Aug 29, 2017

Moving Into Our Mountain Cabin

I'm so excited to share moving into our cabin with you today! 

Furnishing our little mountain vacation cabin in McCall, Idaho from our primary residence in Boise took a lot of careful planning and preparation, especially on our very tight budget. Our actual move-in was the weekend of October 22, 2016, but I started daydreaming about my decor and collecting ideas weeks earlier, before we even closed on our cabin. 

Pinterest ideas for our dream mountain life.
I started by gathering Pinterest photos that reflected our emotions and dreams for our future mountain living experience. I think most of us have a picture in our minds of what a perfect vacation place would look like, from rustic log cabin to cute lake cottage to sleek modern beach house, we all dream. I wanted to capture our dreams in photos to help me choose the right decor for our cabin.

What we had to work with; the before cabin photos from the real estate listing.
Next, I carefully studied the real estate listing photos of our cabin to remember where windows, doors, baseboard heaters, electrical outlets, etc. are located, since I couldn't simply run over and refresh my memory in person. I also created floor plans with exact measurements that we made during our real estate inspections. 

Cabin floor plans and measurements with our furniture inserted.
I measured our furniture and spent many hours fitting it into the floor plans so it would work. Seating in the living room for six (the size of our family) was essential, so everything had to fit perfectly. Our cabin is so tiny, it was like putting a challenging puzzle together. 

My final idea boards created on Photoshop.
Once I knew where the large furniture pieces would go, I filled in with the smaller furnishings and decor and created a mood board for the entire cabin on Photoshop. My color scheme is red, white, navy blue, grey, black, and white. I used these boards, along with lists from Pinterest of items every vacation rental should have, to put together my own lists for everything we'd need. Even though we won't be renting our cabin, we will need all the things renters would need. Those lists that I printed and took shopping with me made it a lot easier.

    Purchasing our cabin stretched our budget to the max, so it was essential to furnish as much as we could from what we already had. Luckily, we had saved lots of our old furniture over the years tucked away in our loft, and we filled in what little else we needed from Boise thrift stores. The few things we couldn't find at thrift stores, we purchased at less expensive department stores.  

Shopping, gathering, and packing for moving day.
For a couple of weeks before moving day we stored everything in our Boise living and dining rooms. We had one day to pack the truck, make the two hour drive over winding Highway 55 to McCall, unpack the truck and return it, so organization was key. We saved money on mileage charges by choosing a truck rental company in Boise that had a drop-off point in McCall. 

Finally, we were all set and moving day arrived. With lots of help from my daughters and sons in law we packed up the truck and headed for McCall.

Legacy Park, McCall, Idaho.

Mile High Marina, McCall, Idaho.

Ponderosa State Park and Payette Lake, Idaho.
The summer crowds had disappeared, and fall had arrived in the central mountains of Idaho that day as we drove into McCall. We were completely enchanted with beautiful autumn colors and mild weather for our moving-in weekend. 

Tucker is making sure his dog food got packed.
We started right away unloading the truck and had the furniture set up in no time. Later that weekend, while Tucker napped after the hard work of unpacking, I snapped some photos.  

Our thirty year-old custom built sectional with newer denim seat cushion slipcovers just barely fit, minus the corner wedge.

Our old ottoman and a new $99 Overstock rug.

Freshly laundered curtains from the previous owners, inherited end table painted black, and a new Target lamp.

Inherited refinished maple drop leaf table for both a desktop and dining, thrift store art, diy prints and signs and family photos.

Shelves made of drawers from the bottom of our old Boise hutch.

A painted yard sale telephone table and a thrift store lamp with a new Walmart shade.

Our front porch wicker chair, the TV from my office/studio, and a dvd "fireplace."

Our mattress from our Boise guest room, yard sale painted table, Target headboard and duvet, and Home Goods "welcome to the lake" sign, a cabin warming gift from my daughter and son in law.

Homemade cross stitch and painted Amazon lamps with USB chargers in the bases.
Ikea cart, Target towels and rug, Anthropologie shower curtain, a gift from my other daughter.

DIY chalkboard and our folding camp table. Walmart microwave and blender.

A red Keurig, our one splurge!

Still the original kitchen.

