Renovation
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Angling for Charm

A Michigan couple renovates a 1935 fisherman’s cabin

By Christy Heitger-Ewing
Published: April 28, 2011
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Photo by ANDREW BUCHANAN
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VINTAGE LOGS – When Kay and David renovated their cabin, they chose not to disturb the exterior logs; they only re-stained them. The previous owners had re-chinked the logs.
Photo by ANDREW BUCHANAN
As a young girl, Kay Root spent summers with her family at northern Michigan’s Bay View, located on Lake Michigan. On their way into town, the family would drive by a quaint little fishing cabin in nearby Harbor Springs. From the outside, it looked like the perfect hideaway. To Kay, as a child, the place seemed magical, and she used her imagination to picture what it was like inside.
   
Years later, when Kay was grown and living just 2 miles from her magical cabin, she and her husband, David, were driving by the cabin when they noticed an “open house” sign in the front yard. David stopped the car so that Kay could finally take a peek inside.
   
“We stepped in the door, and I was shocked!” recalls Kay, who was taken aback by the plush wall-to-wall carpet in the main living area; linoleum covered the kitchen and bathroom floors. “It wasn’t at all what I’d pictured.” But Kay could still see potential in the little cabin, and she knew she could achieve her vision for it, if only they bought the place.
  
 “So we decided to fix it up so we could rent it out,” says Kay.

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Photo by ANDREW BUCHANAN
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The logs are old, the floors new. Before the renovation, the cabin's main living area had wall-to-wall plush carpeting. The Roots pulled up the carpeting and installed honey-colored, knotty pine floors.
Photo by ANDREW BUCHANAN
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The sign says it all. Visitors to the Roots’ charming cabin always seem to have the same reaction. “People say they like the homey warmth, the rustic ambiance, and the understated décor,” says Kay.
Photo by ANDREW BUCHANAN
Remove, Refresh & Refurbish
   
When the cabin was built in 1935, it was just one big room. Sometime later, partitions were added to create separate rooms. Plumbing, a dishwasher and a stacked washer and dryer were also added.
   
Though the Roots appreciated such modern conveniences, their main ambition was to restore the cabin’s natural charm. To that end, the first thing to go was the carpet. Kay hoped that she would find beautiful pine floors beneath the carpeting, but no such luck; instead they found deteriorated, splintered floors and a hole in the middle of the room where a potbellied stove once sat. The Roots insulated beneath the floor, and then laid down new honey-colored knotty-pine floors.
   
In an effort to keep the cabin true to its era, the couple did not disturb the original cedar logs. They also left the claw foot bathtub untouched. And to this day, they have not changed the unique exterior door-locking system, which involves pulling a leather string from the outside (one that pokes through a small hole in the door) to lift a lever on the inside that enables the door to open. 
   
“It’s really neat … unless the string breaks,” says Kay with a chuckle. “Then you’re in trouble!”
   
To improve the structure’s functionality and purpose, the Roots removed part of the kitchen countertop peninsula that acted as an eating bar, and then added a small dining table, two chairs and a chandelier.
   
Also in the kitchen, they painted the oak cabinets hunter green and installed a hanging pot rack above the counter.
   
Meanwhile, in the family room the Roots mounted two wall sconces and removed the bulky built-in cabinetry that gobbled up floor space. And they replaced the bathroom’s oversized sink with a smaller one.
   
They also winterized the cabin, brought the electrical up to code, installed storm windows, added central air-conditioning, replaced and insulated the roof, and redecorated and refurnished to make the place warm and inviting.

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Photo by ANDREW BUCHANAN
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The old fireplace is made from Lake Superior stone, according to the paperwork from when the Roots purchased the property.
Photo by ANDREW BUCHANAN
Great Property, Great Fun
   
The Roots use the cabin for all sorts of occasions. When their daughter first moved to the area, she lived there for awhile. And Kay hosts “girls get-togethers” full of food, fellowship and fun. It’s also the perfect spot to house overflow guests.
   
“It’s a great location for every season,” says Kay. “In the winter you can step outside and start cross-country skiing.”
   
Summertime brings hours of porch swinging in the fresh air while exchanging “hellos” with passing runners, walker and cyclists.
   
“We also love animal watching,” says Kay. “On any given day we might see eagles, deer or wild turkeys.”

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Photo by ANDREW BUCHANAN
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As this photo of the bedroom shows, the 750- square-foot cabin is cozy to say the least. “We always say that whoever stays at the cabin, we hope they are good friends because the wall in the bathroom does not reach the ceiling,” says Kay.
Photo by ANDREW BUCHANAN
Leaving a Mark
   
True to their plan, the Roots occasionally rent out the property. And thanks to a unique guest tradition, they often get to find out how people enjoyed their stay.
  
 “When we bought the place, on the back of the master bedroom door hung an old-fashioned wire robe hook with a dangling pencil on a string,” explains Kay. “Someone had signed their name on the door and dated it. We thought that was a neat idea, so we always keep the pencil sharpened to encourage more signatures.”
   
So far the “guest log” has collected over a dozen names – and sometimes folks use the door as a journal of sorts to describe the fun they had biking, boating, reading, skiing, shopping, sightseeing and relaxing by the fireplace. One common thread among all the guests is that they seem to appreciate the cabin’s rustic ambiance and understated décor.
   
“I think the cabin’s accessories and simplicity spark happy, nostalgic memories for people,” says Kay.       
That’s certainly the case for one visitor who felt the same vibe from the structure that Kay did all those years ago.
   
“This place feels magical,” he wrote.
   
Ahh, yes. Good old cabin magic – no “abracadabra” required.

Frequent contributor Christy Heitger-Ewing thinks it may be just as dangerous to check out a cabin “open house” as it is to browse an animal shelter. In either scenario, something is bound to call to you, “Take me! Take me!”

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5 stars
DAVID SCHLEHUBER from MICHIGAN said:
If walls could talk, I'm sure they could tell a story of the past.

Dave
5 stars
ANDREW BUCHANAN from WASHINGTON said:
A great cabin to photograph! Hope to come across more beauties like this in the upcoming summer.

Andrew

http://www.subtlelightphoto.com
"Photographing the Spaces Where We Live, Work, and Play"
5 stars
DLORAH EVANS from TEXAS said:
Loved this article as I am also from Michigan and spent my summers at a friend's log cabin. There is nothing like it.
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