Tuesday, September 16, 2014


It's hard to believe that we've had a whole year of enjoying the beautiful view on the porch at our mountain cottage. Time has flown by so quickly. We've learned a few lessons in the past year about having a house in the mountains and all the trials and tribulations (and blessings) of  owning a house in a truly rural setting.
A year ago this week, we set out to transform a tiny little mountain cottage into a lovely little retreat.

What's it really like to own a second home retreat?

Well, today, I'm going to show you the good and the bad- the pretty and the downright ugly. 
I'm going to keep it real and show you that owning a 2nd piece of property  isn't always easy.
We haven't accomplished as much as we would have liked, but things take more time when the house is two hours away, you can only visit on half of your weekends, do nearly everything yourselves and have a pretty small budget.
Having said that, we've worked on quite a few projects, which I would like to share with you today.

The view from the back porch where we take our breaks and where Mr. DIY and I share meals when the weather is nice.

We never tire of the scenery and our view of the Blue Ridge Parkway makes it worth every sore muscle.

Where to begin...

Oh, yeah, at the beginning...
I shared this photo on Instagram on the day  we made the offer. We have two porches at the mountain cottage and we call this one the View Porch. Mr. DIY confusingly calls it the front porch, which makes sense if you look at the house plans, but the house was placed on the land a little strangely  and you enter from the porch on the other side of the house through the laundry room. I call the porch in the photo the Back porch or View porch. To clarify things, it really isn't a back porch, since there isn't a backyard- the house doesn't face the street either and sits kind of sideways on the land.
Confused yet?

Taking down wallpaper in the upstairs and downstairs bedrooms was our first project.

Grrr. I hate removing wallpaper and therefore I hate wallpaper.
I will never. EVER. install wallpaper in my home.
Here's what the bedrooms looked like before.
Upstairs Bedroom

Downstairs Bedroom
Getting these rooms to this point was no easy feat as we suspected the previous owners were smokers and the gunk on the walls made it seem like they never cleaned the house. The walls had to be washed down with vinegar and primed with an oil base primer before painting.

Soon after we finished painting both rooms, we realized that we HAD to have a bathroom upstairs and  started ripping out the closet.

The closet before:

Remodeling the bathroom took us 11 months to finish, but in our defense, we took 7 weeks off from Thanksgiving to January, plus we did a whole bunch of projects in between.

Whenever you purchase a home, there are always a few not so pretty projects that eat into your budget like replumbing the whole house after a few pipes burst and sprung a leak after one of the coldest winters.

We didn't take precautions to prevent this from happening because Mr. DIY wanted to replace the old plumbing anyway. Still, it took up a whole weekend (thank goodness the house is small and there's access in the high crawl space beneath the house.

Then, there were the gutters...

Would you believe that the previous owners never put gutters on the house in the 27 years they owned the house, when a good rain left standing water in the high crawl/storage space under the house? Installing gutters took care of that problem immediately.
We had a local contractor install the gutters on the house since it only cost about a hundred dollars more for him to do it and he had it done in an afternoon.

Now the really un-pretty part of owning a piece of property where people didn't clean and had no regard for their neighbors...

We spent some time picking up garbage that the previous owners threw in the woods. The problem was that we could see the garbage from the house and it was ugly. We picked up this junk, piled it in the trailer and took it to the dump. We estimate there are at least 5 more loads this size that still need to be retrieved from the woods.

A big chunk of cash was spent grading the driveway, installing a big, new drainage ditch and spreading some new gravel.  Then, after a couple of huge rains, a bunch of it ended up at the bottom. It still needs some work. We're hoping to do a little more grading, add a little more gravel and if we're really lucky, next Spring we might even put some asphalt down. 
This is not a diy project!

In late Winter, we planted several fruit trees; apples, pears, plums, peaches, almond...
...we also planted some black raspberry and blueberry bushes.

Oh, did I mention we had to have a few big trees cut down , mulch around the trees and put up 3 layers of defenses against critters before and after planting said trees??? 
Just to give you some perspective, the fencing around the trees is 5 feet tall.

We were so sad to see the big oak tree by the view porch cut down. It nearly broke my heart when the guys arrived to cut it down,  but it was 5 feet from the house and was starting to crack the foundation. When I looked outside and saw that the trunk was rotted out in the core for several feet, I was a little relieved that we ended up cutting it down.  Several of the trees we cut down were like that too. Better to bring trees down safely than for them to fall on the house during a storm.

