I think a lot of us share a dream of buying and fixing up a little cabin in the woods, but I’m sure that if that dream became a reality, the process of renovating a full home would not be without its stresses or struggles. Long before I pursue such an undertaking, I want plenty of inspiring examples to turn to for help, and this cabin renovation will definitely be high on my list of references. Sarah Sherman Samuel, a designer and the creative director of Smitten Studio, has been slowly but surely transforming this small cabin in Michigan. She’s made sure to keep the space calming, clean and modern but not without personality. I love that each room sports a fun, bold pattern, such as big polka dots or chevron stripes, which are then anchored by elegant neutrals and contrasting lights and darks. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the space turns out. Thanks for sharing, Sarah! — Kate
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Cost: Doing everything ourselves (with some big help from my parents and a few friends ), we saved A TON of money, so we estimate that what would have been a $50–60K renovation we have done for around $25K (for the entire cabin).
Basic Steps: When we first saw the sad, tiny structure, all we saw was its potential and the amazing land that it was set on. I immediately started making plans, designing and prepping for a full DIY renovation. We started on the outside, tearing off the old siding, replacing old doors, putting up new siding and then repainting. Once inside, we tore everything out down to the bare studs and down to the subfloor. The only things we kept were the old windows (I couldn’t part with the character of them), the previous owner’s sofas and the light fixture over the dining table. We then insulated the walls, re-ran electrical, re-did all the plumbing, and dry-walled. When removing all the old building materials, we saved anything that we could repurpose, like the wood from the old bunk beds for example, which we used to make a cabinet door and to frame out one of the closets.
Our home in LA is full of color, so I wanted to make our little beach cabin a retreat. Bright, white and fairly Spartan would describe the look I was going for. I did this by painting the new walls, ceiling and trim all the same white color. We then laid wood laminate flooring that brings warmth to the space. We also brought in a vintage Arthur Umanoff wood dining set from the ’50s (from around the same time the cabin was built) to bring in some historical authenticity and more natural elements.
In the bedroom, there were originally two sets of identical bunk beds. We tore them both out when drywalling the space and then only rebuilt one set, leaving a place on the other side of the room for a standard bed. We also removed a set of shelves that took up a ton of space, put in a new ceiling and wallpapered one wall.
Our advice to someone tackling a major DIY renovation would be not to be afraid to just give things a try. I think so many projects sound way daunting. Like, I never thought I would be re-siding a house or installing wood flooring with my own hands . . . but once you get into it, like most projects, you realize it isn’t so hard, and it is actually SO satisfying to see something you have done yourself make such a big difference in your home. Also, who cares if you make a few mistakes? I think the imperfections show the work and the hand behind it. — Sarah
Paint Color: Gray Whisper by Dutch Boy
Sisal Rug: Rugs USA
Cow Hide: Street vendor in LA
Lamps: Ballard Designs
Curtains: A repurposed photo backdrop from one of my parties that my mom sewed into curtains
Coffee Table: Home Decorators
Badger Pillow: Donna Wilson
Patio Doors: Jeldwen
Paint Color: Gray Whisper by Dutch Boy
Wallpaper: Cole & Sons
Cow Hide Rug: Ikea
Wall Sconces: Restoration Hardware