Before and After: A Dated Catskills Cabin Was Renovated into a Clean, Modern, and Warm Home
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Name: Leigh Spahn and Mikey McLaughlin
Location: East Jewett, New York
Type of home: Cabin / House
Size: 1600 square feet
Years lived in: 9 months, owned
Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: We got engaged in this area, so this part of the Catskills holds a special place in our hearts. We started casually looking for a weekend place, and we saw this house and put an offer in not really thinking we would get it. To our surprise, we got it, and the rest is history. We knew from the first time we saw it that everything needed updating, but we thought we would do it in phases. Instead, with the help of our families, one room just flowed into the next and we wound up doing it all at once.
Mikey is pretty handy, so we were able to do almost all of the renovations ourselves—save for a plumber putting in a new bathtub, and some of the electrical projects. Otherwise it was every weekend for eight months straight with the help of family and friends. Going into it, we knew we wanted pure white walls and black trim, and an all black exterior.
Once we started painting though we realized that everything in the house was actually salmon or orange-ish—all of the walls, all of the tile, the carpeting, everything! Once we eliminated the pink and orange tones, the whole place felt much bigger and fresher. Instead of putting wood floors in the bedrooms and loft, we decided to just replace the (pink) carpet. Partly for budget reasons, and partly because we both find something comforting about your feet hitting carpet in the morning. It definitely gives the rooms a cozier feel.
The downstairs bathroom and kitchen were the biggest projects we took on. In the bathroom, we replaced everything—floor, tub, and tile surround, toilet, vanity, fixtures, etc. Lots of tiling and grouting. In the kitchen, it was a gut job—all new cabinets (from IKEA—so many boxes, but surprisingly easy to put together!) and subway tile installed vertically.
We chose a matte finish concrete quartz for the counter tops, and the most minimal out-of-box appliances we could find. When it came time to furnish, we knew we wanted to keep it warm, but also wanted to mix things up with pieces from different eras.
We scoured Craigslist and trash piles for a lot of the pieces, and got all three of the beds on super sale. A lot of the rugs are vintage finds from Etsy, and we layered them over the bedroom rugs. For artwork, we just picked what we were attracted to. We didn’t want to take it too seriously, so there’s definitely some fun in everything we chose to hang.
We knew we wanted something big to go over the wood stove, and we found this mudcloth but had no idea how much it would cost to frame. Since that wasn’t in budget, we decided to make our own frame with some plexiglass, wood trim, and a can of spray paint. It’s over 6′ tall, so hanging it was another story, but we are thrilled with how it turned out.
Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Clean, warm, modern, cozy
What is your favorite room and why? Leigh – I’m a TV queen and have always dreamed of having a sectional sofa that takes up an entire room! In reality, this one is scaled appropriately to the space, but it beats anything any of my city apartments could accommodate. The couch sets the tone the minute you walk through the door, and you know you’re somewhere perfect for relaxing and spending time together.
Mikey – The kitchen really turned out exactly as we thought it would. When we have people visiting, the island is like the hub of the weekend—everyone is constantly standing and sitting around it!
What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? Actually it was the dining room chairs—we held out for the right ones for a long time. Also a teapot from CB2; it gets cold in the Catskills!
Any advice for creating a home you love? PATIENCE! We thought we could get the whole house renovated and decorated in six months (HA!) and it wound up taking us just about nine, which is still fast. Don’t let that get to you—there are going to be delays and you just have to roll with them.
Same goes for decorating — you have to wait for the right pieces. We were this close to just ordering dining room chairs from one of the usual suspects before we found these mustard ones on Craigslist and we think they really make the room! It’s the unique pieces that make a house your home.
This submission’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.