Springtime brought more work outside. I cut down a bunch of little pine saplings along the edge of the woods. I have a feeling I will be fighting these for many years to come...

Meanwhile, we kept one foot in front of the other and continued working on projects upstairs...
There are more projects upstairs  than in any room we've done EVER!

The  Worlds Smallest Half Bath  inside the upstairs bedroom and those projects include installing rough and final plumbing, rough and final electrical, the tile floor,  the Pottery Barn Inspired Medicine Cabinet, the Faux Plank Wall,  the Custom Wood Countertop, the steamed apron front for the countertop and the Skirt for the countertop. 

Projects inside the upstairs bedroom include the Pottery Barn Knockoff Storage Bed...

...the storage shelves, the closet (which we are just about finished with)...

...oh, and the decorating.

I have to show you a few last outdoor projects.

One weekend we were so tired of getting cut on some prickly holly bushes, we just cut them down with a chainsaw. On our next trip to Lowe's we purchased some soil amendment, mulch and plants. 

 Mr. DIY finished  two last outside projects- and that will bring you up to date.

Just a few weeks ago, Mr.  DIY built this HUGE 16 x 6 foot Woodshed for all the wood from  a few of the trees that were cut down. (he still has to rent a log splitter to split all the wood and has to rent a stump grinder)

The final outside project  I have to show you Mr. DIY did was to install a gutter along the front of the workshop about a month ago. 

That's about as far as we've come. While I'm finishing some painting upstairs, Mr. DIY already started on the reno-ing of what should have been the front closet (had the house been placed properly on the land). We are reworking it as a Vintage Style Pantry with beadboard backing, built in shelving with a wood countertop and space for a rolling kitchen cart. After that, we will start ripping out the Worlds Ugliest Kitchen. 

Here's why:

I hope you've enjoyed the Mountain Cottage One Year Update. I am really looking forward to what comes next because a lot of it is going to be pretty, now that a lot of the not so pretty stuff is finished. I hope you'll come back often for a visit. 


PS: If you'd like to see the whole Mountain  Cottage (Before) House Tour, you can click HERE


  1. You two should've been featured on a DIY show for this! I have admired all you've done and totally respect the efforts made. We've done a lot of projects ourselves and I know what it takes to get through them both monetarily, emotionally and physically. Looks like that driveway is going to be an expensive one. We had to remove trees from our property and I always felt bad about it too but the first three that had to be removed had helped to destroy the septic field with their root system so they had to go. The next two were rotted on the inside too. Hopefully next year you guys can go up there to just relax and enjoy it and not always have to work! Can't wait to see the kitchen when you get it done! Kudos to both of you!

  2. Wow! You really did get a lot done! Traveling two hours one way I'm sure did cut into your work time....but you two should really be proud of all that you've accomplished! Everything's looking great! ;)

  3. It looks exhausting, but so worth it!! So many great things done, and I know you are ready to tackle the kitchen:-) In all honesty, we feel like that at our house all the time with the outside work especially that never ends. I know you are enjoying it so much!!

  4. Wow! Amazing what some TLC can do!!!

    XO Ellen from Ask Away

  5. I am so happy that you did an update...the cottage is coming along nicely...and I bet you are anxious to get to the "pretty renovation"...cannot believe the former owners put all that trash in the woods....

  6. Y'all have done sooo much! The view is amazing! I would have a hard time leaving the porch to actually do any work. I can't wait to see what you do with that kitchen!

  7. You know I love living vicariously through you and your mountain cottage adventures! I feel the same way as you do about wallpaper. I've taken down too much of it and will never put it up! You guys have done so much in a year, and everything you've done has been well thought out and smart! I love that woodshed too. It's the prettiest one I've ever seen. :)

  8. We owned a second house for about a year…in upstate New York when we lived in the City. Ah yes, the trials and tribulations. For us, never again! And as to wallpaper, I totally agree. I've never really liked it, and yes, removing it is a royal pain.
    But oh, your bed and bedroom look so inviting and clean and lovely (compared to the still existing kitchen!) Let's hope this winter is mild!

  9. You have done a whole lot of work, Pam! Your home is going to be beautiful!!! The view are breathtaking! You are right about the kitchen... I give you a whole lot of credit for using it that way for a whole year! I bet it will be just as fabulous as parts of your cabin home you have made over!


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