Little Cabin in the Woods

One of my dearest friends in the world has a little cabin in the woods.  We’ve spent many happy days there with her & her family, enjoying the lake, the woods, & the company.  Last winter, though a number of fluky circumstances & some plain old bad luck, the heat went out, the pipes burst & the cabin flooded. It wasn’t a total loss, but it required a complete gutting.  The kind of gutting that begs the age-old question:

Winter Landscape At Night by Vichaya Kiatying-AngsuleeRepair, or rebuild?

Now I don’t have a cabin & I probably never will, but I’m totally enchanted by this question.  It applies to so many decisions in life, of course, but I personally like to apply it to my own house.  I’ve never been in love with my 70s split level, but it’s in one of the better school districts in the Twin Cities, it’s in a safe neighborhood, & it’s got plenty of room for our family.  I have nothing to complain about.

Not that that’s ever stopped me.

So listening to my friend think through her decision has got me thinking.  Dreaming, really.  So let’s say there’s an Act of God.  Let’s say a storm dropped a tree on my house & I got to redo/replace three things.  Only three.  What would they be?

House In Business Hand by NaypongOh, baby, I’ve got my list ready to go:

1)  I’d tear off  the screened in porch currently rotting off the side my kitchen & replace it with a kitchen addition, complete with an big ol’ island the whole family could eat at.  Big glass windows, stovetop on the island….oh, yeah.  I could get used to that.

2)  I’d take our bathroom down to the studs & replace EVERYTHING from the plumbing out.  We have a harvest gold bathtub people.  Harvest.  Gold.  And the shower/bath toggle has never actually toggled properly.  Our guests take shaths.  Or maybe bowers.  But you don’t get to pick either a shower OR a bath.  Both the faucet & the shower head run at all times.  I’d love to deal with that.

Bathtub by njaj3)  I’d tear out the ugly 70s faux stone fireplace in the basement & replace it with a natural gas fireplace/heater.  I’d rip out that horrible old stone with the same terracotta tile I have in my foyer/kitchen & I’d put in an honest-to-goodness mantle.  I’ve always wanted one.  Someplace to hang the stockings & put up framed pictures.  It would make our family room feel like a FAMILY room.


So what about you?  What would you do if Fate suddenly handed you a reason to renovate?  I know you’ve got a list…share! 

All images courtesy of, mouse over for artist attribution…


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  • Amy Conley says:

    Is he coming with me today? ROAD TRIP!!!

    • Susan Sey says:

      He is yours, Amy! Congrats! Hope he’s handy! From everything I’ve been able to gather, he’s great at the demolition phase of every project. Rebuilding? Not so much….

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Road trip, Amy??!! Are you sure you don’t want him to lay new tile or linoleum, paint some bedrooms, install a new shower?

      Wait, I forgot. It’s the chook we’re talking about.

  • Amy Conley says:

    Remove carpet from livingroom, yucky, over 30 year old kitchen floor plastic, and white lamanite from bathroom and make the floors mAtch in a dark hardwood.
    2. Get real doors for my closets. When we redid ghis room we couldn’t agree on any door, so I hung curtiand. 15 years later thdy are still tbere.
    3. Fix leaky basement so we could have an actual family room.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, carpets/flooring. Yeah. That’s #4 on my very long list. It’s a lovely dream, isn’t it?

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Is your husband handy, Amy? Mine, unfortunately, is not and for 48 years his mantra has been I’m educated, I don’t need to be handy. Wonder if I can trade him in for a new model at this late date?

  • Jane says:

    Hello Susan,
    We live in an apartment, but I would definitely want a wall of floor to ceiling windows and install a clawfoot tub. Also really want a balcony.

    • Susan Sey says:

      I would love a balcony! I would put it outside my bedroom so I could have a cup of coffee & watch the deer decimate my yard while I wake up. 🙂

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oooh, I love those old-fashioned bathtubs, Jane. We had one when I was growing up and I loved it then. It’s probably an antique now!

  • Helen says:


    Sounds wonderful I would get a new kitchen and change the old carpeting to wooden floor boards and get a new built in robe for our bedroom our bathrooms are pretty good and the lounge room and family room are good oh and I would love new window coverings.

    Have Fun

    • Susan Sey says:

      Ooooh, built-in storage space? Yes, please. We have two closets in our master bedroom, & neither is actually closet-sized. I don’t know why they didn’t just give us one decent sized closet instead of two ridiculously small ones. I guess so we wouldn’t fight? But there would be no contest. My husband is twice my size & has twice as many clothes. (He goes to work, I don’t.) No contest. He’d win. 🙂

    • Jo Robertson says:

      A few years ago when his wife was still alive, my husband had hardwood floors put in all the downstairs, Helen. They’re so lovely.