An Idaho state-shaped cutting board, a gift from my nephew and his wife, and thrift store blue and white dishes and cookie jar.

Flatware from Shopko and red and white striped tea towels.

Our first McCall purchase, a moose hook from our local May Hardware store. 
We just love how our tiny cabin looks now. We can hardly even remember what it was like before we scrubbed, caulked, patched and painted (read about that here!) Now that we're all moved in and cozy, in future posts I'm planning on sharing what it's really like to spend weekends on mountain time in a 470 square foot space. I'll also be sharing more cabin DIY, as we renovate our kitchen, paint the outside, get a new metal roof, work on landscaping projects, and much more. I'll be writing about the charming little town of McCall, hiking the grandeur of the Payette National Forest, mountain biking and snow shoeing in Ponderosa State Park, kayaking on beautiful Payette Lake, and anything else I can think of about our fun new weekend mountain lifestyle. 

Thank you for stopping by today! I hope you'll continue to join us on all our new adventures! 

Click HERE to read more about our cabin!

Come party with me!

Aug 24, 2017

Prepping and Painting Our Cabin Interior

Last week, I shared what it was like to buy our little mountain cabin along with some before photos. You can catch up on that post here. Today, I'm sharing some quickly snapped during and after phone photos from our first visit to our cabin as its new owners when my husband I prepped and painted and got the interior ready for moving in.

Paint Central - A folding table in the kitchen.

Before painting: scrubbing, scraping and sanding. (Ewwww, ick!)

We didn't want any of the seller's cabin furnishings except the refrigerator and stove, so we knew we'd be "camping out" during our first trip to clean and paint the interior. We left Boise on a Friday morning after packing up our pickup with cleaning and painting supplies, sheets and towels, and an overnight case. We also stopped at Walmart on our way out of town to buy a queen size inflatable mattress with a built in pump that was on sale for a great price. We figured we could use it for a guest mattress later, so it was not only handy for us to sleep on those first nights, but a good investment for the future.

Unsightly cracks and seams between loose panels and along ceiling molding.

Original stain color of the paneling and newly caulked seams between panels, molding, and ceiling.

After picking up our keys and receiving the selling real estate agent's "best wishes in your new cabin" we drove through town and past the lake to our little cabin. It's impossible to describe the wonder we felt driving down the narrow lane under the tall pine trees for the first time, not as tourists, but as home owners. We were filled with excitement for a new chapter in our lives, and, somehow, everything looked and felt so different and so special. As we saw everything through "fresh" eyes, we both felt that this first experience in mountain cabin living was full of promise for an interesting and fun future. 

Miles of caulking! 

After parking in our circular gravel driveway and unloading the pickup, we slowly walked around inside the cabin taking in everything we needed to accomplish during our first three day weekend visit. We were happy to see that the carpet had been cleaned beautifully by professionals, so we could live with it and put off the cost of refinishing or replacing wood floors for now. We were confident we'd be able to clean and paint all the rooms that first visit; after all, there are only a tiny living room, one bedroom and bathroom, a kitchen, and a storage room. 

Our first romantic dinner in our new cabin. :)

Temporary air mattress set up in the living room for our first night.

When we inspected our cabin on pre-closing inspections, we couldn't help noticing how dirty it was. The bathroom was the only clean room in the cabin, and only because it had been recently refurbished with new fixtures, flooring, and paint. We knew we had a big job in front of us to bring the cleanliness of the other rooms up to our standards, so we rolled up our sleeves and got right to work. First, we dusted off the light airy cobwebs that covered literally every inch of the ceilings and walls and then we scrubbed every single surface and nook and cranny with buckets and buckets of hot water, rags, brushes and soap. "Ewwww" and "ick" were the words I think I used most that first day.

The dark gold paint sucked the natural light right out of the cabin.

Finally, let's paint! (The bedroom.)

As soon as the ceiling and walls were dry from their scrubbings, we started nailing, caulking and patching the gaps and cracks in the old paneling so it would be dry and ready for paint the next day. We had absolutely no idea this part of our prep would take so long because the dirty and dark gold paint hid so many of the imperfections until we got up close and personal with it. But it was this preparation before painting that helped turn the old dark gold paneling from cheap to charming, so there was no cutting corners. I think we must have caulked miles of cracks and gaps that weekend. 

