Buying and restoring a 100-year old cottage takes courage. Here’s what we did after buying a cottage in 2012:
Improved the Views
Looking out of the windows, it’s obvious that landscaping would make immediate impact. Who doesn’t love trees? But this old Cedar on the lakefront lawn obstructed views so it had to go.
After: Removing the the tree opened this view from the King bed.
Our neighbor even thanked us for removing the tree because it gave him a better view down the lake.
Painted the Kitchen Cabinets:
Before: The natural wood color cabinets looked heavy, distracting from the beauty of the vintage pine floor. Mint green walls didn’t help.
Painting the cabinets in Sherwin Williams’ Sage Green lightens them, allowing the floors to take center stage. Painting over the old mint green walls with Sherwin Williams’ Creamy further brightens the kitchen.
While at it, we installed a new glass-top stove, microwave and Bosch dishwasher.
We removed the bulky kitchen table, replacing it with a Keurig coffee station.
Re-decorated the Living Room:
Before: The vertical blinds in the living and dining rooms obscured the huge in-swing French windows, preventing them from opening.
Also, the Living Room is rectangular, and the placement of the furniture made it look like a bowling alley.
After: By replacing the vertical blinds with cotton drapes from Pottery Barn, the vintage French windows now open and welcome lake breezes. The cottage can breath again – that’s how it was cooled 100 years ago.
Mounting the TV above the antique dresser (made in Rochester, NY), and centering the furniture makes the room feel cozier.
Renovated the Upstairs Bathroom
3 months after we bought the cottage, our then-teenage son took a long shower and water soon leaked to the room below it. That’s when we knew we had to replace the bathroom immediately.
Shower tiles poorly installed on plain drywall become loose, causing the leak after the drywall turned to mush. It meant a total gut job. But it also presented new possibilities.
The old bathroom felt cramped. Two design flaws increased this feeling.
First, the baseboard radiator projected only a few inches from the wall but this prevented a better layout.
Second, concealed behind the shutters, an old concrete shower base was re-purposed as a “storage closet”. This storage area was too deep, and worse, the pedestal sink made much of the closet inaccessible, like the blind corner of a kitchen cabinet base.
To compound the problem, the radiator pipes passed through the old concrete shower base. Like excavating a dinosaur fossil, I spent countless hours patiently chipping at it, being careful not to puncture the pipes.
Sparing no expense, we installed a Schluter waterproof membrane beneath the tiles of the floor and shower. Other upgrades include shiplap walls and all new fixtures.
Observations about the Bathroom renovation:
First, replacing the baseboard radiator with a wall-mounted Runtal unit creates more floor space and makes for a luxurious towel warmer during our Western New York heating season. Expensive but worth it.
Second, the large vanity placed in the space of the old shower base added much-needed floor space. The counter is soapstone, a rock native to New York State. Not only is soapstone historically appropriate for our region, it is also impervious to stains.
Third, the wall-mounted Moen faucet and under-mount Kohler sink increase the counter space, which emphasizes the subtle veining in the soapstone.
Fourth, the bathroom mirror was repurposed from the former Canandaigua Sheraton Inn. The tall mirror is perfect – its reflection adds even more light to the bathroom and makes it feel larger.
I built a thin pine frame around the mirror and hot-glued jute rope to the frame. Finally, I screwed the mirror and frame to the wall. One beauty of shiplap walls is that you can anchor mirrors and artwork anywhere, without the hassles of finding a support stud.
We installed side lights and a ceiling light – separately switched, to give variable lighting when using the mirror. That’s more functional than the twin bank of hot lights around the old mirror.
Fifth, bathroom storage is always crucial, so I began with building a 5-inch wide shelf beneath the window, very convenient to the shower.
Sixth, borrowing 6 inches from an adjacent closet yielded just enough area to construct built-in storage between the studs to the right of the tub/shower unit. Three doors hide plenty of shelving – perfect for everything you need in a bathroom.
Last, we installed subway tile in the shower surround, all the way to the ceiling. The combination of gleaming tile and white shiplap creates a crisp, clean look. The black floor tiles and soapstone counter provide visual contrast, and helps me navigate when I don’t have my glasses on.
White carpet covered the floors in all the bedrooms and cleaning it created a constant hassle. We knew that the old carpet concealed painted pine floors we hoped could be sanded and varnished.
After we removed the old carpet, padding and thousands of staples, we had the brown paint sanded off, revealing beautiful yellow pine floors throughout all 4 bedrooms.
Twin Bedroom before:
Twin Bedroom after: Notice how the darker pine floor creates a contrast with the light yellow walls. Wood floors are the easiest to clean.
This has been a fun post for me because it shows the progress we made since we bought the old cottage in 2012.