Remember That Time I Built a Whole House?

Well, It's For Sale!

Some of you know this story so I’ll try to keep the history lesson brief: way back in 2015, I was hired to fix up a sweet funny little house in the woods that a couple friends of mine—Adriana and Barry—had recently purchased. This was intended to be a fairly straightforward undertaking—eliminate a weird half-bathroom, enlarge and replace the kitchen, plus various cosmetic updates throughout like new flooring and paint. Stuff like that. Make it simple and Scandinavian-inspired and ready to hit the growing market of short-term vacation rentals. We, full of innocence and naïveté, called it Olivebridge Cottage.

Olivebridge Cottage in 2015.

And then I got started and all was NOT AS IT APPEARED. Never before or since had I encountered a house so determined to present every possible problem a house could have, so adept at hiding them (yes, in fact the home was inspected before purchase!), and able to reveal them in such rapid succession. Siding? Rotted. Sheathing? Rotted. Roof? Leaking. Rafters? Undersized. Electrical? Eaten by rodents. Foundation? Basically non-existent. Drywall? Moldy. The insulation had been essentially consumed by aforementioned pests. Framing had been compromised by structurally unsound alterations over the years. It was an absolute, unmitigated train wreck—which, as it happened, seemed to closely mirror the season of life I was in. 

Just a small taste of what this hellhole had in store.

Everything. Was. Terrible. Like truly terrible, not ha-ha terrible. I’d essentially taken this job as a paid favor, a quick in-n-out nice little spring gig to pay the bills for a few months so I could afford to get back to work on my own projects. Supporting myself with my blog wasn’t exactly working out, but nothing was really working out around that time. Other things that weren’t in the plan: all of a sudden living alone in Upstate New York, my little family having (amicably, but sadly) dissolved a few months prior. I was trying to date, and doing a spectacularly bad job of it. A neighbor encouraged me to run for public office, so I decided to go ahead and do that. A local housing-insecure teenager had taken up residence in my own very under-construction home. I was being treated for depression, which didn’t really address the high-highs and low-lows that come along with Bipolar II, the diagnosis I was eventually assigned years later. Every part of my life—including the multiple home renovations—felt totally out of control and exceptionally bad. And at the center was this nightmare house that I was just trying to fix and make cute, and it simply would not cooperate. A real-life metaphor if there ever was one.

As spring gave way to summer, the house kept throwing unwelcome curveballs. The scope continued to spiral while the change orders piled up, and eventually the engineers were called in. To say I was out of my depth is an understatement: I was, let’s recall, 25 years old with no formal training. My qualifications pretty much started and ended with being a blogger who’d fixed up a couple apartments for myself, did some decorating for clients, and was still in the early-ish stages of rehabbing my first house with no idea what I didn’t know. Even the original scope of a kitchen renovation was, technically, beyond what I had ever really done—but that seemed achievable. Salvaging this insane house with every problem in the book from its foundation to its roof? I needed an out.

And I tried to get one. The engineer’s report was not kind. Basically we were looking at a full rebuild, which would typically involve an architect. Which I am not. New construction is a totally different game than renovation, and one that I was neither equipped for nor even really that interested in. I like fixing old stuff. Building new? Meh. Pass.

So I told my friends/clients/homeowners such. That I wasn’t abandoning them but, I could assure them, they did not want me to do this. They’d be in better hands with somebody more experienced, perhaps with a new build or two under their proverbial belt. I was happy to help pick finishes and/or even come back to decorate the place once everything had been sorted.

This pitch did not work. They insisted that I could draft the plans myself and run the construction start to finish. This would have been flattering if it didn’t feel so incorrect, but for reasons I cannot fully explain they believed in me more than I believed in myself. But still—imagine if you’d never driven a car before, and your first experience was behind the wheel of an ambulance transporting a critically ill patient to the hospital. It felt like that.

The house I thought we were building, with rooflines improved and everything one one level. The original house had steps up and down all over the place. I was gunning for a black exterior from Day 1, which felt really radical at the time. Now it seems all the houses that city-folk buy in the woods get painted black, as a rite of passage.

So anyway. I design the house in free software on my laptop, pretty much a lightly improved version of the old house. The back two additions (comprising about 1/3 of the square footage) are more or less OK, which is a good thing for the budget but a difficult thing to design around. 

I hand my elementary plans to the engineers, who return them as similarly elementary construction drawings. We re-apply for permits. We have a start date. Now it is fall of 2015 and this two-month job has taken six months and we haven’t even broken ground.

This is about as detailed of an exterior plan as was ever produced.

And then two weeks before the foundation pour is scheduled, the owners request a call. We hop on the phone. I think they have come to their senses and I am surely getting fired, finally. Instead, they want to talk to me about their new little idea to add a second floor master suite to the house, bringing the house from one story to two and from a 2-bed/1-bath to a 3-bed/2-bath. I have no words, but I mumble some objections about how much space a staircase takes up and how I would have to redesign the whole house and then the engineers have to turn that around and this isn’t the permit we applied for and I don’t even know what this means budget-wise and we’re very close to running out of time before winter to pour concrete and OMG PLEASE DON’T DO THIS.

