Renovation heaven…or is this hell?

Now that I’m home in my own colony once again, I thought it was high time to describe what the heck we’ve been up to this summer.  Well, turns out, it was a LOT! So here goes: Once upon a time in the year nineteen hundred and sixty-five, a cute little couple who had been married 35 years, lived through the Great Depression and never had much aside from their family home, finally achieved their dream come true…a little vacation cabin in the woods a half mile from the ocean.  He was a school teacher and they worked hard saving for this place, which was now nearly falling down.  Though they moved to RI for work and settled there, this to them was always “home”. People called it a “tear-down” and said we should start over.  But for their sakes, we were bound and determined to save it. I took a deep breath, left my management job in the corporate world, took a seasonal job in the museum field in another state, and JUMP…we were on our way.


As it appeared in the winter of 1965



Happy Anniversary Walter and Pauline! We discovered that banner in the bottom of the corner cabinet and decided to just leave it there. They’d have been married 87 years this summer if they were still with us.

When we arrived, the place didn’t look all that bad at first glance.  To my delight, original furniture, light fixtures, and tchotchkes belonging to my grandma were still there, untouched.  Except for the beds and upholstered furniture which we immediately got hauled away to the dump, most things were in good shape and salvageable and I began to have visions of making it a little 60’s time capsule.

We soon discovered, to our utter horror, that the floor joists supporting the entire structure were all broken or eaten away by wood-boring insects, and the supports for the second floor over the porch were bowing forward.  I may have cried a little, thinking we’d never save it until several kind neighbors reassured us that all was not lost.  Three contractors later, we found someone actually willing to help us.

There was also this horribly unsafe walkway between the actual loft space and a secondary loft bedroom that Gramp created when we needed an extra room.  Basically, it was just a couple of boards stretched across the ceiling rafters.  As a kid I thought it was fun and cool, but clearly it had to go because…codes.  Right?


Gramp’s improvised walkway, completed in the late 1970s. Good thing I took a photo to commemorate it because it’s GONE, as is the back loft (from where I’m taking the pic) which was never meant to be part of the structure.

The first thing we had to do was eradicate mold in the crawl space, or the dudes wouldn’t work down there.  We didn’t blame them, but there wasn’t time to hire someone so hubby decided that he’d don a hazard suit and do it himself. This is the sight to which I was treated…mmmm, sexy!


Several gallons of bleach later, we were in business and work began in earnest. Once the floor was supported, the rooms no longer felt like trampolines, furniture didn’t lean inward and doors didn’t scrape against the floorboards, the next step was to rebuild the porch that was supporting the second floor.  There wasn’t any way it was going to look like the original because apparently, one can no longer obtain rounded cedar posts that still has the bark intact.  What to do, what to do?  Fortunately, Grampy kept every single thing related to this cabin, including every cent he paid for every screw, nail, hook, window, light fixture, and piece of furniture (most of it still there, by the way) in a folder which was now in my possession.  Sure enough, there were the original plans, with the porch as it was intended before it was modified to suit his specification.  Texted a picture of the plans to the construction manager, and voila!


After the sagging porch supports were replaced.  We are slowly repairing the screens.

I’d started my job at the local historical society, so living here for the summer had become a necessity, and as you can all imagine, construction in a vacation hotspot at the beginning of the season can be chaotic…they were trying to make all of their customers happy and finish the major work before the 4th of July so that we could all enjoy our homes.  Our job was small, relatively speaking, so once the structural stuff was done all we needed was a bathroom.  Yeah, try living without a functioning bathroom.  I’d describe all the times the toilet was removed and I made desperate phone calls to get it reinstalled in between the steps it took to get the bathroom done, but that’d bore you to tears.  Suffice it to say that we lived in a cold-water flat with no kitchen and no heater (it was 42 degrees at the beginning of June) for a while, but at least we didn’t have to go in the woods with the bears.  Ok, there was that one time that I stayed with the neighbor across the street because there was no bathroom at all, I had to work the next day so we couldn’t go home, but that’s a minor detail.  Mr. H. is handy so he fixed the kitchen sink, got the water heater going, fixed the leaky toilet so we didn’t have to replace it, got the actual heater going, repaired some woodwork, scraped the old varnish off the window trim, repaired screens to get at least one more season from them, sanded cabinets so I could re-stain them, washed stained floors a million times, sanded part of a floor that was too far gone with 60 grit paper and a hand sander, re-painted thus saving a rusty old glider from the 1930s, found the septic,  built a stone wall around the yard, and basically was my hero.  He did a lot of this using Gramp’s old hand tools that he discovered in a closet.  He’s a lot like him, and I’m sad that they never had the chance to meet.  They’d have been partners in crime at rummage sales, buying in bulk, picking free stuff up off the side of the road like Fred Sanford, and fixing things the old-fashioned way.  There is still more to be done next season, such as repairing the porch screens, grading the yard, cleaning and treating the exterior wood, and possibly a new roof, but we’re getting there.  Right now, I’d like to think my grandparents are smiling down at us in their little cabin in the pines.

Enjoy some before and after photos.


Access to the crawl space is right here. This was my grandparents’ bedroom and is considered the “master”.  The bedrooms are so small that nothing larger than a double bed will fit.


Complete with original 1960s port and starboard lights. Yep, we’re Lucy and Ricky with twin beds because we didn’t want to crowd into a double.

My mother did the large painting years ago for my uncle.

My grandmother, Pauline Hayes, in the kitchen in July 1965

My grandmother in the kitchen in July 1965


Sigh.  A great mess.  We feared we’d have to paint the cabinets but were able to sand all the junk off them and restain.  The Formica countertop is original and we were able to save it, along with all the hardware!




Yes.  That is the same clock you see in the 1965 photo.  The table and chairs are from the 1930s.

This bedroom was always known as “the Indian room”.  There’s no picture from 1965 but we put it back the way it always was.


The room as I remember it.  I often slept here as a kid.


My grandfather painted the picture on the wall and made the birch frame for it.  My mother made and painted the pillow.  And what would Maine be without a mosquito in a party hat?


Here’s my grandmother in the loft in 1965.  I searched high and low for those curtains but couldn’t find them.  I got something fairly similar in the end.  That quilt was still there, but the jury is still out on whether we can get it clean enough to save it.


Here’s the hot mess we found when we got there.  Yikes!

Here it is after a little bit of work. For some reason, I took pictures before I got the bed made. Right now there’s only a twin up here but more beds could be added in this space later.


I was able to find some 60s curtains on eBay, and my grandmother’s afghan was still in the house.  My mother did the painting of the mill in Newfield, ME.   The floor up here is unfinished but I sort of like it that way.

Yikes, is all I can say here.  The vanity was too large for the room.


We put in a vintage sink similar to the one that was originally there.  The original floor had been changed and the floor we found in its place was beyond repair, so we had a wood-look vinyl floor installed.

We put some of the vintage advertising items we found in the house on a shelf in the bathroom, and we installed a cabinet above the toilet. The original medicine cabinet and light fixtures were still here.




Some shots of the living room from the 60s, and Grampy in his chair. Check out that giant ash tray!

This is the condition we found it in.  The original wagon wheel light fixture and lamps were still there.  The carpet was a mess and we hoped and prayed the original hardwood floors underneath were salvageable.

Yes they were!  But SO dirty.


All paintings were done by my mother and were originally in the house.




My husband made Moby out of a leftover piece of pine.




Still looking for groovy cushions like these originals on the 1930s glider.  Haven’t found them yet.









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