New paint in the bedroom. 

Newly painted bathroom.

That evening we were exhausted and beginning to be a bit daunted by how much more work we had ahead of us. We hadn't even opened a can of paint yet! We pulled two plastic patio chairs in front of the living room window and made a table from two plastic storage bins, then sat eating our first dinner, takeout pizza, by candlelight as we gazed out at the pine trees in the fading light. We agreed there was no better place to be exhausted than together in our tiny cabin in the woods.

Let there be light in the kitchen! New white paint.

More new white paint in the kitchen. (Yes, that is the hot water heater in the kitchen!)

After spending the night on our very comfy air mattress and being rejuvenated by the fresh mountain air, we got to work again with more cleaning, prepping, and, finally, some painting. We decided to paint everything one color to make our painting go more quickly. We wanted a color that would lighten up the rooms, make them appear more spacious, and be a neutral backdrop for the photos and art we'd like to collect and hang on the walls. So everything is painted with my favorite Benjamin Moore White Dove Regal latex paint; the ceilings and walls in eggshell and the windows and doors in semi gloss. My husband rolled the ceilings and walls, using the roller edges to get into the paneling crevices; while I slowly and laboriously painted the window mullions, doors, cabinets and trim. It was, once again, all taking much longer than we thought it would. (We ended up running out of time and finished the kitchen and bathroom a couple of weeks later.)

A panoramic view of the tiny living room wearing a new coat of white paint. 

After all was finished, we were a little dumbfounded by how our little cabin was transformed by our scrubbing, patching, and painting; from a dirty, dark and dreary cabin to a shining, light and airy cabin. We were so happy with the squeaky clean interior and new look. We also had a great sense of accomplishment from doing all that hard work ourselves, and we were even more excited to move our things in the following week! Our cabin dreams were coming true!

Stay tuned next time for move-in day!

Aug 16, 2017

Buying Our Mountain Cabin (With Before Pictures)

I've been sitting here trying to think back to what I've been doing all summer. It seems like just yesterday my daughter was getting married and I was busy entertaining out of town guests. But that was way back in early June, and here it is mid-August. A quick look at my calendar tells me I've been spending almost every weekend up at our new cabin in McCall, Idaho, and my in-between days have been spent back in Boise preparing for those weekends. So, since I seem to be living on mountain time these days, I'm thinking it would be fun to start sharing our cabin adventures before too many more of them fly by.

Last April I wrote a blog post about how we came to find and buy our little cabin in the fall of 2016, including a bit of our family's history with the little mountain town of McCall, Idaho. You can catch up on that post by clicking here if you missed it.

Today, I'll take you back to the first time we saw our little cabin, what it looked like then, and what it was like to buy a vacation home in a dream destination in the mountains on a small budget. You may wonder, as you look at these unedited pictures mostly from the real estate listing, what on earth we saw in our run down and neglected little cabin. I hope you'll trust me when I say that we loved our little cabin from the first time we set eyes on it. From that first moment we had a vision of what it could be, and I'm excited to take you with us on our renovation journey of this tiny cabin in the woods.

First, we had to buy it! 

Though our realtor is now a broker and partner in a very large Boise Real Estate Company, he lived and worked in the small central Idaho mountain town of McCall for many years and still spends summer weekends here. He is an expert on all things to do with mountain living and the local real estate scene, and I can't begin to tell you how important that expertise was for us when purchasing our McCall vacation home. From recommendations for local inspectors, surveyors, and building specialists, to what kind of roof is required for heavy mountain snow loads, to how to cope with "mountain time" during the high pressure stress of purchasing property, our realtor expertly and calmly guided us through it all.

We made the two hour drive to McCall and met our realtor at our cabin to see it for the first time on August 20, 2016, and our sale recorded on October 11, 2016, fifty-four days later. Our little cabin had already gone through two offers from other buyers, but both failed the inspection requirements for the financing that had been applied for. Specifically, our little cabin had a leaking roof, peeling paint, and needed a new electrical panel, none of which the seller would fix. FHA and VA financing requires a move-in ready home, so both of those offers fell through. We didn't realize it at the time, but we were extremely lucky to make our offer with conventional financing and have it be accepted almost immediately after the financing from the other buyers fell through and before anyone else could make another offer.

