Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional

What do you do when you want a traditional saltbox but you own a square house built in the 1960s? If you’re Grant and Trudy, you renovate. Extensively.

  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
    Before the renovation
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional
  • Cabin Tour: Renovation Mixes Modern and Traditional

The St. John’s couple bought a house in Brigus with the intent of turning it into a summer cottage. For Grant, it was somewhat like returning home. The little cottage – it’s smaller than Grant’s garage in St. John’s – is surrounded by family land and land he’s owned for about 30 years or so. But he didn’t buy this little cottage until about five years ago. It wasn’t that he liked the house, so much as he liked what he knew it could become.

It looks like it could be a recently renovated older home, possibly 100 years old or more. But it isn’t. The house was built in 1968. It had white vinyl siding, a wall dividing the kitchen and living room, a woodstove in the middle of the room, and a main entrance on the far end of one wall. All of that is gone now.

“I wanted it to look like a saltbox, with a little bit of a more modern feel to it,” says Grant of the philosophy that guided their renovation. He’s a fan of symmetry, and it shows.

The front door, once at the far right, was moved to the middle of the wall. Large windows were placed on either side of the door, and windows were added upstairs. The shuffling of openings did two things – it gave Grant the symmetry he sought, and added to the traditional feel of the home, hinting at a saltbox layout with a stairway running up the middle of the house.

The inside, though, is anything but traditional. The stairs are tucked in a corner, in the same place they were in the old house. They’re not the original stairs – those are gone, along with everything else in the main floor interior. The only remaining pieces are a short stub of a wall – only a few feet wide – between the kitchen and living room spaces, and a piece of wall at the other side of the kitchen. Everything else – floor, walls, ceiling, kitchen cupboards, woodstove and the rest of it – was removed.

Replacing it all are traditional elements like beadboard ceiling, crown moulding, detailed columns and whitewash mixed with modern furniture and a contemporary kitchen. The white and gray granite countertop maintains the neutral palette of the white cabinets and the stainless steel appliances.

The furniture provides pops of colour in bright blue and yellow. And behind it all is an expansive view of the ocean, coastline and harbour of Brigus.

“I just like the location. I thought it was a great spot out here,” says Grant.

Upstairs was extensively renovated as well, with walls removed, doors moved and windows added. Before the renovation, the top of the stairs was a closed-in area with what seemed like a half dozen doors, says Grant.

Because it’s a summer home, not meant for full-time living, they decided to do without closets in the bedrooms. This allowed them to make the rooms a bit bigger, while moving walls around to create a more open feel.

The bathroom, which they gutted, now has a clawfoot tub that blends new material with an antique feel, matched by a pedestal sink. In the hall, a shelf holds just enough towels, making a linen closet unnecessary.

While the muted palette is carried upstairs for most of the rooms, there is one notable exception. Their daughter’s room – she’s six years old – is a shockingly bright pink of her own choosing. It’s matched by a pink bedspread, pink chair and pink dollhouse. The bed is a genuine antique, with a fresh coat of white paint.

It’s a cottage that manages to blend the old and the new, the traditional and the contemporary, in a way that doesn’t feel forced or unnatural. It just feels right, like it’s always been that way. And that’s exactly what Grant and Trudy wanted.

“We both achieved what we wanted in a summer home,” says Trudy, “something old with a fresh new vibe.”

This story originally appeared in our Summer, 2014 print issue.