Tag Archives: home improvement

Baby Bear Cabin Renovations 2017

I am incredibly excited about the the recent renovations to one of my cabins up in Big Bear, and very pleased with how everything turned out. In late 2015 I bought several cozy cabins in Big Bear Lake, CA and while all they are all awesome in their own way, some needed a little bit of tender loving care to bring them into the 21st century.

After a couple weeks of renovations, many one day trips up to Bear and back, and several dozen trips to hardware store, the immediate work is done. And while there is always something more to do, I am proud to show off “Baby Bear 2017”.

It was a journey. When I bought the home, this unit was tenant occupied and she owned a cat. The place was a wreck. There was cat fur everywhere and traces of kitty litter all over the bedroom and bathroom. The lighting was outdated and the room was very dark. Several floor lamps were required to illuminate the living area and even then it was reminiscent of a mausoleum. The kitchen had a 7 foot ceiling so head space was at a minimum. A drop down room divider prevented light from the living room from breaking into the kitchen, which made the cooking area incredibly dark as well. The kitchen had an all-in-one sink/oven/stove/refrigerator/freeze that I think had been there since the 1960’s if not earlier. Amazingly, this antique still worked, but it was not efficient, and was more suitable for elves than humans. Cabinetry and storage was sparse, and counter top space was non-existent.

We gutted the kitchen entirely. We took it down to the studs and put up new dry wall with a fresh coat of paint. I hauled lightly used cabinets from a kitchen demo a homeowner in La Mesa was doing. For $200 I got an entire kitchen worth of cabinets, almost sink, faucet and garbage disposal, and brand new cabinet stainless steel hardware. Left over tiles from my bathroom remodel in San Diego that had been taking up space in my garage for a decade became the new counter top and back splash, and left over grout from our winter 2016 kitchen remodel helped as well.

The all-in-one appliance was replaced with the new sink, open box but new studio sized gas stove/oven combo, and a studio sized fridge/freezer combo. It still needs a microwave but for the time being, the appliances are almost good to go.

The drop down room divider was removed. It’s amazing the difference that extra 12 inches of unencumbered space has on the brightness of the kitchen. The kitchen is now replete with pots, pans, utensils, glasses and dining ware as well as miscellaneous kitchen nick-knacks like pizza cutters and ice cream scoopers.

The old, cat tainted green carpet was ripped out and replaced with new wood laminate flooring which extends from the living room into the kitchen. This one feature made the whole home brighter even before tinkering with the actual light fixtures. Carpet absorbed light, while the floor reflects it. It makes the room feel more spacious as well.

A new ceiling light/fan combo was mounted high on the ceiling to help illuminate the entire room, which it does nicely. The fan will help circulate the heat in the winter, and the cool air in the stuff.

Jenny replaced some of the older curtains with newer, lighter ones which again brightened up the room. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, this cabin was dark before the renovations. It would have felt like medieval living.

The old linens, pillows, blankets, towels and throws, were replaced with new, lively ones, complete with new mattress and pillow protectors. And we stocked the restroom with nice, thick Charmin toilet paper, none of that cheap single ply for our vacationers!

Several drafts around windows and doors were sealed, and sealed well. Remember, Big Bear days can get down to 30, and Big Bear nights can get down to single digits, so retaining heat is just as important as producing it. A little bit of caulk, foam sealer, and rubber tube gaskets goes a long way. This home is now air tight.

Last but most importantly is the home got a great scrub down. New stuff and niceties won’t last long if things are maintained and even a home complete with top of the line everything can be an utter dump if not clean. Cobwebs be damned! This place is spic and span now.

Am I happy? Absolutely?

Is there more to be done? Always. I do have a laundry list of things I would like to eventually do like insulate the floor and crawlspace, and re-floor the deck. But the immediate future holds a futon sleeper and double pane windows. But for now, I am very pleased with how it all turned out and am looking forward to putting this bad boy to work in 2017.

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Our New Kitchen

It’s been several months and there have been a few bumps along the way but our kitchen remodel is finally done! (well… about 99.9% done) I am very happy with how it all turned out and wanted to share it with everyone.

The first thing to note is that our plans for the kitchen completely changed just before we started the demolition process. We were originally going for a Mediterranean / Tuscan sort of look but at the 11th hour ended up changing directions for a more contemporary look. Cream colored cabinets and marble counter tops were supplanted by a slate and gray tone. Copper, bronze, and cast iron adornments were replaced with stainless steel and brushed nickel. I was initially nervous about the new direction but it all came together rather nicely and now that have it, I wouldn’t change it!

See some photos of what we originally had in mind.

Our Old Kitchen

Prior to the remodel we had a galley kitchen. It was long, narrow, and while it was a good size it made the house feel very compartmentalized and closed off. We had aging (15+ year old) appliances and an oven that didn’t even work. We had a white vinyl laminate over particle board countertop which would permanently stain if you accidentally spilled some ketchup or coffee. The laminate was coming apart at the edges and keeping everything clean was become a hassle. The kitchen cabinets and drawers had not been touched since the 60’s when the house was built and reaching items in the back was the usual pain it had always been – unload every pot and kettle just to get that one sauce pan in the back.

The Demolition and Remodel

There was definitely some trial and error involved in the process. The first thing I would recommend is to have just one chief, or one point of contact for those doing the work, and those doing the hiring. If you are going to have multiple workers or groups of workers performing various tasks/jobs, make sure to assign a lead contact or general contractor for the project, or make sure you are ready to juggle the project yourself.