We've been told many times since, how lucky we were to find a cabin at a price we could even come close to affording anywhere in the McCall area, where lakefront homes sell for millions of dollars; especially one so close to the lake and state park. Cash sales of vacation homes are a large percentage of real estate sales in this area, and our 470 square foot cabin was perfect for a cash investor looking to flip it for a quick profit. My husband and I say it to each other every time we come up to our little cabin that we were so incredibly lucky to have found the only fixer upper cabin in all of McCall we could afford when we did, and that we were able to make our offer before someone else did. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! 

I think all real estate dealings are stressful, and ours was no different. In addition, we had some stressful issues (for us) that were unique to the purchase of a vacation home. First, we found out that second homes have different financing requirements than principal residences do. We hadn't figured on having to come up with a down payment of twenty percent of the purchase price. It could have been a deal breaker, but we decided to use all the money we were saving for our new car for the cabin instead. We would just have to start over saving for a new car, but it was worth it to us. 

After we figured out our financing, we worried that our old cabin might need more repairs than we could afford. We held our breath during the two hour inspection until our home inspector summarized our cabin as "needing a few repairs and updates due to neglect and age, but it's a pretty nice little cabin for seventy years old in McCall, Idaho."


We chose as positive an interpretation of that summary as we could. Later, after the written inspection report was emailed to us and we pored over all of it, we got an additional inspection of the electrical system by a licensed electrician and made an inspection contingency counter offer for the seller to cover part of the cost of the new roof. Then, we felt fairly confident of what repairs needed doing and that we would eventually be able to afford them; mostly because the cabin is just so tiny and we are experienced do it yourselfers.

The appraisal was our next hurdle and set us back when the appraiser just never bothered showing up at the cabin and the loan officer didn't know until the last day it was due. That left them scrambling to find a new appraiser who was willing to make the four hour round trip drive to McCall. 

With the appraisal finally done, our Title Insurance Company at the last minute made a survey of the land a requirement of the title policy we wanted. As so many small mountain town professionals do, our surveyor was out of town working on another job, so we just had to wait for his return. Luckily, our seller agreed to delay our closing date. Since the title company was located in the same county as the cabin, our realtor had set up a courtesy closing in our home county with another title company he uses here so we wouldn't all need to drive up to McCall. Unfortunately, we found out, again at the last minute, that their office was closing for Columbus Day! Who on earth closes for Columbus Day?! Luckily, he knew of another title company that would be open and, finally, it was closing day!

I was told at our closing meeting that I'm what they call a "reader." I read every single word of every single one of our closing documents. I was surprised to hear that's unusual, especially when I found that the description of our property had been transcribed wrong by the computer on the property deed, which is the most important legal document of ownership. And I was the only one who caught it! Happily, the title officer was able to type up an attachment to correct the description that allowed us to continue with our closing without delay. It was still two more days before we could pick up our keys and take occupancy of our little cabin because the documents had to be sent overnight by fed ex to the title company in the county of the cabin for recording the following day.

So, you can see, buying a vacation home that's in a different location from where you live can add a little stress to the already stressful real estate transaction, simply because it's out of town. Our realtor expected delays and was experienced with, and ready, to handle them. After the first few hurdles and problems were surmounted, we learned to trust him and his understanding of our small mountain town real estate transaction. 

We were so excited when we drove up to McCall on that first fall day and stopped by the seller's real estate office to pick up our keys. My husband's pickup was full of cleaning and painting supplies and an air mattress to sleep on. We kept pinching ourselves to see if it was all real. Were we really realizing our dream to become the owners of our own
vacation cabin?!

When we got to our little cabin that first day and walked around our property taking in all the dead and dying trees that needed to be cut down and the peeling, flaking paint on the cracked siding, then opened the front door into the living room and gazed up at the new water stains on the ceiling from the leaking roof and the seventy year-old electrical panel with glass knob fuses hanging in the living room, we slowly realized, oh yes, we're wide awake, and it's all very real... 

Stay tuned as we roll up our sleeves and get to work on our tiny cabin in the woods!