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cottage renovation: falling hard for a slab of wood

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Forgive me for not writing sooner with an update on our little house project by the Hudson! We’ve been plugging away, making decisions and slowly getting to a place that we will be able to enjoy soon. The floors are down and stained (but not yet revealed). The new radiators are in place and keeping it warm. The kitchen cabinets have been built and appliances have been ordered. I’ll do a detailed post on the whole kitchen once I can show it off properly, but this morning I wanted to brag about the beautiful slab wood countertop we have found.

We’ve been having a HUGE debate about countertops. As any of you who have done renovations know, they are pricey and every material seems to have its ups and downs. I love the look of wooden, butcher block counterops, but our contractor and others have warned us against using them — especially with a farmhouse sink. We’ll probably settle on a granite or granite-like composite for the “working area” of the kitchen, but Chad and I had a solution for our “peninsula” which will serve as a bar/table that separates the kitchen the from the living room. We are putting a wooden slab on that part of the counter. Sound strange? Hear us out.

We always love the look and feel of natural, organic wooden counters. We see them often in some of our favorite stores and cafes in Hudson, NY. We’ve been trying to figure out a way to have this look in our newly spruced up cottage and have come up with a solution. We visited a local wood supplier and found that they had gorgeous selection slabs of wood — which are essentially vertical slices of entire trees.

Browsing around the warehouse, we quickly learned that because of the size we needed that we had one decision to make before we started. Did we want just one piece of wood or would we be okay with gluing two or more pieces together. The only wood that came in one piece that was least 32″ inches wide — the width we needed for the peninsula countertop — was a pine slab. We weren’t thrilled with that choice for a couple of reasons. First, pine is a soft wood and we were worried about wear and tear. And secondly the “live edge” — which means the bark side of the tree — wasn’t very interesting.

There were so many choices of hard wood slabs that were gorgeous — walnut, curly maple, cherry. We ended up picking a white oak because we loved the bark line and the knotty grain lines within. We also learned that the “glue up” option was nothing to be afraid of. The guys at our shop Ghent Wood are so talented: They showed us examples of their work and the results were pretty seamless. We ended up purchasing two slabs at about $150 a each. They were glued together to make one huge, heavy piece that was 92 inches by 30 square feet, with a live edge on one side. Our plan is to have that live edge face the living room, where we’d also have stools so the you could sit at the counter and watch me cook!

We will be staining the wood but have not decided on the color yet. WATCO Danish Oil was recommended to us, which seals and protects the wood but doesn’t give it a super shallaced look.

Here are a few photos!

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Isadora and I were exhausted by the wood slab choices, but these are the ones we decided on.

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The blue tape line shows where we’ll be cutting.

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Sawing in action, with some stain tests at the top.

See more about our cottage renovation here!

From our partners

cottage renovation: choosing a paint color

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As fall’s rainy months kick in, we are in a race to finish the exterior on our river cottage renovation. After removing the old and worn stucco, replacing the sill beam, raising the house and digging a french drain, we were ready to chose the siding. We had a great deal of debate about whether to go the least inexpensive route (vinyl) or the most expensive (a concrete composite, like Hardy board). In the end we went with cedar planks, which are classic and strong. Another feature to the cedar planks, which could be a pro or con depending on how decisive you are, is that they are primed and ready for the paint color of your choice.

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Though our house was originally butter yellow, we knew we wanted to paint the renovated version a dark color — something that would help it meld into its surroundings but also not be drab.

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We zeroed on grey blue hues and started testing out strips of the cedar board. It is unbelievable how different the colors all looked in the bright sunlight compared to the color strip from the store. Our first choice, Benjamin Moore’s Oxford Blue turned out to be much too bright and light. So we opted for Evening Dove. You can see from the photos below how different it looks depending on the time of the day and sunlight position. I love it!

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Another big debate we had was how much of the trim to leave white. At first we left the top and side board trim white but realized it made the house look too cutesy and rather small. In the end, we painted everything — even the gutters — the dark blue color, which really makes the white window trim pop.

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Next up: Picking a bright color for the front door. We want something really bold and modern. Chartreuse? Sunshine yellow? Classic red? Let us know your suggestions!

