Seeing the Potential and Making it a Reality

Seeing the potential rather than the problems

Ten years ago last month, we signed the escrow papers to buy our retirement home in Maine. We had talked so often about where and what kind of place we wanted to be in retirement, that when we first saw this log cabin, just a fifteen minute drive from the University of Maine and twenty minutes from Bangor, we both knew right away that it had the potential to be just the sort of home we had long discussed. Being a log cabin with proximity to the lake and a large, partially covered, wrap-around deck clicked a lot of the items on our wish list. Clearly, no one was living there that winter day in 2007 when we trudged through nearly a foot of snow to make it up the front steps to get our first peek inside. What we were able to see through the window did not discourage us. It had an open floor plan, a second floor with an open loft that we could identify from the limited vantage point on the outside deck, and it was completely without any furnishings. We jotted down the number from the for sale sign planted alongside the driveway and set-up an appointment to see the  interior.

The next day we met the realtor at the cabin to make certain that the positive feelings we had from seeing the outside were born out by the details hidden on the inside. We were pleased by much of what we saw. The fact that the garage had direct access to the home via a mud room was an immediate plus. We couldn’t imagine why anyone would want a detached garage in a locale that gets upwards of 5 feet of snow a year. The floor plan of the house itself was to our liking with the master bedroom and bath both on the main floor along with the kitchen and livingroom. Upstairs, in addition to the open loft that we spied through the window on the previous day, were two guest bedrooms along with a full bathroom. There were a few things that we knew we would have to address to make it our dream home, but on the whole we were encouraged by the “bones” of the house. After some private discussion between ourselves, we decided to make an offer and, after a bit of negotiation, the seller accepted. Three months later we packed up a rental truck in California with our greatly downsized belongings and moved to the log cabin on the lake.

Arriving as we did in summer, the snow had melted and revealed a yard and the lake front that had been pretty much ignored by the previous owners and a deck that had never been stained or coated in any way. So those would be added to the list of things we had previously identified as future projects for the inside of the house; adding a hearth, chimney and wood stove, remodeling the kitchen to include a gas stove, more counterspace and cabinets, and an upgrade to the Master bathroom that didn’t suit our style. There was no way we could do all those things at once as the cost would be prohibitive, especially if we wanted to do them right. So we had to prioritize. Our first project was one we could do ourselves for little cost, and that was to stain the deck to protect it from the elements. Next we worked on the yard, building stone walkways with stones we found on our property and along the road, later hiring a landscaper to help give some definition to the yard. Next on the list was the hearth and wood stove which our contractor was able to finish just before the snowflakes began to fall that first winter. It was a few more years before we could remodel the kitchen. Now, we are finally getting to the Master bathroom. We have a meeting with our contractor this afternoon to approve the final plan with work scheduled to begin next month.

They make it look so easy on HGTV. In real life, everything costs more and takes longer than “reality TV” would lead you to believe. The potential we saw on that winter day ten years ago is finally being realized and the log cabin on the lake is becoming the retirement home of our dreams. And that was possible in large part because we were patient and unified in the belief that if something is worth doing it is worth doing right.




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