The most oft-asked question put to those of us that live here year round is “What do you do all winter?” Sure, the days are short, skies are gray, temperatures are cold, and a lot of local businesses close for the winter. But we stay active with snow sports, we catch up with our families that get ignored while we work all summer, we enjoy cozy evenings around a fire and dinner with our friends, and here at Chimney Corners, we work on projects to make the next summer an even better experience for our guests!
Cottages that were built in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s (and some even older), need a lot of maintenance to keep them in rental shape. Sometimes, the issues are beyond a simple patch and fix – but we must pick and choose our projects only as money and time allow.
Sometimes a project takes precedence when one small fix becomes a catalyst launching a major renovation.
In the case of our latest undertaking, Froshblick Loft, it started with a kitchen window. Saturday changeovers set a hectic pace. Cleaning and repairs may need to happen for up to 20 units, all within a 4-5 hour time span. In the process of trying to close a jammed aluminum window in Froshblick’s kitchen one Saturday in late summer, our maintenance man put his hand right through it. The quick fix was a plywood board and a note apologizing for our appearance to the incoming renters, but ultimately, the window would have to be replaced. And, since the existing windows were old, single-paned sliders original to the unit, it would have to be a brand new window, and not just the glass.
In order to make them match, we needed to replace all of them. When the resort closes at the end of October, we move our office up to Froshblick’s living room since the Lodge is impossible to keep warm in the winter. Those single pane windows weren’t much better! You could feel the winter lake breeze blowing right thorough them! The decision was made to replace those windows as well. And the renovations snowballed from there…(no pun intended).
Once the window decision was made, we started to take a hard look at the rest of the unit. Built in 1964, Froshblick was also used as a winter residence for Mollie Rogers after Mary and Jim took over. The space over our laundry/garage featured knotty pine walls, a brick fireplace, and a kitchen straight out of the sixties, with green linoleum, a laminate table, formica countertops over painted wooden cupboards and very little storage.
The bath was even more dated. A blue tub/shower combination sat in darkness, as lighting was also minimal, matching the oak laminate vanity and bargain mirror/medicine chest.
The wall board used to line the hall was warped with temperature changes, and the industrial carpet, which is hard-wearing in a rental was worn almost through. The two steps down into the living area were makeshift blocks of carpet covered wood – not attached to anything! Although the carpeting in the living room was newer, it did have an unfortunate scorch mark from a careless iron mistake, conveniently covered by our heavier-than-heavy This End Up wooden furniture.
While all of these things were certainly serviceable in a rental, and we are a “vintage” resort capturing the feel of the old family lake cottage, we knew that some things should be updated in order to give our guests a pleasant stay.
“Some things” became many things, but each renovation decision was made with both updating in mind, as well as retaining our vintage character.
We started with walls. The warped wall board had to go and new cottage-y bead board was installed in both the hall and kitchen. Although knotty pine is very cabin-like and warm, it can also be a little dark when used throughout the entire unit.
We decided to paint all of the bead board a crisp white, and the walls Benjamin Moore’s “Thunder”, a warm gray reminiscent of driftwood. The bedroom ceilings had been sanded and polyurethaned a few years ago, and they still looked warm, so we left those alone. But the living room, hall and kitchen were in rough shape and all needed sanding. Being tongue and groove knotty pine, this also meant there were miles of cracks to caulk and holes to fill followed by hours of sanding and priming!
After days of this by three staff members, we also painted these white, albeit a flatter sheen than the walls. Talk about light and bright! All of a sudden, every room felt fresh and clean.
The bathroom walls were also torn out and replaced with bead board three quarters of the way up. But that remaining sliver of wall we painted a soft spa blue-green called SeaGlass. The bedroom walls seemed fine, but since we were painting, we wanted to freshen up everything. The Queen room was painted the same soothing color as the bath, but for the twin room, we added a bit more drama with a modern marine blue. It looks stunning with the natural wood ceiling and the white trim. The floor to ceiling windows keep it light enough, yet still warm and cozy!
What is the most important room in any abode? One could argue the kitchen and bathroom vie for that honor. Which means both needed a complete gutting down to the studs.
