DIYNetwork Blog Cabin 2014: Forget Renovation, This is a Reincarnation

Moving and repositioning a house involves redefining rooms and reincarnating many portions of this historic home as something totally new and different.


The first thing the Blog Cabin 2014 team decided—even before finalizing the purchases of the 1928 cottage and the 5-acre lakefront land where they would move it—was that the long, narrow house would need to be rotated 90 degrees, transforming its sides into its new front and back.

After all, since they would be moving the building from another location anyway, they could set it in any position they wanted on the new site. And whether you call the quarter turn a stroke of genius, or a no-brainer, it was clearly essential for making this narrow urban building embrace its beautiful new setting.

Putting it lengthwise to the water focused the building, its views, and its outdoor spaces toward the shoreline. It also meant that rather than a typical renovation and addition project, this unusual job would involve completely redefining the space, reincarnating many portions of the building as something totally new and different.

Welcoming Entrance

The original 13-foot wide dining room bumped off the right side of the house about three feet, with a small peaked roof over the top. So that became the new front entrance. "It made perfect sense to use that existing bump-out because it kept the original exterior architectural lines, while creating a comfortable approach to the home," says project designer Dylan Eastman. "You wouldn't want a door in the middle of a big, flat wall. The main entry needs to be a focal point."

Browse Time-Lapse Photography

In-Kind Additions

With the building turned, the sunroom originally on the left side of the house would now be facing the water—and so it stayed a sunroom. In fact, Dylan mimicked its footprint with the large addition that replaced what had been the back porch. His addition exactly mirrors the sunroom: 22 feet wide and projecting off the main house by two feet. Similarly, the widow's walk upstairs was nearly doubled in size, but simply by lengthening it to maximize exposure to the coastal views and to keep it centered on the now expanded building below.

Floor Plans

When you rotate a building, move its front entry to the original dining room, and create a new rear door where a structural interior wall used to be, you need to completely rethink the layout and flow of the space.

Dylan wanted to keep as many wall and window locations true to the original building as possible, so in addition to keeping the sunroom, the existing dining room was repurposed as a foyer and the old living room and front porch kept their footprints, as a new family room and bonus room. But in the center of the house, Dylan used five 35-foot-long engineered wood beams and dozens of structural steel plates to support the ceiling over an opened-up floorplan containing the kitchen, living and dining areas.

Before-and-After Floor Plans


Dylan replaced all the original windows with modern, high efficiency units—and added more than a dozen extra ones to the waterside of the house. But he stayed true to the feel of the original home by using Prairie style windows—a common feature of bungalow homes of the period, with a grille pattern in the upper sash consisting of a large central square plus a small square in each corner—to bring out the original flavor of the house. And he re-created the beefy original interior and exterior window moldings.

Photo Diary of a Historic Home Renovation

Dual Personalities

The street side of the new building retains the flavor of the original house, with its asymmetrical design, exposed brick chimney, and quirky rooflines. The waterside, though, has given up a bit of its 1920s cabin feel in favor of numerous windows, and a balanced layout that favors modern indoor-outdoor living over maintaining the building's pure architectural character. Still, thanks to the authentic windows, siding, roof overhangs—and especially the distinctive bungalow eave brackets—the entire building feels unified and true to its roots.

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