A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

The Cottage Makeover Begins

This is the big weekend project that I mentioned last week.

cottage living room, before

cottage living room, before

cottage dining area, before

cottage kitchen, before

Pete’s family has owned this cottage since the 1940s. It was built by his grandfather and has gone through a number of changes when it passed to his parents as Pete and his 5 siblings grew up, got married and had children.

The last remodel occurred in the mid-to-late 1970s and it has pretty much remained the same since then (as you can tell!).

Pete’s father passed away two years ago (at a time when I wasn’t blogging much), so we have now inherited the cottage along with three of his siblings and their spouses. The other two siblings were never very interested in the cottage so other arrangements were made for them.

What is great about the cottage is that it’s not a long drive to southern Wisconsin and it’s lakefront property on a fairly small, fairly quiet lake, so we can easily pop up there for an afternoon to go kayaking or just hang out.

Drawbacks include not only the run-down condition and decor of the house, which frankly turned me off so much that I really didn’t want to bother going there, but also the expense of maintaining a second home, even though it’s divided between 4 families.

But, it’s a really important part of Pete’s and his siblings’ lives and they’re really hard-pressed to part with it. I can’t blame them there, so we’re going to do our best to make it work.

Luckily we all get along pretty well, and while issues do come up, we’ve been able to work through them so far and for the most part are usually on the same page. After much discussion we’ve decided to fix the place up as much as we can, as cheaply as we can.

The first task was for everyone to commit to a couple weekends to start clearing out the junk and opening up walls.

Boy, did we starting clearing out! The carpeting is on its way out, and while it looks like this area of hardwood flooring could be salvaged, the rest is either covered with some type of black glue or is filled with so many nail holes that it won’t be worth the expense to try to salvage it.

cottage living room, before

It really pains me to see beautiful wood go to waste, but seriously, there were SO MANY nail holes that someone counted 37 in one square foot area — and these weren’t small finishing nails either; they were big suckers! Sigh. We haven’t had a final discussion on that, but I’m not very hopeful.

One of the biggest issues, and strictly between the women vs. the guys, has been the paneling. All the guys wanted to keep the unsightly paneling, because it’s “easy”.

That was one battle that we women were not budging on: sheetrock, sheetrock, SHEETROCK. Period. End of story.

cottage walls removedHere is some of my handiwork. This was a small bedroom, originally accessed through the kitchen. We were unanimous in wanting a place to stash the stuff we bring with us: car keys, phones, etc. instead of tossing everything on the dining table or small desk under the stairs, so we are turning this room into a mudroom/ utility room. By opening this wall, it can now be accessed from the front door as well as the original opening to the kitchen.

You can see the new mudroom access off the front entryway in the photo below. We all also wanted to open up walls as much as possible, and this area used to be a long wall of dark paneling. You had to walk 3/4 of the way through the house before you really entered the house, so opening up part of the kitchen wall has already made a huge difference too.

cottage hallway demo

Once most of the kitchen wall was removed we placed the refrigerator under the stairs instead of on the back wall behind the peninsula.

cottage kitchen demo

This was part of my idea to improve the traffic flow. The majority of traffic in this area is to: use the bathroom, grab a towel, and/or get something to drink. So why not place the refrigerator and glassware on the same wall, closer to the bathroom? It also makes good use of the dead space under the stairs.

The peninsula on the left is going to be removed and become an island around the supporting posts you see. There is also talk of routing some ductwork in this support area, but we’re hoping to make it as minimal as possible.

There was a little more demo work completed but I didn’t get photos of that yet. The hot water heater was also replaced along with some other basement-related work.

All-in-all it was a very productive weekend, and although it means it’s taking away precious time we could be spending on house projects, I’m looking forward to participating in making the cottage ours, at least partially.

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