First the kitchen: We already installed the floors and walls. Although it was a spacious kitchen with several (brand new!) windows on two sides creating a “treehouse” view of the frog pond and woods, it still needed a bit more storage space to replace an old metal microwave cart. The refrigerator was already bumped out into a niche. Since it was basically unused storage space behind that wall, we went ahead and created another larger niche to create a pantry, complete with handmade barn doors.
All this extra cupboard space freed up a spot to install a dishwasher! Although tiny, it’s perfect for a small family of four. We surrounded that with new bright white cupboards and replaced the “box” open shelf housing the glasses and dishes with modern industrial-type open shelves made from pipe and planks milled right here from our own trees! Speaking of, the old Froshblick had a laminate-topped table with vinyl chairs. We kept the table base, painted it, and used that same cherry wood to make a new “rustic” plank top, polyurethaned to keep the natural warm glow. Then we added some new modern feeling white metal chairs with natural wood seats. Add in some matte subway tile, new faucets, a new countertop, hardware and bright Fiestaware, and you now have a completely renovated kitchen that is light, bright, airy, and perfect.
Right next door, we have our dark, outdated bathroom with the refrain “Hey, 1960 called, they want their tub back!”
Let’s just replace that tub with a custom tile job, classic white subway accented with green glass. Add in shiny new fixtures and an overhead light and wowza! No more dark cave of a shower! We kept our still-good commode, but we replaced the dated oak vanity and sink with a new pedestal, giving us more room. Storage was solved with more hooks and more open “rustic” shelves. Another light, bright and modern space!
Walls? Done. Ceilings? Check. What about the floors? Remember, these are rentals, which means your choices are limited to very hard-wearing surfaces. Also, ceramic tile can be too heavy for a second floor structure built in 1962. The living room was an easy decision – just replace the carpet with a neutral gray, although we opted for a thicker, more luxurious pile than the flat industrial version. What about all those renters tracking in sand and mud? We had some leftover 12X12 tiles in storage, so we created a small tiled area just inside the door. Add hooks behind the front door and presto! Instant mud area!
The hall, kitchen and bathroom floors, made of three different materials, had to be ripped up. We chose a click together laminate plank that looks like natural gray boards. A couple days of sore knees installing were a small price to pay for the fantastic results! Waterproof and tough, this is a perfect, easy to clean option for high traffic areas.
Lastly, we come to the main living area. Already stunning with the freshly painted walls and ceiling, new floor to ceiling windows and new carpeting, we still insisted on improving even more. The fireplace was wood burning, cozy, but messy. And the roof had leaked around the chimney, water staining the knotty pine walls. The damper was drafty, and chilly wind blew down it all fall and winter. The decision was made to replace it with a gas insert. But we didn’t stop there. We tore out the brick to repair the walls – and then we built a new surround, with modern large format tile, a custom painted mantle, and a poured concrete hearth, which made for a cute seating area to one side.
We ran out of time, but the plan for another winter project is to stain and seal the concrete later. Stay tuned for that installment!
Remember those two steps that weren’t attached to anything? We had new ones built – much more stable and solid. How about new interior doors throughout, and a new front door? Did we mention lighting? Yep, new lighting throughout the entire unit!
Once you have all new surroundings, it makes it awfully hard to put back the old furniture. Never let it be said that Mary Rogers does not embrace a renovation project 100%! She decided to get all new furniture from our favorite Betsie Bay Furniture. Our living area now boasts a new sectional couch, two new chairs, new end tables, pillows, lamps and art. We did re-purpose the old side table from the kitchen as a desk. With a fresh coat of paint and new accessories, it provides a welcome place to dash off a “Wish You Were Here!” postcard.
Maybe this was more detail than you asked for, but we love sharing our renovation projects. Right now, you’re asking us”Where are all the finished pics?!” We believe in Carly Simon’s motto…Anticipation!
Scroll on for the before and after pics! We’re still inspired and ready to tackle next winter’s project. What is it? I guess you’ll have to follow us on social media or sign up for our mailing list if you want to see more!
How about that bathroom??
And so on….
And onward to the bedrooms…
And, of course, our relaxing living area…