The thing I mostly loved and occasionally hated about these clients was their decisiveness. Once an idea took hold it didn’t go anywhere and quickly became the plan. Presenting three tile options and having them pick one in a few minutes? Awesome, super helpful. Deciding to add an entire additional floor to a house with already-approved plans right before construction? Not ideal. But once again, they knew I could handle it more than I knew I could handle it, and I set to work. A few rounds of redesigning later—and running it by Adriana’s architect friend to make sure we weren’t doing anything stupid—and the new plans were sent off to the engineers.

Edwin and Edgar—the cousins-turned-contracting-duo I’d worked with on some projects previously, set about demolishing the majority of what remained of the house after the previous spring/summer of demo.

We moved the old wood stove into the yard and refashioned it as a sort of outdoor fire pit. We used it to burn off-cuts, stay warm, and reheat pupusas that Edwin’s wife packed for his lunches. I remember they pulled the old roof down by tying a thick extension cord around the ridge and using it as a rope. We were a scrappy team, to put it mildly.

Because of the time crunch before winter, i vaguely recall that we started building with only a foundation plan in hand, re-sized to hold the load of two floors. The earth was excavated, new footings were poured, and a guy named Douglas built the new concrete block foundation.

Eventually the plans arrived back from the engineers, at which point I realized that whatever blind spots existed in my plans would also exist in theirs. The general space and location for the stairs was included, but no detail about the stairs themselves. Little things like the locations of windows or the height of the ceilings were notably absent. But we knew that exterior walls had to be framed in 2×6 fir, that our rafters were to be 2×12 with an LVL ridge beam, and the header for the opening between the living and dining rooms was sized. Mechanical plan? Keep dreaming.

Because I was wearing so many different hats, construction was grueling. You don’t really realize how many micro-decisions go into building a house until you do it, and can’t even really account for it later either. But it’s non-stop. You always have to be thinking ten steps ahead, which is hard to do if you don’t totally know what those steps are. I was on site everyday. I got too little sleep. I drank too much. I shot a finish nail directly through my finger by accident, which I promptly yanked out, wrapped up with a paper towel and some electrical tape, and kept working. This particular move ended up being an effective shortcut to earning the respect of a bunch of lightly homophobic straight subcontractor bros twice my age who I was in charge of bossing around, but fuck if it didn’t hurt like hell. 

Just a flesh wound.
Framing up the first floor. I eye-balled the sill height of the windows the day-of, and everyone tried to convince me they were too low. They were not. But who’s keeping track.
Luckily, code allowances for riser height, tread depth, and headroom are available on the Google machine. Kinda important stuff to get right.

And yet, about 9 months later, we had a house to show for it. A pretty damn nice house, in my humble opinion. A well-built house, albeit one that involved a LOT of on-the-fly decision-making. I’ll likely never forget the day that we literally figured out the staircase while we were building it, or the day the plumber pointed out that I’d planned a second floor bathroom but nowhere to run any of the plumbing for it, or the day that I made the guys re-cut the rafter tails because I failed to specify one of the multiple valid ways that exist to treat an eaves return. 

Framing up the second floor master suite! I tried to design the whole house so that views would face the woods, keeping other houses or the road out of sight.
I removed, de-nailed, and stored every piece of wood paneling that served as the siding of the original house and some interior finishes. Then brought it all back to site to reuse on the super high ceilings. The added texture keeps it from feeling like a big plain white box.
We added fake beams between the real LVL that holds up the second floor, allowing for shorter lengths of paneling without too many butt joints. The fake beams later got wrapped in MDF rather than lumber to save on costs.

A funny thing happens with projects like this. On one hand, this thing is now your baby. On the other hand, you hate it and never want to see it again. That’s the push-pull. And then at the end, you hand over the keys and—if you’ve done your job well—it’s pretty much onto the next thing. All that time and effort spent creating a structure and a series of spaces that are intended to be used a certain way, but you never really get to see it happen. Whether the design “works” can remain a mystery. 

The name of the game for finish work was to keep it inexpensive. Lacking even the budget for laminate, we ripped 1/2″ cabinet-grade birch ply into 8″ strips on the table saw, nailed it down, and sealed it with commercial-grade water-based poly. It priced out to about 50 cents/square foot.