Some tasks can be completed concurrently (meaning at the same time). Other tasks must be complete consecutively. Proper planning is important, but more important is constant communication with those involved. The goal is to keep the ball constantly moving down the field. The best way to do this is to set expectations and deadlines. If the first step is delayed, that sets back step 2, 3, 4, etc.

Our New Kitchen

Now on to the fun stuff! Our new kitchen is squared away and with a few small exceptions, it is completely done.

Island with Raised Bar

The biggest change all of our friends have noticed is that we got rid of the galley kitchen by knocking out the wall and turning it into a pony wall, and essentially turning half the galley into a sort of island/peninsula. This has really opened up not just the kitchen but the adjoining living room. You know how the kids these days love the open floor plan. On its own, this brightens up the whole house by letting light from various room’s and windows pass into other parts of the house which the walls would normally obstruct. The island and raised bar will also make it great for entertaining. I am excited to have a Christmas or New Year’s Party and see how it all unfolds.

New Appliances

A lot of our older appliances were on their last leg. Our fridge worked but was very loud and (no joke) had pad locks on it from back in college. In my defense, I put the locks on the fridge because I caught someone I didn’t know eating my milk and Oreos. Our sink was small, our oven didn’t even work, and I’m pretty sure the kitchen ceiling light was haunted.

We have a new barn style sink with matching faucet and suction cup sponge holder. The sink came with an elevated ‘drain grill’ which makes it so much easier to prepare food and wash dishes. Our new fridge has an ice maker which I thought was the dumbest thing in the world until I first used it and now I love it. The focal piece of the kitchen is the new stove-oven combo and the accompanying range hood. Our ‘stoven’ is stainless steel with front located controls so you don’t have to reach across a pot of boiling water to turn off the alarm. What I love is that the grill itself is cast iron and just feels super durable. It’ll never scratch or appear dirty, and its two piece design makes clean up breeze. The oven also has a small storage area underneath for pans and cookie sheets.

Hidden Everything

Back in college my friend Brett and I had an ongoing civil war about where the toaster should go. I insisted it stay on the counter, and he would hide it in a cabinet when not in use. Brett would love our new set up which includes an appliance garage for our microwave. Accessible when you need it. Hidden when you don’t. We also have a pull out spice rack next to the stove, and massive pull out drawers for all of our heavy pots and pans. No more digging in the back and clanking heavy items together to get that one pot/pan/lid/skillet. Our trashcan is also neatly hidden in what looks like a normal drawer, and he has a new buddy – a recycle bin! This is huge for me because we recycle more than we throw away and this will save me hourly trips to the recycle bin we had in the garage.

Our old kitchen had those long, industrial style tube lights. They were horrible and always flickered. Turning on the lights in the middle of the night for a glass of water resembled a horror movie strobe light scene. We now have six recessed canned lights and new, energy efficient LED bulbs. They turn on in an instant, are dimmable, and don’t look like those ugly squiggly ones that were all the rage a decade ago.

With the exception of our GFI outlet, all of our kitchen outlets have two USB ports for charging cell phones and other modern devices like tablets, speakers, etc. Being ‘prepper minded’ we also put USB outlets in three cupboards so that we could charge things like emergency flashlights and radios without being an eye sore. Costco also had some nifty night lights on sale, which go well with our kitchen and living room.

Highlights of our new kitchen

Contemporary look

  • Stainless steel, glass, and slate color palette
  • Extra large floor tiles with thin, darker grout
  • Open floor plan with raised bar and floating range hood
  • Permanent wall was replaced with pony wall, and covered in wood textured wall tile for easy cleanup

Modern touch

  • Industrial faucet
  • Ultra-quiet garbage disposal
  • GFI outlet
  • USB outlets
  • Appliance garage
  • Slide out spice rack
  • Stainless Steel appliances, including sink, faucet, fridge, oven/stove, dishwasher
  • Stainless Steel hardware an accents, including handles, knobs, outlet and light switch covers, door stops, and countertop accessories

Ounce of prevention

  • GFI outlet
  • Shelf liner for all shelves and drawers
  • Under sink “floor mat” to prevent any spills and leaks from damaging the cabinets
  • Fridge door stops
  • Cabinet door stops
  • Slow-close doors and drawers, and drawer bumpers

Final Words

I was getting a little frustrated at the length of time the project took, but with everything said and done I am extremely satisfied with the results. The new kitchen looks gorgeous and I use it much more often than I did previously. It’s great being able to cook on the stove and see in to the back yard. Or just to be in the kitchen and have it not feel like a crypt.

The new counter tops don’t stain like our old vinyl ones, and that combined with the counter to ceiling stone backsplash, stone counter, stone bar, wall tile on the bar, and sealed grout, everything makes for a much easier clean up post-cooking. We’ve had a few people over for random shindigs and everyone seems to like it.

So far, smudging on the stainless steel hasn’t been a problem, but time will tell.

Our stove, oven, sink, faucet, and garbage disposal are beasts and I think they’ll stand the test of time. The fridge I feel has been under used, and we haven’t used our dishwasher even once in the ~4 weeks the kitchen has been done, so lord knows if it even works.

Jenny naturally had to put everything is a completely different place than it was before and after a month I still have trouble remembering where things are. WHERE’S MY SNACK PACK?!

I’m very happy we got it done, I’m thrilled with the outcome, and hopefully we can have more friends and family over to help us break it in!

See all the finished kitchen (and fireplace) photos below.