From our partners

portable hot tubs: genius or cheesy?

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This summer during our annual pilgrimage up north to Mt. Desert Island in Maine, we were lucky enough to nab a rental property that came with a hot tub on the back deck. Every night, we’d take a soak outdoors, taking in the gorgeous views and letting our hike-weary muscles relax. Our six year old girl thought it was the coolest hot thing in the world (though instructing her not to try to swim in it was another matter). Back home, the thought of having a permanent hot tub is less appealing. We know we wouldn’t use all year round, and we imagine it just taking up space and getting yucky in our tiny backyard. Enter Vanish Spa! An inflatable, portable hot tub that might be just what we need. The project is trying to raise some starter funds on Kickstarter, so they’re offering a tub for $499 — what they say is $300 off the future retail price. These six person tubs inflate in ten minutes, and come with head rests, 88 jets and a heating system that will take the water to 104 degrees. Granted, the camouflage exterior may not suit everyone’s mod aesthetic, but the idea is you could put it out in the woods and “vanish” into the scenery.  They remind me of nests filled with water. Of course, we need to finish remodeling our upstate cottage before we can think about adding extras like a hot tub.  But it’s fun to dream a bit. Click to watch the Vanish Spa demo video.

What do you think? Portable hot tubs: Genius or cheesy?

 

 

From our partners

cottage renovation: taking down the walls and ceiling

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When we last left off on our Cottage Renovation saga, we were filling you in on the messy, but necessary work we had to do on the sill beam and the support of the house. As that work was being completed by our contractor, Chad decide to tackle another dirty job: the tear down of almost all of our walls and ceiling.

Once we started working to strengthen the outside of the house, we realized how wonky the interior was. Some of our walls were supremely messed up — especially those on the back of the house where most of the water damage had occurred. The ceiling had a bizarre, 70s-popcorn texture all over it, and the walls weren’t much better. We had often dreamed of taking the main part of the house — the kitchen, living room and dining area — and making it one big open space. We also fantasized about raising the ceiling to give us more height. After weighing the cost vs the benefits, we decided to take it all down.

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Chad crowned himself deconstructor-in-chief and hit everything with a crowbar. This video below shows a little bit of what that was like.

What exactly did we find under our walls and above our ceiling? Nothing you would ever want in your house! The insulation in the ceiling was layers deep – some of it was grey and moldy. In between that was decades-worth of mouse nests filled with droppings. As someone who suffers from allergies, it’s a wonder my head didn’t explode every time I walked into the house. In between the walls was the dusty remains of some powdery substance that once was insulation, and of course, more mouse poop.

We also discovered that our roof wasn’t being supported properly. Also, in the attic space was the remnants of an old chimney. Some brilliant person had removed the bottom half, but left the top half, unsupported and made of bricks, just hanging out in our attic and resting the ceiling. That had to come out, too. After the whole space was clear and open, our contractor calculated the highest height we could raise the ceiling and laid down new beams.

After this main living/dining space was done, we decided to tackle the bedroom, too. The difference in air quality was so remarkable, we knew we couldn’t leave the bedroom as it was (i.e. also filled with mold and mouse poop). Here’s a peak at what the finished space looked like. I’ll do a separate post to fill you in on the insulation we chose — and how awesome the new space is going to be!

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From our partners

back to school groove with grovemade wooden desk accessories

Admit it. You feel pangs of jealousy as watching kids go back to school. No, not about the anxiety of grades or making new friends, but of the gear. Why don’t they make a freshly sharpened pencil room freshener? Just thinking about it is enough to make you feel like studying.

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Well, we’ve found some grown up desk accessories that will spruce up your office and inspire your next great great project. Grovemade – the company that makes exceedingly cool device cases — has expanded into making more traditional gadgets sing with their new desk collection. Made with materials that beg to touched, like smooth walnut and handcrafted leather, the items are both gorgeous and practical. The monitor stand raises your work up higher and prevents slouching. The keyboard tray has matching wrist and mouse pads. And since we still appreciate the tactile, there’s a pen and paperclip holder and groovy succulent planter.

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Finish things off with a walnut desk lamp, $99, a modern take on an Edison bulb.

Visit Grovemade to see the whole desk collection.

From our partners