which left it looking quite nice, but totally useless.

We had finally pulled everything together for a proper kitchen, except the kitchen sink. 

You may wonder what can be accomplished without a kitchen sink? More than you might imagine. . . although I would tell you the modern kitchen sink is not overrated.

Everything finally works in our kitchen, except the sink.

Room by Room Revival: the Kitchen

The kitchen of our lovely, old home has earned the “Most Changed” award among its peers. Nothing remains from its previous life.

My husband and I stood in awe on our first look into the room at the back of the house called the kitchen. It wasn’t that this kitchen was not clean, it was simply ancient beyond belief.

We estimate the original kitchen was last updated in the 1960s.
We estimate the original kitchen was last updated in the 1960s.
A counter atop the radiator divided the original kitchen from what was once a breakfast nook, but now our butler's pantry.
A counter atop the radiator divided the original kitchen from what was once a breakfast nook.


The contractor wasted no time removing everything. She could only hope the sub-floor could be salvaged – it could not. You might say we had been given a clean slate, except that I call a clean slate designing from the ground up. . . no walls.

Everybody wanted six more inches of floor space, but there were only four inches to be found, and we spent a fair amount of time debating what those four inches of floor space would cost in terms of dollars and historical preservation. In the end, the walls stayed put.

The basement stairwell prevented us from moving the walls of the kitchen.
The basement stairwell prevented us from moving the walls of the kitchen.

My husband and I have a way of divvying up the responsibilities of a renovation. He chooses the appliances, I do the rest. 🙂

After a few searches across the world of online shopping, he found the perfect appliances, and we saved thousands of dollars in the process. It was a scheduling adventure, however, to ensure the availability of each appliance would coincide with someone being at the house to accept the delivery, and space was available in the garage to store it. Sometimes it worked out, and sometimes it just didn’t.

The design for the kitchen came to me almost immediately: white against dark. We selected the cabinets, and had great fun tweaking where there would be drawers, pull-outs, or glass front doors.

As with everything else in this renovation, the kitchen cabinets were designed online.
We worked with the cabinet designer remotely.
We selected the granite for the counter tops from a picture sent from the supplier.
We selected the granite for the counter tops from a picture sent from the supplier.

kitchen in progress 2

kitchen in progress

Brick veneer found for a steal on Craig's List created the back splash for the butler's pantry.
Brick veneer found on Craig’s List created the back splash for the butler’s pantry.

Throughout the renovation, we made the 3-hour drive once each week. We spent about two hours meeting with the contractor to make decisions about the next week’s work, and admiring progress from the week before.

It was on one of these weekly visits that we experienced the most opportunistic moment of the entire renovation.

We were standing in the 2nd floor master bedroom when my husband looked down through the open flooring to the kitchen down below and noticed a “void” above the kitchen ceiling beams – a void that would allow us to vault the ceiling.

Although the footprint stayed the same, our little kitchen became infinitely more grand with a raised ceiling.

From the master bedroom, we could see a void between the floors.
From the master bedroom, we could see a void between the floors.

fridge textCorrecting the mis-matched handles on the refrigerator and freezer meant we had to return the entire freezer. The replacement freezer arrived with yet another different handle. We ordered the correct handle, re-drilled the holes in this beautiful freezer door, and installed it ourselves. (Lesson learned: ordering appliances on-line is not for the faint of heart.)

The granite counter-top cracked on its way from Charlotte, the sink got lost in the mail, and spots appeared out of nowhere on the front of the dishwasher — the whole unit had to be replaced.

Sometimes, it’s not how you get there. . . it’s that you’ve finally arrived.





The refrigerator and freezer door handles finally match.
The refrigerator and freezer door handles finally match.


butler pantry after


Paint Colors:

Kitchen Walls: Sherwin Williams Origami White (HGSW4007)

Trim: Sherwin Williams Fundamental White (HGSW4001)

Doors: Sherwin Williams Raven Wing (HGSW1442)