And for me, it remained a mystery for a while. This project was so intense and unexpected and difficult in so many ways, and by the end I think everyone had to spend some time in their separate corners. My once-easy friendship with the owners had become more fraught, sort of in the trauma-bonding way that family members can want to kill each other sometimes but are forever bound by shared experience and unconditional love. I think sometimes that’s just how it happens—because as much as projects like this are physically and financially draining, the truly taxing part is emotional. You know people at their best and then see them at their worst, and it requires an incredible amount of trust and patience and empathy—all things that can run in short supply when you’re, say, spending months of your life on a thing you didn’t want to do or hemorrhaging tens of thousands of dollars you didn’t expect to spend. As evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this post now instead of 5 years ago when I finished this project, I didn’t even want to talk about it when all was said and done. I’d gained 20 pounds of whiskey weight and torn my own house to shreds in an act of self-rebellion and just wanted to move on.

And then, after a while, things became OK again. I accepted a dinner invitation. I can’t remember the occasion—I want to say it was holiday-related—but I know the house was full of people. Adriana—an excellent hostess and fabulous cook, among other talents—was busy cooking and chatting up guests in the kitchen. Barry was manning the bar in the living room, which normally acted as a kitchen island, but I’d built it on casters for this very reason. The dining table was expanded with all of its leaves, music was playing over a speaker, and everyone was having a good time. There was more than enough—in Adriana-speak—“butt space” for all. And that’s when, I think, it all became worth it. Because ultimately these spaces don’t exist for pretty pictures; they exist as a backdrop for life to play out. For a moment, I got to stand in a structure that started as a nightmare renovation, morphed into an idea on my computer, made its way into physical form, and now was doing exactly what it was supposed to do. People connecting. Sharing laughs. Clinking cocktail glasses. Like Dr. Frankenstein screaming “it’s alive!” when his cadaver-quilt monster sputters to life. After all the “I’ll never forget” moments that I experienced with this job, this is the one that I feel most confident will stay with me forever, and how I want to remember this house that will always, in some way, be mine.

Adriana called me about a month ago to let me know that Olivebridge Cottage is going up for sale. They never could have anticipated that a global pandemic would push their little upstate getaway to act as a real primary residence, a task at which it’s actually performed admirably. But living and working there full-time has left them itching for more bedrooms and dedicated office space—they’ve outgrown it, the market is hot, and it’s time to move on (this time, intentionally in the direction of new construction in the form of a mod pre-fab that I’m sure will be totally awesome). One thing I know to be true of Adriana and Barry is that they thrive on these kinds of big decisions, exciting projects, and major life changes. Staying put for too long just wouldn’t be them, and I’m so happy and excited for them and can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever say this, but now I mean it: I love you, Olivebridge Cottage. There’s no other world in which a 25 year-old totally inexperienced mess of a blogger person gets to design and build a whole house from the ground up. There’s no other world in which otherwise sane, responsible adult people entrust him to do it. I can now recognize what felt like an immeasurable burden at the time for what it really was—the opportunity of a lifetime, and a learning experience like no other. I’m so grateful for this project, and I really hope whoever buys it shares a fraction of my affection. It’s a special house.

So. Wanna see it? Here are some snaps I took after completion, which I proceeded to let languish in a file on my computer for years. Whoopsie.

We supplemented the old v-groove paneling with new where necessary. The shelf is a floor joist I sanded and sealed from the original house we took down. The light fixture was from the West Elm outlet store, and I think the mirror/coat rack is also West Elm. The sofa is IKEA, and coffee table and rug are vintage.

The prints on the wall are by Anna Dorfman, Christopher Gray, and Aino-Maija Metsola for Marimekko, respectively. The 8′ front door is by Simpson and painted in Citrus Burst by Benjamin Moore. The walls, ceilings, and trim are Ultra White by Benjamin Moore.

In the living room, I pulled out the tried-and-true Fauxdenza trick, this time with BESTA units from IKEA (they were deeper at the time than the kitchen wall cabinets). I wrapped them in shiplap that I salvaged during demolition of the original house, sanded and poly’d to keep the character but avoid the splinters. The shelving is just simple and cheap track shelving by Blue Hawk, available at Lowe’s.

The soffit above the built-ins was the most elegant solution I could come up with to house the plumbing for the second floor bathroom, because I was too stupid to design a more logically-placed chase. The addition of the faux-beams made it feel less weird, and I had 4 light fixtures added to the soffit to make it feel more intentional. The light fixtures are just keyless porcelain utility lights that I spray-painted high-gloss black, paired with a brass-tipped incandescent bulb, making each light about $10 a piece (at the time).

In the dining room, we reused a huge picture window from the original house to frame a view of the amazing boulders in the back. A set of 8′ tall sliders leads out to the side where the grill lives, but were placed there in anticipation of Adriana potentially buying the neighboring property and building some sort of passage between the two houses. They did, eventually, buy that property, but elected to demolish the house instead. All of the new doors and windows were either lucky scores or new orders from The Door Jamb.

The light fixture is from West Elm, the rug was CB2, the dining table was IKEA, and the chairs came from Wayfair.

