From 3 Season Camp to Luxury Getaway

Everything old is new again!


One of the real estate trends here in New Hampshire is rehabbing old cabins and cottages on the big lakes and turning them into luxurious all-season getaways. Working with a designer, you can retain the rustic summer camp feel with today’s comforts, whatever your personal style may be.

Whether starting from a rustic cabin, kitschy cottage or ancient A-frame, consider:

  • Will you expand the footprint of the building? (In most cases, it’s yes!)
  • Is the foundation sturdy and stable?
  • Are walls free of dry rot, insect damage or pest infestation?
  • Will the layout remain the same or change? (Think about plumbing and structural rework.)
  • How will you insulate and heat the home?
  • Can the service panel accommodate today’s electricity demands?

The answers to these questions will tell you and your designer/builder whether your project is a teardown, gut job, or major renovation. (If you have enough property, you might also consider rehabbing the camp as a guest house and build your dream year-round vacation home next door.

From the bottom up

Old granite stone foundations are classic, but is the mortar crumbling, or has the cabin settled, leaving cracks? Shoring up an insufficient foundation—especially with today’s demands for multiple bathrooms, or another story above—is critical. And any addition needs its own foundation. If you’re expanding the footprint, you’ll need a current survey showing property lines and a run through the local planning and zoning department.

Changes in layout present their own challenges. Plumbing will need to be added and/or rerouted. The same with the wiring and electrical panel, which will need to be replaced to accommodate today’s household power demands. This includes adding more than the ancient standard of one outlet per room.

Plan for the unexpected.

One of the “charms” of old cottages is discovering that rubber insulation has been chewed off wires, or that there’s aluminum wiring—a hazard. A fun find: pulling out pages from a 70-year-old Sears catalog or newspaper that had been used as insulation in the walls.

That rickety porch that’s starting to sag from wood rot can last ages longer if rebuilt with highly durable decking made of composite material that never needs painting or waterproofing.

Wrap-around porches fan out to include multiple-level decking with a water feature, hot tub, patio, fire pit and outdoor barbecue big enough to handle a pig roast. Maybe with a wood-fired pizza oven on the side. Now you have three-season living and entertaining space outdoors.

Do you really want to fuss with maintaining a lawn? Instead, make the most of natural features such as glacial boulders, ferny groves, and consider care-free xeriscaping. Presto! You have your weekend back for boating, hunting, skiing, entertaining or just plain escaping.

Any re-design calls for new windows. For year-round comfort, replace inefficient and drafty single panes with well-insulated double- or triple-pane Energy-Star rated ones. A-frame-remodel(Newer designs are not only more energy efficient, they’re easy to pop in and out for cleaning.

“Up and out” are the watchwords for transforming a chalet, cottage, A-frame or beachy bungalow into a mountain or seaside showplace. Gone are low ceilings and postage-stamp decks or balconies. Beamed ceilings soar, second stories top a single story, with maybe a loft above that.

Make the heat a treat!

A fireplace—at least one—is a must, and there are so many choices. The simplest is gas, which glows at the touch of a remote, either natural gas if available, or from a propane tank. Wood-burning fireplaces are classic; no other smell says “Welcome to camp” as authentically. (The grandest lodges feature two-sided, see-through fireplaces big enough to stand in.)

A wood stove or wood-stove insert gives the glow, heats more efficiently, and can be loaded at night to burn unattended until morning. But pellet stoves look like wood stoves, without the hassle of splitting, hauling, stacking and storing wood.

In the luxury market, air conditioning is standard, even on a breezy lakefront; on humid nights you’ll appreciate it. But at minimum, ceiling fans move cool and heated air, directing it up or down according to the temperature outside.

Setting the getaway mood    

A simple and effective way to complete the classy cabin or luxury lodge look is with colors: weathered barn red or rust, matte sage to forest greens, mahogany, or dusty gray/blue. Popular metals are copper and pewter, or black wrought iron. Wood is a natural wood-interiorthroughout, whether in warm honey tones, rustic redwood, or gleaming polished golds; big timbers or classic logs, wood is good!

Picture blacksmith-style hardware on a sliding barn door, or a forest green metal roof. Wood, stone and nature’s colors (a green roof or trim) also help integrate your second home into the landscape.

You can have your heated towel racks and sauna while still honoring the original purpose of the property and the integrity of the old cabin. Complementary architectural elements can “echo” gables, timber style and size, or a farmer’s porch. Repurpose weathered boards or siding to preserve the truly rustic look and feel where you want it.

Another way to honor the home’s heritage is with artifacts. A couple ideas would be to create a shadow box with great-grandfather’s fishing lures and hat; mount canoe paddles, skis, or rod and reel over the doorway, or hang a fishing tackle basket on a wall.

One thing you won’t miss when transforming a family cabin into an all-year getaway: the smell of mildew or musty walls. Talk to the experts at 3W design, inc. about making your summer place and all-season getaway space. You’ll have all the comforts of home and go from camping to “glamping” in style.

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