  • Shannon says:

    I live in a condo, so I can’t do anything. But if I could…

    Kitchen totally redone. No more mopping up water from the refrigerator which the mechanic can’t fix. A sink with a sprayer. More cupbords. A dishwasher that doesn’t rattle.

    Then I’d like to redo the bathroom. Most because the caulking is old and yukky. I clean and clean with no success.

    Lighting. More lights. Lighted fans in both bedrooms and living room. A different chandelier in the dining room. If I could afford it I would go after a real modern one, preferably by the artist who created the light tunnel between the National Gallery’s two museums.

    • Susan Sey says:

      A lighted tunnel? Now *that* would be cool!

      You know, a few years ago we splashed out for new lighting in our living room. It’s a pretty big space & we had probably 6-8 floor lamps going, but it just never did the trick. I finally just splurged & had an electrician come over & put in five can lights.

      World. Of. Difference.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Bathrooms and kitchens seem to be the renovation de jour, Shannon! I guess those are the rooms that get yucky first. It’s one thing if it’s your OWN yuck, but if you inherited your condo or apartment or home, someone else’s yuck is just gross.

  • Becke says:


    For the first time in our lives, we did what we wanted to the house up front. Before that we were always updating prior to putting it on the market. So how stupid is that? We do the work and someone else enjoys the fruits of our labor.

    So we bought with that in mind and I totally remodeled the house. That said, it was only a few years old and I didn’t restructure. We redid the landscaping, the floors, paint/wallpaper.

    What you’re suggesting is major overhaul. Neighbors did that with their kitchen. It took FOREVER. I think I’d just sale and start with something different or take a long vacation and come back to done.

    Wow! Doesn’t that sound fun. Fun vacation and come home to new home. Talk about a fantasy.

    • Susan Sey says:

      It is totally my fantasy, Becke! I’m absolutely in dreamland on this one, as I know it’ll never happen in a million years.

      The way you did it is way smarter. Hope you love it!

      But I do enjoy my little renovation fantasy. It gets me through the day…

  • Hey Susan!

    Well since the Jazzman’s little kitchen fire let me remodel it and the main bathroom, here’s my list of things I’d still like to do:

    1. Redo the Master suite. Large walk-in closet with shelves and drawers. A walk in stone tiled shower with a bench and a taller double vanity with shelves built in between the sinks for storage.

    2. Build on a large den for the grandkids to play in, especially at holidays!

    3. Built in bookcases in my office and a larger filing cabinet system, including a spot to put all my scrapbooking crap!

    There, that’s it, not too much to ask for. 🙂

    • Susan Sey says:

      Certainly not too much to ask for!

      And my heart yearned when you started talking built-in shelves in your writing space.

      If that ever happens, sign me up as next in line for the shelving fairy…

  • catslady says:

    Screen in the porch or better yet, glass doors too. I had a friend do that to hers but mine is at least twice as big. But first would be to add a library. I would give anything to have all my books on shelves where I could actually find them and see them all. My kitchen is very, very old so a redo on that would be nice too lol.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh a *library*. Yes, please!

      What I really, really want (if I’m asking for the moon here) is a beautiful window seat completely surrounded by gorgeous built-in bookshelves. I would sit & read for the rest of my life & never ask for another thing!

  • Deb says:

    Oh, yes, I’ve got a list! Money, however, is the problem.
    Our carpet in the living room is only 9 years old, but it has not kept well.
    The kitchen is the room that needs a major redo. It needs major updates. Let me tell you why…..Icky carpet that is 25 years old and is dirty…original counter tops of awful pink and gray linoleum. In a kitchen! Yuck. I painted the upper cupboards white a few years ago and put apple decals on them and I have apple doorknobs on the cupboard. My dream kitchen would probably have white walls with borders of hunter green or barn red to go with my love of apple designs. The counters would be a good formica, not marble. Carpet would not be a bad idea, if I could replace it with a durable kitchen-type carpet. I don’t like tile, but a tile substitute would be okay.
    We did gut and redo our bathroom two summers ago and am so proud of my husband for building a wall and putting in a shower. We painted it a sandy-buff color that goes well with any color. Right now I have it accented in chocolate brown, but French blue would look pretty as well.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, Deb, I love a blue bathroom! And I don’t even know your husband & I’m proud of him for that accomplishment!