I still love this kitchen! The cabinetry, sink, faucet, and maybe range hood (can’t remember!) is IKEA. The stove and fridge were reused from the original house. The sconces were from CB2 and I think the stools were Target. The tile was from Home Depot, of all places! The countertops are black formica—not our first (or second or 10th) choice, but we all ended up loving them and couldn’t beat the price. I found the wood handles secondhand at a vintage store, and there were EXACTLY enough of them to do this kitchen. The island is on casters to make it easy to shift around or into another room to serve as a bar for large parties. I used reclaimed shiplap from the original house’s roof and wall sheathing to add some texture and history. Also I just like it. The beams on the ceiling are also purely decorative to allow for shorter lengths of the salvaged v-groove paneling to be used without a billion joints.

Even though I tend to hate open floor plans for old houses, I totally see the appeal in new ones. The opening between the kitchen/dining area and the living room is enormous, and the whole space just feels so bright and happy and much bigger than it really is.

The new master bath was fun! I ran the v-groove paneling two ways to create a continuous line between wall and ceiling. The floating vanity, sink, and faucets are IKEA. Brass towel rods/TP holder were CB2. The sconces were by West Elm. We were able to reuse one of the windows from the original house here, since it was a good size for this space and didn’t really have to match anything. The knots were NOT supposed to bleed through the paint, but we all kinda didn’t mind it when it happened? The house has since been repainted and I think now it’s all consistent, which was the original intention. The faux-stone ceramic tile was from Home Depot and selected by Adriana—I remember fighting her on it, but I actually ended up really liking it! It was super duper inexpensive.

My favorite corner! Up in the bedroom, six big-ass windows wrap the corner that faces the woods. It’s kind of like being in a tree house in a great way. I also saved every piece of 1x molding from the original house, all of which got ripped to size and reused as the new moldings. I wanted all the windows to have sills (stools, technically) instead of the same casing on all four sides. After it was way too late, I realized I should have put a single 2×4 between each window unit rather than two so that the moldings between them would be slimmer. Live and learn! When we ran out of 1x we could reuse, we finished the rest of the moldings in 3/4″ MDF which was way cheaper than solid lumber but looks fine once painted! It’s held up really well.

One of my favorite little spots ended up being the old enclosed porch on the side of the house, which we essentially rebuilt from the inside out. It’s a very narrow long space, but Adriana insisted on a queen size bed which left only about 1′ on either side of the mattress. To solve for that, I built a headboard out of shiplap sheathing from the original house—the top is on a piano hinge, and there’s a big cedar-lined storage space in there for extra linens and pillows and stuff. Pretty sure those sconces are IKEA!

I could go on and on and on about all the little things in this house, but it’s probably more than anybody really wants to know. Instead I’ll just leave you with a selection of Nicholas Doyle‘s fabulous photos taken for the listing—I just love how he captured everything, and I got a little emotional seeing the house shot through somebody else’s lens for the first time. It kinda feels like a parting gift that wasn’t intended for me, but I’ll take it anyway—ha! It warms my heart to see how little has changed since I wrapped up my work those years ago. Nicholas’s whole portfolio is totally gorgeous—if you need a great architectural photographer, he’s for hire!!


The second floor bathroom! Photo by Nicholas Doyle.
The new master bedroom. Fun fact, that bench used to be Ana Gasteyer’s coffee table! Photo by Nicholas Doyle.
I ended up loving the simple stairwell and windows, and that CB2 pendant was so rad and well-priced. Photo by Nicholas Doyle.
Our funny long skinny guest bedroom! This is part of the house we didn’t fully rebuild, but sure did a lot of work to! Photo by Nicholas Doyle.
Basically never been more impressed with my guys than when they built steps up to the house with bluestone from around the site. Adriana came up with this and I thought it was insane but I was so very wrong! Photo by Nicholas Doyle.
Photo by Nicholas Doyle.

UPDATE: That was fast; Olivebridge Cottage is in contract! I’ve been told the buyers follow me on Instagram, so…hello, buyers! I hope you love your new digs!!

Thank you, Nicholas Doyle for letting me use your great pics! And, of course, thank you to Adriana and Barry for taking a chance and believing that I could do this, even when I didn’t believe it myself. 

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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Archives: 2010-2022

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Leave a Comment


  1. 5.6.21
    Annie said:


  2. 5.6.21
    Brandie said:

    What a great story! A ton of hard work, faith in yourself and brave home owners. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

  3. 5.6.21
    Rose said:

    I’ve wondered and wondered about the little cottage in the woods. It is beautiful. You did a terrific job! Your perseverance paid off.

    • 5.7.21
      Robin said:

      Thank you for clearing up the ending of this story! I love the house! Hope the new owners appreciate your work!

  4. 5.6.21
    Kelly said:

    Oh my gosh – I was just thinking about this the other day and wondering whatever happened to it. It turned out SO good!

  5. 5.6.21
    carlene said:

    Stunning, truly. Lucky new owners!

    • 5.7.21
      Oli said:

      Does this mean we get your absolutely hilarious blog post about the art project house back?

  6. 5.6.21
    Leslie said:

    You are so very talented! Loved to see the final product and the stories that go along with it.

