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My mother owns a country cabin out in the middle of the high desert of Utah, a five bedroom, two bathroom, pine-clad space that she has decorated from floor to ceiling with second-hand furniture and gorgeous antiques. I remember thinking she was crazy to buy a cabin in the middle of nowhere until I went with her to visit the property. This is her backyard:


I have joked that she likes to scatter ceramic farm animals here and there, but I haven’t given her enough credit. She’s got a great eye, especially for playful vignettes on a dresser or in a corner, and last week she and my stepfather renovated the kitchen at the cabin, by themselves, in four days, for less than a thousand dollars. My mother is 65 years old. My stepfather, 66. When she told me they were planning this insanity, I asked her if she had a death wish. She said, “Death wish? Honey, I grew up in a one room shack with eight brothers and sisters. This is a vacation!”

Admittedly, the kitchen was a bit cramped. Especially when our entire family would gather for a holiday weekend. And by entire family I mean my husband and our two kids, my sister and her five kids, and my brother and his five kids. Routinely a toddler would get lodged somewhere between the stove and dining table:


They started on a Monday morning by taking down the wall between the kitchen and one of the bedrooms. My mother (fig.1) removed sheets of tar paper, installed originally to diffuse light between the rooms, and my stepfather (fig 2.) removed all the tongue and groove boards until they were down to the studs.


Next they removed the carpet from the bedroom only to find out that they were going to have to install a subfloor. A trip to the hardware store sixty miles away and few sheets of four-by-eight-foot particleboard planks later (fig 3.) and they had what they needed. After my stepfather nailed them in place, he had to patch the nail heads and level the floor (fig 4.) He doesn’t look so happy, but neither would I.


Next they laid down linoleum tiles, one by one, and my mother (fig 5.) had to use an antique rolling pin to secure them in place. She said she’s never had a better abdominal workout in her life. After all the tile was installed (fig 6.) my stepfather continued to look miserable.


My mother says she doesn’t remember what day it was at this point, it’s all a blur now, but one morning they woke up and immediately started installing cabinetry (fig 7. and 8.). Some of it was stock they bought at the hardware store, but most of it they reused. In fact, almost everything they took down they reused, and eventually my stepfather created all the trim work from the tongue and groove boards he’d removed from the wall.


Finally a couple of neighbors stopped by and helped with some of the finishing touches. One neighbor handled all the electrical work for $130, and another neighbor cut the countertop for $20 (fig 9.). Then my mother moved the dining table into its new home (fig 10.).


A few decorative touches later, and they had a new kitchen:



They still have a few minor tweaks to make, some trim work to install and a coat of stain on the new cabinets, but I needed them to babysit! They had to come back to town! My mother’s back thanked me for my children and their need to be watched.

Is it a high-end luxury cabin, no, but I think the look complements the feeling of a desert cabin clad in knotty pine. Also, it opens up the space so much more than before and will allow our huge family a little more elbow room. Plus, my mother has some new spaces to add her trademark rustic vignettes.


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Design Inspiration

26 Responses

  1. Pixie says:

    First, I must say Gorgeous!
    It is amazing how much bigger this space looks. With the open ceiling the light feels like it is pouring in. Of course, that’s one less bedroom, so I guess when the grandkids come-they’ll get to sleep on the new kitchen floor. And kudos to your mother and stepfather for doing the hard work here.

    I am happy you are giving these Boomers some credit! They still got the boost to do the renovation work [hopefully, your stepfather has moved past his misery]. Maybe there’s a new show on the horizon: Boomer Design?

    Beautiful work!!

  2. Lovely back yard! Wow!

    • PS: I'm reading through your archives and maybe a month ago read through the Armstrong Kitchen Remodel Disaster. And I'm thinking, where are the stories about how BAD everything went? This looks downright EASY, wtf? I feel gypped.
      :) hee hee. Naw, I'm just teasing. So glad to see that things went well in their remodel!

  3. Yen Figueroa says:

    Wow! They did an amazing job, and it looks great! Now we know for sure where you get your talents. =)

  4. andthenjensaid says:

    Looks AWESOME! Good for them for taking on such a lofty project!!

  5. You know, it's not my cup of tea per se, but it looks wonderful. Open, welcoming, reflects the Avon World Sales Leader's own charms and preferences, and will be a fabulous place for raucous family feasts. And it's about time those kids chip in. They're old enough to build a bunkhouse, right? You can't spell compound without bunkhouse, that's what I always say.

  6. Amy J says:

    WOW, I'm impressed. Those two put this thirty-one-year-old gal to shame. Bravo!

  7. Those are some tough folks! What an amazing project; it looks fantastic! Call me squirrelly, but I love piney walls; it's like being in a tree.

  8. Kate R. says:

    My jaw is on the floor. There is no way on earth I would ever be able to do that, even back when I was a spry 25 year old. My ancient 35 year old self says, "Hats Off!" to your mom and stepfather. I am beyond impressed. I also hope that that pitchfork never falls on someone's head.

  9. JEW says:

    I sure youall would come to Arkansas. I have a nice older home, but my kitchen is old and my bathrooms are old and I love where I live, but I cannot afford to redo the things that cost the most in my house. I see all the things youall do and am very envious. I live in a very nice and beautiful town, but even in a small town, it is very expensive to do these things. We have beautiful and expensive homes in this town, as it is known to have a lot of people with money. I am a single grandmother and I love to redo things, but Bathrooms and Kitchens, I cannot do by myself. Thanks for listening. You are welcome in Arkansas!

  10. Catch the Kids says:

    Wow! I'm impressed. They did a great job. I just hope they recover to enjoy it!

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