Thomas J. Story
Lessons of an Alaskan cabin remodel
According to Noah and Jennifer Jenkins, the key to a major do-it-yourself remodel is to enjoy the small steps. “Break it up into stages,” Jennifer says. Start with the areas where you spend the most time. “The kitchen was one of the first things we did because we love to cook,” Noah says. “The rest of the house was a wreck, but at least we had one space to call our own.”
• Look beyond cosmetic imperfections. Even amid the dingy wood paneling, Jennifer could picture a light and airy cottage. “I immediately saw the tongue-and-groove walls painted white,” she says. With regard to viewing old houses, she recommends looking under the carpeting: “We knew it was a good sign when we saw the original fir floors underneath the red shag.” Pay particular attention to the placement of windows and to any walls that can be removed to open up the space.
• Don’t shy away from tackling unfamiliar tasks. Noah’s construction experience was invaluable in this project, and Jennifer put her own amateur skills to use too. “Learning to set tile is something anyone can do,” she says. The couple bought a book and video to teach themselves how to pour the concrete countertops in the kitchen and bath. Find out if any friends have skills you can use in your remodel ― they may be willing to trade their help for yours.
• Salvage goods whenever possible. The floors in the kitchen and dining area were from an old house that Noah’s fire department burned down for practice; the interior trim came from a building slated for demolition. “Visit lumberyard clearance sales and ask what they’re getting rid of,” Noah advises. The lumber for the lower deck was acquired at a sale for $300.
• Mentally prepare for downsizing. Life in a tiny house requires a different mind-set. “Ask yourself honestly, can you live with less?” Jennifer says. “It’s about shifting your idea of what makes you successful.”
More photos of this house: Alaskan cabin remodel