    • 5.6.21
      Dandy said:

      Amazing and inspiring. I think I’ll go paint a picture and use a talent I have, like you used your Brilliance and talent to make this. I feel inspired and connected to humanity thank you for your wonderful writing and discernment , I am better because of it.

  7. 5.6.21
    Lucinda said:

    It is awesome to see how this turned out. I remember all the drama. But look at you and how far you have come. You have walked the bed of hot coals in hell and have come out the other side. I am so proud of you and for you. I wish with all my heart that my son could find the tenacity and walk the walk. Miss the post when it is a long time between. Enjoying the daily stories on Instagram. Don’t let that tiny part in your brain drag you down. You got this. You know all the parts you haven’t shared. Oh you got this.

  8. 5.6.21
    jenn said:

    Yea! I’ve wondered about this little place from time to time, and I’m so glad you reached a place where you were able to share it. It’s truly lovely.

  9. 5.6.21
    paula said:

    brilliant work. thanks for sharing the story behind the pretty pictures. always comforting to hear the nightmares as well as the beautiful successes that are part of building

  10. 5.6.21
    SheLikesToTravel said:

    It’s funny how time heals so much. Thanks for revisiting with us.

  11. 5.6.21
    Sara said:

    You are…amazing. This house is gorgeous. I cannot imagine MAKING this!

  12. 5.6.21
    Pam said:

    I started following you when this was being built… I love it so. The details, the thought process. All, simply amazing.

  13. 5.6.21
    Antonio said:

    You’re brilliant. I love the line about spaces as a backdrop for life to play out. Your poor finger! I’m a food writer that knows hardly anything about home remodeling, but I enjoy following your work.

  14. 5.6.21
    Shannon said:

    This made me tear up! I remember when this project started and snowballed and imploded on you. You did a gorgeous job despite all the pain and suffering! Thank you so much for sharing the story! It was beautifully written.

    • 5.6.21
      Ellen said:

      Glad I’m not the only one tearing up!

    • 5.6.21
      Ashley said:

      Awww…. Me three.

  15. 5.6.21
    Chione said:

    I was just thinking about you the other day Daniel, and hoping that life was stable and healthy for you. So glad to see a new post today — even if it is looking back at Olivebridge with the lovely perspective that 5 years brings. Well done — you should be proud!

  16. 5.6.21
    Diane said:

    So glad you shared, often thought of that cottage. Beautiful job Daniel! ❤

  17. 5.6.21
    Lori A Wallace said:

    So happy to finally see the finished product, its BEAUTIFUL.

  18. 5.6.21
    Jamie said:

    Spectacular. What an incredible achievement!

  19. 5.6.21
    Sara L. said:

    Must have been something in the air, because I was just wondering about this place the other day! And as I suspected, every square inch of it is gorgeous and worth the wait. Your blog entries from back then were so entertaining (I remember laughing at loud in horrified dismay at one photograph in particular, of that picture window wall turned into essentially a gaping maw), even though it was obvious that it was a truly painful experience, so I am so glad you could give us this update! Your writing is, as ever, so wonderful and heartfelt and funny. Still my favorite blogger.

  20. 5.6.21
    Evan said:

    This turned out so so beautifully. The light, the simplicity, the repurposing of materials. LOVE!

    • 5.6.21
      Vicki said:

      I, too, love the light and simplicity. And the floors are beautiful.

  21. 5.6.21
    Maria said:

    I remember the story from 5 years ago! My jaw dropped over and over looking at these pictures. What an incredible job you did!

  22. 5.6.21
    Jennifer said:

    Did not expect to start crying at a blog post about a house, but what an amazing reminder that getting through something that’s drowning you can end up as something beautiful. You are so talented, as both designer and storyteller!

    • 5.6.21
      mimi said:


  23. 5.6.21
    Jessica said:

    I thought we might never speak of this again. I am so delighted that this project now brings you joy! It is a masterpiece!! And I am here for any and all reminiscences you might want to share. It was such astonishing madness to read about at the time, and the ingenuity that you applied to it to produce this was/is incredible (and frankly much more useful and relatable that a lot of other blog content out there). It’s very fun to see your take on a much more modern structure than your Kingston babies. I hope you feel tremendously proud!!

  24. 5.6.21
    Claudia said:

    No to be dramatic, but I’ve been waiting five years for this post and it was totally worth it. You did an amazing job and the house is beautiful, but more importantly, I am glad you’re in a better place than you were then.

  25. 5.6.21
    Megan said:

    Daniel-congratulations on finally sharing this gorgeous project. I know you put your heart and soul in this project, and I remember thinking that it broke you at the time. I’m so glad you found your way back to blogging and are finally ready to share this with us.

  26. 5.6.21
    Victoria said:

    Daniel, the house is beautiful. It sounds like the most unbelievably awful experience at the time but it really did result in a gorgeous house, and I’m so glad that with the benefit of time and distance you have been able to see that. Xx

  27. 5.6.21
    Susan said:

    Thanks for the update! I wondered what happened there, such a happy ending!

