Transforming a dark log cabin into “the beach chalet”

I NEVER wanted a log house.  Ever.  I find them too dark.  But when the ideal property at the right price turned up during my search for a beach home, I snapped it up.  After all, the old adage of buying the crappiest house on the nicest street must have some merit. Right? So the process of transforming a dark log cabin into The Beach Chalet began.


It was a log kit home built by the one and only owner 40 years ago.  And it hadn’t been updated since.  This log chalet belongs on a mountain, not by the beach.  And it is not set up for my lifestyle.  So how to turn this into my dream beach cottage?  Here’s what I was faced with:

Transforming a dark and dated

The cabin sits on a .6 acre site with direct water access on a mostly private beach.  But there were a few issues to address such as the deck being built over the access to the septic tank.  My great niece once said that my house “looks really creepy on the outside”.  

Now this is the perfect location.  No need to make any changes here!

Renovating Log home

The living room was so very dark with the light from one window completely hidden by the monstrous entertainment unit that the previously owner so “generously” left behind.  

Can you imagine cooking in this kitchen?  It’s a sunny day and all the lights are on and yet it’s still so dark.  

What an appealing spot to eat dinner.  NOT.

Renovating a log home

A secondary bedroom upstairs.  

Where’s the water view?  The previous owner had let all the trees grow up to impede the view.

first things first

  1. Get rid of the hideous carpet and paint the panelling white.  

While some would say it is sacrilegious to paint over cedar panelling, it had to be done to brighten the space.  I knew I wanted white but it had to be the perfect counterbalance to the cool Northeast light that fills the space so I settled on Benjamin Moore’s Simply White with a warm undertone.  Every panelled wall and ceiling, as well as window frames were painted.  Not even the stone on the fireplace was left untouched.  And what an impact that alone had.  Now light was being bounced around serving to brighten the space.  

For flooring, I chose a laminate as you wouldn’t believe the amount of sand that gets tracked into the house.  It would destroy an engineered wood floor.  Normally I wouldn’t suggest a grey floor for a client but in this case it mimics the beach seen outside the window, bringing the outside in which is such an important component of Biophilic Design, having a positive impact on one’s mental health.

The main floor bathroom had minor upgrades with a new floor, low flow toilet as it is on a septic system, and new vanity.  This was more of a cosmetic update and is on the list for a major reno but at least it’s now liveable.  In this room, even the logs were painted.

Even with such minor changes, the impact is huge.


Given the proliferation of available fire wood and the inefficiency of the existing fireplace, I had a wood burning insert installed.  Another factor is that with winter wind storms, power is frequently lost so I needed an alternative heat source.  Its catalytic combuster means that very little smoke is produced.  Extending the hearth was a necessity from a safety viewpoint in case any logs roll out.  

With only one south facing window in the entire home, I decided to add a matching window on the left side of the fireplace.  This was cut out using a chainsaw!  And there is a lovely view out this window. In fact, all the windows throughout the home have been replaced to increase the comfort level in the winter time.  That is one of the downsides to a log home, they can be chilly and drafty.  

Designing around a post is challenging to say the least.  I experimented with ten different floor plans to see which one would work best.  Seating at the counter was a priority as I do like to entertain casually but an island would just cut off too much space so the post was incorporated into a peninsula.  

Curving the countertop allowed for easy flow from the hallway and doesn’t conflict with the basement door.  As you can see, it’s shiny surface helps to bounce more light, as does the stainless steel refrigerator.  

The old windows had a casement opening which meant that the frames had to be larger and there was a vertical line visually making them appear smaller.  By going with a fixed window, it feels like they’re so much larger when in fact the opening is the same size.  So important when maximizing a water view.  

Using glass in the cabinet fronts reflects the light coming in the windows, making the space bright.  I just love the wicker chairs as they lend a Bahamian feel to the space.

Previously, the only way I could see someone arriving or look out over the front garden was by going into the mudroom.  By adding this nautical inspired round window and lining it up with the window in the mudroom, I have not only added the view but significantly increased the amount of light flowing into the kitchen. A panel ready dishwasher means that it blends in with the cabinetry, reducing visual clutter.

The aqua backsplash in a herringbone pattern is a real stunner and it has a slight wave in it, repeating that of the ocean outside. I even managed to find small matching appliances.  A bit of whimsy is always welcome in any room!

Having guests enter the home through a mudroom is never ideal but it’s the only option in the case of The Beach Chalet.  So I decided to at least make it a fun entrance with this great floor tile.  

I never used this sink so replacing it with a full height cabinet where I can store shoes and cleaning products & equipment was a much better use of the space.

Remember that dark room with the sofa and the exercise bike?  It’s been transformed into the brightest, happiest of guest rooms.

This carpet reminded me so much of the carpeting in my childhood bedroom.  My parents had found it on sale and I absolutely HATED it.  

My goal was to transform this dark cabin into a beach cottage and nothing says cottage more than Roman Shades.  The velvet upholstered king bed is heavenly.  With its own private deck, the Primary Bedroom is fabulous – I could stay here all day and be quite happy.

For more tips on designing a coastal primary bedroom, read this blog post.

Strange how the room looks and feels so much more spacious now, even though it is a King sized bed (or I like to say Queen sized), rather than the full bed shown in the before pic.

Just a lick of paint has transformed this third bedroom.

Isn’t it amazing how transformative how paint can be?

No room has been left untouched.  The basement was transformed from a space I hated to spend any time to this bright and inviting room that is now my office with a Murphy Bed for overflow guests.  

The basement before with low ceilings, awful lighting and tiny windows that didn’t do the view any justice.

I’d say that the new kitchentte is just a tad better than the old one, wouldn’t you?

The old basement kitchenette was just sad.

A new deck, parking area, pathway to the door but most importantly white framed windows and the logs pressure washed has transformed this dark cabin into The Beach Chalet.  

And that view has been transformed too with some “windowing” of trees.

transformation complete

This dark and dated log cabin has quite literally been transformed, into its new life as The Beach Chalet.  

Still to come, painting the scalloped fascia boards white and replacing the railings with glass ones for unobstructed views.

It’s so hard to believe that this is the same house.

I just love guests’ reactions when they come around the corner from the mudroom and see this view for the first time.  It takes their breath away.

I am now loving the beachy vibe I’ve created as well as the increase of light. It truly has become my dream beach cottage. 

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to comment below.  Did you like it better before or after?

Photo credit for all “after” photos: LSP Media