This Designer Used Salvaged Materials and DIYs to Transform a Run-Down Cottage

This Designer Used Salvaged Materials and DIYs to Transform a Run-Down Cottage

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Name: Joanne Palmisano and Stephen Booth
Location: Shelburne, Vermont
Size: 2100 square feet
Years lived in: 18 years, owned

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My husband and I were heading to Oregon to visit with friends when we got a call from our realtor friend who said, “I found your dream home.” We had been looking for two years for a property on Lake Champlain, but to no avail. On our way to the airport one day, our friend insisted that we swing by the house that was about to go on the market. We did, with our two year old daughter, Gabrielle, and when we walked on the property, we saw a small run-down cottage on a gorgeous piece of land with a gentle slope to the water with a beautiful beach. We wanted it, even though we had never even seen the inside of the cottage because it wasn’t on the market yet. So while we flew across the country, our friend put our old home on the market and had a buyer even before we got home from our trip. The cottage was ours.

Credit: Susan Teare

We lived in the run-down cottage for two years before we were able to come up with the funds to renovate. We decided to deconstruct the cottage and try and recycle almost all of it. We contacted a local non-profit who trains at-risk kids in the construction trade and they spent two weeks deconstructing the house. Even the insulation was reused.

Credit: Susan Teare

Once we got down to the sub floor, we stopped and then started building back up. Only the chimney from the old fireplace was standing. We did a lot of the work ourselves, laying the tile, painting, sanding floors, and much more. I spent a lot of time searching out all the salvaged materials, doors, sinks, and other items that played key roles in the home’s design.

Credit: Susan Teare

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Bungalow/Cottage

Inspiration: The cottage that was already there but it was only 2 x 4 construction and many of the walls were rotting from years and years of leaking, so we had to take it down. But we loved the character and tried to bring as much of that into our new home.

Credit: Susan Teare

Favorite Element: My kitchen island. It was a fun hunt for the perfect salvaged wood that would handle the size of the island. We found old Douglas fir boards from an 1800s railroad building in a farmer’s field. They were just slightly sanded, allowing all the waves and character to stay in place. It is where everyone gathers, and where we eat everyday. 

Biggest Challenge: It was hard to get the builders to embrace a lot of the salvaged materials and how I wanted them finished. But we talked it through and it turned out great.

Credit: Susan Teare

Proudest DIY: Our soapstone kitchen counters. We were on a tight budget and wanted a beautiful soapstone countertop to go with the vintage laundry sink we found that would serve as the kitchen sink. The cost was way out of our budget. So we drove to the stone yard and bought some 2 x 2 tiles and crawled on their scrap pile and found some small pieces to serve as the backsplash. For $300 and a weekend of DIYing, we put together our own countertop. We made it look thicker than it was by cutting a piece to go along the edge. The lines are hard to see because we pushed it all together well with black epoxy and clamped it well.

Biggest Indulgence: The windows. We really went all out. It was a great thing that we lived in the little cottage for a couple of years because we got to see how the sun moved across the sky and where it set and we were determined to take full advantage of our lake view. So our home is pretty much wall to wall windows–we feel like we are living in a boat.

Credit: Susan Teare

What’s your best home secret? We were not afraid to search out scratch and dents or other floor model type discounts to make sure we got the look we wanted at the price we could afford. Our large commercial refrigerator is from a recycle shop, our stove has a dent on the side you cannot see and our bathroom tile came from a seconds room at the tile store.



  • Sherwin-Williams
  • Main Living/Kitchen – Universal Kaki
  • Bedroom/sunroom – Svelte Sage  
  • Trim Color – Glass of Milk
Credit: Susan Teare


  • Since we live in Vermont, we have a tendency to bring in lots of snow, so we added a vintage heating grate to the front porch so we could stamp out our snow and mud before we stepped into the house. The side table is a vintage Stickley piece, the mirror is made from vintage trim pieces found at Mason Brothers Architectural Salvage, the front door is from  Pella Windows and Doors.
Credit: Susan Teare


  • I love to change out my decor for the seasons. The bright area rug I made from a remnant rug and painted with upholster paint. The living room furniture is a mish-mash of secondhand pieces and family DIYs and decor. Windows and doors are all Pella. The hardwood cherry floors are from Lathrop’s Lumber yard: local Vermont cherry, Grade B.  
  • The old chair I picked up at a recycle shop and covered it with a painter’s tarp and used an old wool blanket to cover an electrical spool as the side table.
Credit: Susan Teare


  • I found an old cedar chest at a recycle shop and painted it black and white and added it to the guest room, where it stores winter sweaters. All the doors in our house were found at an architectural salvage shop and we had them stripped and left them in their natural wood state.
Credit: Susan Teare


  • In a window seat area I painted an old wood chicken coop, added some legs, and created a table then picked up some recycled vases and created a beautiful display. I like to change this area out–so I also made some pillows out of collecting vintage embroidery wall hangings at Goodwill.
Credit: Susan Teare


  • We get almost all our books from the library’s book sale and I’ve been collecting the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books since our daughter was born. It is fun hunting them down during my travels. I made the table with the salvaged piece of wood and the old office chair bases I found at Barge Canal Marketplace.
Credit: Susan Teare


  • We found the vintage Stickley dining table and chairs at an antique shop
  • All the lighting is Arroyo Craftsman.
  • Windows – Pella
Credit: Susan Teare


  • Vintage laundry sink
  • Soapstone tiles
  • We picked up the gorgeous faucet at Close to Home.
  • Our refrigerator is from ReSource, a non-profit reuse shop. It was a commercial grade refrig we picked up for $600. The countertops of our island are old pieces of wood from an 1880s railroad building we picked up from a farmer who also sold reclaimed wood.
  • Baskets on the backside of the island are Pottery Barn.
  • The stools I picked up online, and the schoolhouse clock is from an antique shop. The stained glass window was a custom-made gift I gave my husband.
  • We found the vintage laundry sink at the stone shop and then we made the counter top out of 2 x 2 tiles and scrap soapstone for the backsplash.
Credit: Susan Teare


  • The window mirrors behind the sinks I picked up at my local rebuild center that was having a training class and they made these. The tile we found at North Country Tile, in their seconds room. The doors are all salvaged as well as the countertop (which is the same wood as our island but we had these pieces planed). For the soaking tub, I made the faux stained glass pieces using old picture frames and some peel and stick window paper I picked up at Lowes. The blue glasses I found at my local antique shop.

Thanks Joanne!

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