Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cabin Kitchen Makeover:

Going on vacation with a compulsive rehabber

In the summer of 1970, my father-in-law and two of his co-workers purchased a little plot of land on Lake Matinenda in Blind River, Ontario. They rounded up about a dozen guys and many cases of beer, and in two weeks put up what would become three families’ summer vacation destination for many many years. Now sole owners of the property, it has become a tradition for my husband and I to spend the 13 hours it takes to get to and from this place talking about what improvements need to be made, big and small, in order to keep this place up and running for many more years. Every year, it seems, that conversation turns to the kitchen. Not only as a part of our ongoing battle to mouse-proof the place, but because I love to cook, and the existing kitchen was more of a ‘bare bones’ type of situation. So, armed with my tape measure and graph paper, I started planning.  
Since our ultimate goal with this place is to replace it with a whole new fabulous cottage in 8-10 years, we want to keep the interim expenditures to a minimum.  Having said that, this simply needed to be done.  So, I developed a plan that re-used all the existing cabinetry in a different configuration, and made updates to pretty much everything else in the room.
Armed with nearly every portable power tool we own (and some not so portable,) we headed north with a van full of countertops and bead board, and much determination.  We had 5 full days to strip the room down to it’s bones, and build it back out into the fabulous kitchen it is today.  (Did I mention that you can only get there by boat?)  Here’s how we did it:

Day 1:  Take the room from it’s partially stripped down status (Pete had already torn out the old ceiling and removed some of the cabinets on a previous trip) and get it totally prepped for all its new surfaces - walls, floor and ceiling.  Pete varnished the new pine ceiling boards while my son and I worked on demo.

In the process, I needed to have Pete install a new outlet for the new location of the microwave, so he hit the tool closet (his “MacGuyver” closet - something in there to solve every problem...) and pull out the electrical supplies

Now, when you have a cabin that sees very little traffic and is nestled in the woods, mice are a fact of life. So, we weren’t not terribly surprised to find a cozy little nest in a wad of insulation in the electrical supplies box - complete with Momma Mouse and 5 nursing babies. We relocated her and the little ones along with her insulation nest to a comfy cardboard box and moved her where she belongs, OUTSIDE the cottage.

Work resumed, chipboard going up inside, and cabinet prep for painting going on outside.

Well, as it turns out, maternal instinct is strong in all mammals, and Momma Mouse really preferred her warm, dry nest in our closet to her drafty box on the wood pile. Before too long, Pete spotted her sneaking up the stairs and back into the cottage, bringing the kids. This turned out to be a bad news/good news situation, as we obviously don’t want mice getting into the cottage, but she was so determined, she showed us exactly how they were getting in. So, Pete let her make 5 trips to bring the whole family back, then promptly plugged the hole. The irony of the 4 mousetraps in various locations throughout the cottage is not lost on us, but we are not totally heartless. Besides, they were pretty stinking cute...
So, by midday, we had removed all the cabinets and old insulation, and torn up the old vinyl and subfloor (and pulled a gozillion nails out of the floor.)  Then it was time for fresh insulation and vapor barrier, a layer of chipboard, and new bead board walls.  

(The areas lacking bead board are where the cabinets are going - trying to conserve materials.)  Pete had an energy burst around 11 p.m. and painted the bead board so we could start the day without first having to wait for paint to dry.
Day 2:  In to town for supplies (trim boards and a laminate floor) then back to work installing the tongue and groove pine ceiling and painting cabinets.  The weather was very cooperative, so we got the cabinet bases and crown fully painted and ready to install as soon as the ceiling was done.  Unfortunately, it was the middle of the night when we got the ceiling done, so cabinets and moulding were the first order of business the next morning.

Just so we’re clear, this is why we put ourselves through this:
So, anyway, Days 3 and 4 were a steady stream of finish work including installation of all the cabinets, and countertops, painting more mouldings and cabinet doors, and building out the new wall on the back of the peninsula cabinets.

Pete exploited my general OCD when it comes to maximizing storage and not wasting space, and added scope by asking that I build in a small storage shelf cubby behind the lazy susan as that is a giant waste of space.  That slowed me down a smidge, but I agree it was an excellent addition in an area where storage is at a premium.

Day 5 was flooring and finishing touches day!  Toe kicks, quarter round trim, newly cut microwave shelf.  The only thing we couldn’t finish was the cabinet hardware.  These cabinets were made ‘back in the day’ and the doors are 1” thick!  The screws provided with the knobs and handles didn’t stand a chance of reaching through the door faces.  We will acquire longer screws and finish the job on the family trip! 
Day 6 was clean up and departure.  Pete pointed out (several times) the irony of the fact that we went into town for dinner on our last night - all that back breaking work and we didn’t even cook one meal in the new kitchen!  

New awesome work space lighting added...

Microwave now up off the counter...

I’ve been staring at that breaker box for 11 years...apparently it didn’t bother anyone but me.  I can be very patient.

The family trip later this summer will be one gourmet meal after another - no power tools allowed!  Bathroom remodel slated for 2013...