But unfortunately! The cabin’s condition resembles what Wood has called a “mullet house” thanks to its many additions over the years: Although it looks like a traditional country cottage in the front, the back is more like a Bavarian log cabin. Magic alone cannot carry their new home into the 21st century. The space needs a great deal of work. While the contractor would take on the biggest jobs, Wood was dependent on doing some of the work himself. She didn’t let the fact that her DIY experiment failed to go beyond changing a lamp, painting some furniture, and re-upholstering things—too bad. “For realz,” says Wood. “When my mom would visit me in Brooklyn to help out with apartment matters, she would shake her head and say, ‘I had no idea raising a helpless daughter like that,'” Wood recalls of her home maintenance projects.
To transform the space into the “20s grandfather’s cabin” of her dreams, Wood began evaluating all the work that needed to be completed. With Cox’s experience and advice at home Reno, the duo took off for the summer. “We’ve worked together to take control of the land, and it’s second nature to me since I own a landscape design company,” Cox says. “We also pulled some rugs and nails together. It was fun to get into the business, and it helped Reagan gain more confidence about some of the projects she’s doing on her own.”
The house was previously seasonal, and needed to be prepared for the winter. The only heating system was an old wood stove and an old propane gas heater. There was no insulation or even inner walls, only the back side of the outer side. To do the heavy lifting, Wood hired a contractor recommended by a friend and was ready to begin renovations in March 2021. He did some demolition, but after about four months he stopped answering texts and emails. “And then he ended up disappearing with our money,” Wood says.
After realizing they were back to square one, it took another six months to find a new contractor. Wood and Cox got a renewal mortgage to pay for most of the work, but by the time they found the new contractor, labor and material costs had tripled, forcing them to refinance. During that time, the house was empty. The dining room was filled with things that Wood optimistically brought home, believing they would be able to use them by the summer of 2021. Now, there were rat droppings and dead insects everywhere. Before they could do anything, the entire space needed to be cleaned and emptied, which Wood says is a “big job.”
However, the duo remains optimistic. “I find restoring older homes fun,” Cox says. “I look forward to seeing this old girl shine once she is finished.”
Over the next two months, Wood and Cox will handle several renovation projects, including:
- windows update
- Painting and coloring the original chalkboard in two bedrooms and the kitchen
- Re-shine original cast iron basin
- kitchen cabinet paint
- Custom sanding and staining of ground floors (installed by contractor)
- Supplying furniture and decorating interiors
So far, Wood says, “not much has been done.” She painted the newly cleaned dining room, as well as the one upstairs bedroom that has already been renovated and provided with insulation. But then it had to stop. Another challenge arose when the water and electricity were cut off for three weeks, leaving the contractor unable to get any work done. Ongoing waits have forced Wood and Cox to be more relaxed with their projected timeline for completion.
This was supposed to be done by the end of July. Well, it’s September, and I can say we’re halfway through,” Wood explains. “This has been the aspect that I struggle with constantly. On my best days, I have a very loose grip. On the worst days of my life, I pull my hair out.”
See what happens as Renault continues the Catskills cabin in the next batch of DIY Diary.
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