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In Renovator Notebook, homeowners are opening up about the essentials of their remodeling: how long it really took; how much it actually cost; what went wrong; and what went wonderfully was fortunately worth it in the end. Check out more tips for your next project below @reno_notebook.
Construction year: 1964
Square footage: 80
Highest priority: Build a Scandi-cool cabin kitchen on a tight budget by getting creative with finds from IKEA, Amazon and more.
Paige Kershaw and Jake Hill assumed they would be landlords when they bought their cabin in California’s San Bernardino Mountains in the fall of 2021. In particular, they thought they would be Airbnb hosts. “We looked at it [place] We debated this for a month and talked about how we could turn it into a rental and have another source of income,” Hill recalls. The couple, both graphic designers who were renting an apartment in Newport at the time, purposely bought the cheapest house they could find in the Running Springs area (the property was a steal at $179,000). But once they started spending the weekends in retreat and renovating the 50 square meter interior, they couldn’t imagine giving it up. “Any flaws were easy to ignore given the massive wooden beams, the towering pines that surrounded it, and the views of the Pacific Ocean,” says Kershaw.
After spending two weeks gutting the house, the pair got to work replacing the floor with durable vinyl floorboards, adding a new wood stove, and redoing the entire kitchen for a little under $6,000. (Kershaw’s contractor father helped throughout the process, but for the most part, the couple did all the work themselves.) In the meantime, they relied on a temporary cooking facility that consisted of a freestanding sink with shelves, a Primus grill, and a Mini fridge (although they mostly resorted to the grill outside and a nearby pizzeria if they got hungry).
After fueling up on food, their main priorities were to include an island with seating, open the space up to the living room, and brighten things up with lots of plywood. Budget-friendly was the game’s name for the project, with Hill and Kershaw turning to retailers like IKEA (the island cost $570) and Amazon (the round paper lantern was just $100) when sourcing materials for the space. held. Ahead, in their own words, the couple reveal where they’ve splurged and where they’ve saved on their full-time vacation.
Splurge: Semi-custom, cabin-chic closets
Jake Hill: I didn’t want to build all the cabinets from scratch because my wood shop was our deck so I was limited on space. We chose IKEA’s Section frames (total price was around $950) because they were the cheapest option with the least amount of hassle. Then I just had to figure out how to make the fronts. Pretty much all of the Baltic birch plywood was sourced from a hardware store in Santa Ana for $768. We went with sheets that already had a finish so we didn’t have to coat them afterwards. The rest was a bunch of messes (and very often doubting myself). I used a rail saw and a special tool called a drill press to carve out the holes for the IKEA hinges. We bought the door hardware from Amazon for $130 – it has a clean, simple look that goes with all the lines in the room.
Save: Counters that are all Stick, No Peel
Hill: The counters are two sheets of plywood glued together and sealed with $120 laminate wrap. The material is strenuous to use: you can apply it once with a roller because it is super sticky and all air bubbles have to be removed when smoothing it out. Luckily it has held up really well.
Paige Kershaw: The black sink is another IKEA product ($286). We had to wait a while before it was back in stock but we liked how it blended into the countertops.
Splurge (but also save): Devices that have survived a few crashes
Kershaw: We reduce costs by finding appliances with scratches and dents, including the kitchen stove and the ready-to-install refrigerator.
Hill: I found the company that sold us the damaged parts by scouring Facebook. It buys stuff from places like Home Depot that has fallen off a truck or been hit with a forklift. Our cooker has a small dent in the front, but the fridge was pretty much spotless save for a scratch, and we knew we were going to cover it with plywood anyway. Both were brand new and would have cost $6,000, but we got them for just under $2,000. We decided not to have a dishwasher and to wash everything by hand.
Splurge: One corner for everything
Kershaw: The best organizational element we have incorporated into the design is our pantry, which cannot be seen when the door is closed. It’s the corner cabinet, and we put a pull-out mechanism (like this one) in there that lets us use the depth.
Hill: The spice rack over the stove and the wine storage were fun projects I wanted to do just to play around with my woodworking skills. I could easily have bought ready made solutions but it was an opportunity for me to play.