  28. 5.6.21
    Meredith said:

    Oh, (fake-internet, actual-stranger) friend. This was such a heartache to read about, and SO very relatable. We have all been in those weeds ourselves. I’m glad you made it through, and the house is just stunning! It’s warm, it’s modern, it’s soulful, and it’s happy. I cannot fathom the strength it took to muddle through the mess and come out with such a runaway success of a project. Glad you get to take your bow, even five years later! You earned it! With a nail through the finger!

  29. 5.6.21
    Cate said:


  30. 5.6.21
    Samantha said:

    I’ve been waiting for this post for five years! I don’t know what’s better – the story or the final product. It’s hard to exactly express all the feelings I had reading this post – genuine alarm/concern at the miserable lows you experienced (the nail through the finger episode feels particularly tragic) but also so grateful for the way things came full circle. Love, love, love; nothing but Love for you, Daniel Kanter. xx

  31. 5.6.21
    Mom said:

    Oh Daniel. This is so beautifully written. It had me alternately in tears and laughing and wondering what kind of mother lets her kid get so deep into it. Guilty. I knew you had it in you and am so thankful to Adriana and Barry for trusting in you. It was clearly one of the best learning experiences ever. But, I remember feeling your pain and wondering how this would all end. Storybook ending, complete with a story written by a great writer. (If you are new-ish to this blog, I do encourage you to go back and read the earlier Olivebridge Cottage entries). Just, WOW. You continue to make me so proud. Love you.

    • 5.6.21
      Rachel S said:

      Now this comment had ME in tears! As a (relatively) new mama, this got me. Happy early mother’s day, Daniel’s Mom!

    • 5.6.21
      Jill Greenberg said:

      Aw, you’re the best, Daniel’s mom!

    • 5.13.21
      Erika Otter said:

      Yes! As a mom of teenagers who are probably just about to make me feel this way, hug to you Daniel’s mom! And to Daniel too. What a story.

  32. 5.6.21
    kiki said:

    OMG, I remember all the drama of this house! I even cried right along with you reading your posts! It turned out so lovely, thank you for sharing it with us.

  33. 5.6.21
    nicole said:

    Wow. This is such incredible work. I hope you are so so proud of what you accomplished here. I followed when you started this project and remember it imploding. Thank you for wrapping this up for us!

  34. 5.6.21
    Laura Barnes said:

    Daniel – I’ve missed your posts, but you’ve made up for your absence a thousand times over. This post deserves a wider audience – I hope you submit it to a shelter mag or some such niche publication because it is GOOD WRITING. And to see your care and thoughtfulness shining through each part of this house, it reminds us that those are some of the best parts of Daniel Kanter. You do care, about how you create and how it all fits together, and it shows. You are a natural at this. Please continue to share your work with us – it’s inspiring.

    • 5.6.21
      Mom said:

      Yes please

    • 5.7.21
      Amy said:

      agreed. this was incredible and deserves a broad audience. thank you so much for sharing this, Daniel.

  35. 5.6.21
    Juliet said:

    I’m so happy you finally shared this, Daniel, thank you. I recall following along with all the drama, and often wondered about the details on the final outcome. Reading about your journey has been wonderful, you are a fantastic writer, and the paragraph about how you finally learned to love the house had me in tears. I hope the new owners love it, too, and have many years of happy memories.

  36. 5.6.21
    Miruska said:

    I love this house! I cannot believe you did this with zero experience. It is beautiful. Simple but not boring, clearly well thought through. I knew you were talented based on your own house reno and the current small house reno, but I am floored by this house. Good for you!

  37. 5.6.21
    Alix said:

    So fun to see after photos after so long! Congratulations Daniel, on making it through that phase and making it so beautiful!

  38. 5.6.21
    HS said:

    Amazing. Really – wonderful lines, bringing the outdoors in, dual purpose custom pieces – so good. And your poignant insights resonated with me.

  39. 5.6.21
    Rachel S said:

    This was just beautiful. The house, the story, the photos, the vulnerability, everything. Thank you so much for sharing this. Posts like this are exactly why I LOVE following your content. You’re a prince.

  40. 5.6.21
    Emily said:

    Daniel, that post you wrote about olivebridge as an art installation is still one of my favorite essays of all time (and I have an NDA in nonfiction so I’ve read a lot!) Excited to hear that the incredible stress has faded somewhat and to see your beautiful work.

    • 5.6.21
      Emily said:

      Err MFA!

  41. 5.6.21
    Susan Lippitt said:

    So much easier to read this time because I know how it ended. Many compliments for going back and telling what was, at the time, challenging and at times, painful. Someone(?) once said “All’s well that ends well.”