      I grew up with carpet in my kitchen, so I know how important it is to have carpet suited to the job. But as for myself, I put in a gorgeous, warm terra-cotta tile & have never looked back. It’s warm (color-wise), it’s classic, & as long as you invest in a cushy, waterproof mat in front of the sink, you’re golden.

  • Amy got the GR? She may be doing some remodeling whether she wants to or not!

    Ladies, I live in a mobile home built in 1984. I need to dynamite this thing or build a house around it! Actually I do love my living room as it has a fireplace with a mantel and a stone hearth. I wish the windows were bigger. I have converted the master bedroom into a library / writing studio and what I would love to do is add a picture window looking into the woods behind the house and convert the window on that side into a door. Then I’d like to add a screened in porch there so I could write outside when the weather is nice.

    My kitchen is large for someone who lives alone so I have turned half of it into my sewing room.

    I do many of the day to day repairs and renovations here myself. I discovered the hot water heater was installed without a water cut off valve! Who does that? I had a leak and needed to cut off the water to find and repair it. NO cut off valve! So I went to Lowe’s, consulted with the plumbing dude there, returned home and installed a cut off valve on my hot water heater. And it works!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Wow, Louisa, you’re the handy type! You can come visit me any old time! I could probably use a few hot-water cut-offs around here!

      And I’ll tell you, I would *love* a screened-in porch for writing in nice weather! I envy you that one!

  • Susan – LOL on the Harvest Gold tub. We used to have a bright purple claw foot tub in our first apartment. Yup, someone actually painted the tub purple – in a bathroom with those tiny pink tiles. We chipped through purple vinyl, and aqua paint to get to the white porcelain.

    Hmmm…I’m not sure how I could accomplish these things, but I’d like a laundry room – not a laundry hallway like we have. I’d like a bigger closet in our bedroom and a big comfy master bath. Ours is small and functional. And I’d like a tasteful den/study for writing. I have a dark bedroom that is used for accounting work – but who wants to write in that! I need windows – big windows – in a room that inspires creativity.

    • Susan Sey says:

      I am truly enjoying the vision of your purple tub. It makes me feel better about our harvest gold monstrosity.

      But I feel your pain on writing in the dark. I have dreams (though they didn’t make the top three, obviously) of adding a little loft above my kitchen with windows on all four sides where I could write. I’d be like Jo from Little Women, tucked away in my garrett, eating apples & writing my stories.

      Wouldn’t that be lovely? If it ever happens, I’ll invite you over & we can have a little writing party.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      OMG, Donna, bright purple?? Was that EVER in? You must’ve been blinded every time you used it.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Great topic, Susan. Who doesn’t love a remodel? When our neighbor’s house caught fire and did extensive damage (mostly from smoke and water), I was sorta, kinda hoping a spark would jump to our roof. No luck. I don’t want to underplay their misery, but they do have an almost entirely new house and because the Mr. is verra handy they’ve been able to save a boatload of money on their gorgeous new house.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh I know exactly what you mean, Jo! I don’t want to sound ungrateful but if a tree HAPPENED to fall on my house during the next thunderstorm (while the house was completely empty, of course, so everybody would be fine) I don’t think it would hurt my feelings at all.

      Just sayin’.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Now that I’ve gotten my self-serving comment out of the way (lol), in this order, I’d love to rennovate:

    a. my 1983 bathroom. It’s most for safety reasons because I find it harder and harder to get in and out of the shower. I need safety bars at the least!

    b. My husband’s shower (in the master bedroom bath). The whole shower is sooooo tiny and it’s also 31 years old. I can’t imagine what might be growing beneath the basin or in the walls.

    c. I so, so want white cabinets in my kitchen. Are they now passe? I don’t care. I want white cabinets and lovely new knobs. Oh, and a genie to put in new shelf paper. I hate that job!

    • Susan Sey says:

      White cabinets are awesome. I love mine & I just had them put in a couple years ago. I don’t care if they’re passe by now. They’re clean & light & bright & I love them.

      You would, too. I know it!

  • Marcy Shuler says:

    We live in a brick Victorian, but I’d gut and expand the kitchen, remodel the downstairs bathroom into a full bath (the house only have 1 1/2 baths now), put on a new roof, expand the front porch and make an outdoor patio in the back along with an herb garden in the front yard. *sigh* It’s good to dream.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, the backyard! I never even got into my dreams for the backyard! An outdoor patio sounds wonderful! Would you include a firepit? I’ve always wanted one of those…