Photo by Ozgur Coskun/

Cottage kitchen reno dos and don’ts

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Anyone who has experienced a remodel will tell you that there are a lot of unforeseen circumstances that are bound to come up. As with everything, nothing ever goes exactly as planned; people who have had a particularly bad renovation experience will tell you it cost twice the money and time they originally imagined.

When it comes to kitchens, an update, renovation or remodel is the top investment you can make in a home. At the cottage, the kitchen can sometimes be put on the back burner. Sure, everyone wants a beautiful kitchen in their home away from home but isn’t the dock, the boat, or the new water trampoline more essential to your cottage experience—and therefore cottage savings? With the kitchen as the central hub for planning your morning activities, bonding over a great meal, cooking the latest fish-fry, and taking in some brews with your pals, we think not.

Inspired to remodel? Here are some words of wisdom (and warning) for your exciting endeavour.

DO: carefully consider appliance placement

Most kitchens are set up in a triangle system (oven-fridge-sink) but you can consider the dynamic that works best for your space and function. Appliances that are integrated into the wall to blend into counter space or cabinets are great, and make for a streamlined look.

DON’T: get carried away

If you start imagining items and materials that are too expensive or too big to bring in to your off-road cottage, things are going to get out of hand real fast. Your location and the location of your materials is definitely something to consider if you have a cottage that is only accessible by water or off-road vehicle. Any renovation in this situation is sure to be more expensive, but that hand-carved countertop you’re eyeballing just won’t be able to make it unless you’re willing to pay a hefty fee.

DO: floors first.

Understandably, you should install, paint or refinish any flooring you plan to before moving on to other kitchen projects.

DON’T: think bigger is always better.

Small renovated spaces often turn out so lovely because there is so much time and thought constantly put into space-saving and organization. Well-designed, small kitchens often can have a very strong sense of personality and unity because the owners have to be intimate with the elements of design.

DO: leave some open space.

Space-saving techniques are all well and good, but nobody needs a kitchen with zero wall space and all cabinets. There are alternatives, including under counter storage, hanging storage and open shelving.

DON’T: take all the personality out of it.

When getting anything new and shiny it’s easy to be excited about just that—new and shiny. The beauty of some of our best Canadian cottages is that they have held on to their history and their rust in one way or another, whether they’ve been renovated or not. Don’t lose complete touch with the original building if you once fell in love with it just as it was. Leave small touches of creativity, personality, fun or colour dispersed to make sure it remains yours.

DO: replace small details.

Not all aspects of the renovation process are expensive, and replacing small hardware like doorknobs, handles and pulls is a super simple and very effective way to spruce up your kitchen.

DON’T: cut corners.

There are plenty of ways to cut costs or reconfigure your budget without doing something that is unsafe or incomplete.

DO: put items where they are most used.

People get caught up in making a kitchen look a certain way, but function and flow are the most important and everyone is different. Be sure to ask yourself the following questions: How many cooks usually work at once? What’s your cooking style? What ingredients do you use most often? Do you use the kitchen as a hang out spot? The answers will help you plan.

DON’T: throw out receipts.

For tax purposes, write offs, etc.

DO: figure out what’s important.

If you could splurge on one thing what would it be? For some people it’s an ornate faucet, a beautiful sink, a built-in system or a top-of-the-line range. For a beautiful new kitchen, not everything needs to be expensive or the best of the best. Pick the important things and stick with them.

DON’T: forget to measure (and re-measure) everything.

This is particularly important for a cottage reno, where you might be purchasing your items closer to home than at the cottage. Nothing is worse than arriving with an appliance or piece of furniture that ends up not even fitting through the doorway.

DO: upgrade your appliances.

Whether you’re at the cottage often or not, energy-efficient appliances often qualify for a rebate and decrease your energy bill significantly.

DON’T: follow trends or go too modern.

Styles change, which is why you are itching to rejuvenate your surroundings in the first place.

DO: take pictures.

Your kitchen transformation is something you’ll want to remember, and once it’s complete, you’ll easily forget what it looked like before.

DON’T: plan your renovations over your vacation time.

We know that renovations are exciting, but remember to keep in mind how tedious they are, particularly in the kitchen. While we have nothing against eating only fire-roasted weenies for a couple months, your family might not feel the same and doing a major cottage reno over your summer may have that result.

DO: learn the lingo.

If you aren’t doing your own renovation, do your own research. If you know what your contractors are talking about (and vice versa), you’ll both be more comfortable, trusting, and satisfied with the experience

DON’T: relocate the plumbing if you don’t need to.

If you’re looking for more counter space, sinks can be changed from a double-bowl to a single, and frankly, your portable fridge and stove (though heavy) are a lot easier to relocate than an entire plumbing line.

DO: be honest with yourself.

Before buying anything: How often will you use it? Is it necessary? What is most important to your daily life at the cottage? Your bank account will thank you later.

DON’T: forget to price compare. The internet is full of bargain success stories after people have ventured between big box stores and commerce websites comparing everything from countertops to appliances and textiles.