  42. 5.6.21
    Carmen said:

    Gosh this turned out lovely. The thing I don’t love about modern is that it usually feels sterile. But you somehow make it not. Probably is the hard work of incorporating the materials you do, it really makes a tremendous difference. I love what you create.

  43. 5.6.21
    Elaine S said:

    Thanks so much for providing closure on this project! I’ve loved every blog about this cottage.

    Amazing how a nightmare has become so dreamy! Beautiful work, and so different from your preservation angle.

  44. 5.6.21
    Bari said:

    When I saw that you had a blog post on Instagram about Olivebridge I KNEW that this was not to be a phone scroll post. No. This was get out the laptop so that I can take in all the details in the photos and this post. You did not disappoint. I always secretly hoped that the reason you didn’t share was because a shelter magazine was doing a feature on this project.

    Also – the photo of you with the house half demo’ed with the excavator feels like an album cover. Or book cover – I’m not picky.

  45. 5.6.21
    Molly said:

    Thank you for sharing the final, beautiful, hard-won result!

  46. 5.6.21
    Chris said:

    GENIUS! Thank you. You were working on this when I came onboard as a follower/admirer. Thanks for the update.

  47. 5.6.21
    caitlin said:


  48. 5.6.21

    Loved this! Your writing, your voice, your style just makes me so happy. I so rarely stop and read anything in my email inbox that isn’t urgent work stuff anymore. I used to read your blog religiously years ago when I had a lot more time and life was simpler. I recently rediscovered your blog and am so glad I did. Feels like reconnecting with an old friend, not to mention you’re simply hilarious. P.S. I went through hell and back babysitting a massive renovation (with a terribly absent general contractor) for our home we bought last year — it was sort of similar in that it somehow managed to reveal all sorts of *special* flaws at once (only AFTER the inspection of course). Definitely related to this story. I STILL have PTSD from the whole thing but I’m recovering. :-)

  49. 5.6.21
    TanjaK said:

    Hey, I remember that. And I remember it was tough. You were gone a while. And then you did a Bernadette and went to Antarctica. I also remember some time later, being a freelancer myself and prone to anxiety, I burnt and crashed hard myself. It was tough. But look at this house. Just look at it. It’s beautiful. And it’s safe and sound. And you made it.

  50. 5.6.21
    MArcia said:

    This was a fantastic post, so well written and thoughtful. One of the things I like best about all your projects is how you repurpose and reuse all salvageable materials. You seem to be able to add so much character and charm by doing so. Wish everyone could see what you see.

  51. 5.6.21
    Jennifer T said:

    It means so much to see this completed, Daniel, after so many years as a reader, wondering how it turned out! I have a bête noire project that will never be finished, and it haunts me–so I understand. It’s absolutely great looking, and it’s DONE! I can’t imagine how painful this was to live through, but you should be really proud of it.

  52. 5.6.21
    Brooke said:

    I’ve done some projects that were too tough emotionally to ever revisit – this must have been difficult to share! Gives me hope that maybe someday I can swallow some negative feelings and see the good parts of those projects again.

    This is beautiful and I’m grateful that you decided to show it to us!

  53. 5.6.21

    I had wondered what happened with Olivebridge Cottage! Thank you for sharing the drama and the happy ending. Swear to Zeus you can do anything.

  54. 5.6.21
    GG said:

    Great story. Beautiful house.

  55. 5.6.21
    Denise said:

    Have wondered about this house for so long! Thank you Daniel for sharing a part of your heart! Job well done❤️

  56. 5.6.21
    Kathleen said:

    I am in AWE. I can only imagine how hard the struggle was, but you are incredibly talented Daniel!!

  57. 5.6.21
    Mari said:

    I am so happy I found you many many years ago! This post was an excellent closure! Well done.

  58. 5.6.21
    Martha said:

    You’re such an awesome writer. Thanks for sharing what sounds like a harrowing journey! A good reminder that hindsight can change things!

  59. 5.6.21
    Southern Gal said:

    Such a remarkable journey for you …. and as you write a great opportunity – isnt that how life is… it throws us into the deep end and …. sink or swim? you SWAM.
    you are a continual inspiration. never lose that thirst to do new things … you will always surprise yourself. but never us – we believe in you (as they did)

  60. 5.6.21
    David said:

    Thank you for sharing. The end result was beautiful.

  61. 5.6.21
    Caitlin said:

    I so admire your ability to just DO things, even when it leads you down an unexpected path (isn’t that always??). I can’t believe it’s been 5 years – I’ve been reading your blog for even longer! You are a delight in your highs and in your lows and this house had it all. Congrats on pulling through and making something wonderful out of rot!!

  62. 5.6.21
    Jeannette said:

    I always felt like Olivebridge was your PhD. In everything. Sorry you were having such a tough time otherwise, while you did the work. That itself is a PhD.
    You’re the best. Thank you.

  63. 5.6.21
    Ema said:

    It’s so great to finally hear the wrap-up of this house! I bet that is a big weight off for you. I remember when you were renovating and posting updates but then ages later posted (or linked) to a photo of the final product and it looked so different that I thought you must have had to demolish the entire house . The house looks amazing, well done on getting through it despite the trauma!

  64. 5.6.21
    Barbara H. said:

    Love it. Love you. I don’t think you would be where you are today without the intense, painful learning experience of rebuilding this house in such a beautifully clear way. Thank you for the update.

  65. 5.6.21
    Nicky said:

    Wow, it’s gorgeous! It turned out so very well.

    Also gorgeous: your words. I’ve missed you way more than I realised.

  66. 5.6.21
    Suzanne said:

    I dropped everything to read this long-awaited post. The design still looks so fresh, 5 years later. You are a champion!

  67. 5.7.21
    Maria said:

    Thank you for sharing, I’ve been secretly wondering, and YES! The design is beautiful, but to know that you also built the (almost) entire thing from the ground up, at 25, with all the curve balls that were thrown at you… Well done!

  68. 5.7.21
    Karen said:

    What a great experience- thanks for sharing your story. And that gorgeous home in the big woods!

  69. 5.7.21

    What a story, Daniel! And what a beautiful house.
    I remember stumbling on your blog years ago while searching for fibreglass heal for an ancient Eames… and staying on glued to the screen purely because of your writing. This blog post has to be better than most films I’ve recently seen, or books (and I have three on the go); you were clearly a prodigy and have done this job splendidly well. But the most admirable is the grace with which you carry the story which, for most of us mortals, would be a dark pit in the stomach. We are lucky to have you. The new Olivebridge owners are damn lucky to have you. I hope you know how fantastic you are. Big warm hugs from freezing London from me and my pup. xx

  70. 5.7.21
    Liz said:

    LOVE this and all your blogs and insta posts. So fun to see all your creations and updates.
    – “Little Liz” – in McLean… remember me? ;-) Congrats on all your success!!!

  71. 5.7.21
    Lisa said:

    I’m kvelling. Mazel tov!

  72. 5.7.21
    Elizabeth said:

    It is beautiful! And I’m so glad you posted. I was getting worried about you!

  73. 5.7.21
    Dorota said:

    Epic project. Epic post. Congratulations for surviving.

  74. 5.7.21
    Molly said:

    Reading this was a real #journey for me. There were ups, there downs, ins and outs, laughs and cries. I remember being concerned for you during this phase….so glad so much good came from it! I’ve had one of those moments you described at the party (granted, I just made the food, not the entire HOUSE) and it’s such a great feeling to see people you love having a good time and creating memories because of something you created. Agree with someone else who said this article should be in a shelter mag; this story is 100% more interesting than 99.9% of most magazine articles. Corazon you, DK!

  75. 5.7.21
    Barbara said:

    Daniel! I’m crying over here. WHAT a beautiful house you built.

  76. 5.7.21
    Kristina said:

    I wondered what happened with that little place. You really did a beautiful job on it. You are also a very fine essayist. Well done.

  77. 5.7.21
    Susan said:

    Beautiful transformation. Your magnificent skills and talent show throughout this house.

  78. 5.7.21
    Lesley Sturge said:

    Congratulations Daniel.

    Some of life’s hardest moments are some of our most amazing feats.

  79. 5.7.21
    Erin L said:

    Wow, it’s amazing to finally get to see this at last. It’s gorgeous! That you (and Edwin and Edgar) managed all of this through an incredibly difficult time makes it that much more spectacular.

  80. 5.7.21
    Brenda said:

    The house is brilliant!!! Truly amazing and so many skills learned.

  81. 5.7.21
    Timothy Thompson said:

    Great looking house, but I’m mostly commenting because I’ve missed reading your posts. Great to hear from you after such a long time!

  82. 5.8.21
    Kari said:

    Wow, after all these years, it’s even more beautiful than I imagined. I can’t believe I’m still this invested after 5 years, but it turns out to be worth the wait! Thank you for sharing it!

  83. 5.8.21
    M said:

    It’s so good to have closure on this. You did an amazing thing and pulled it off beautifully despite everything going against you. Very well done and I hope you can now be proud of what you have achieved.

    • 5.8.21
      Weesie said:

      Like a Phoenix rising from ashes, Olivebridge’s rebirth was sensational. Pleased you could finally feel good about it and share with us. Your posts always reward taking time, settling back and reading every word. Thanks.

  84. 5.8.21
    Keely said:

    Best Saturday morning in bed with critters & coffee read ever! That “cottage” became way more than I ever imagined. Just amazing.

  85. 5.8.21
    Autumn said:

    I stumbled across your site a few weeks ago while in the middle of a project, and sort of fell for your house. And then your second house, and your story. I wanted to know more about YOU. It’s rare to find such soul put into not only the work, but into your life and your story and how you present it to the world. So this post was quite a lovely synopsis of what you’ve been up to, AND of your talent! Life often throws curve balls, and swinging that bat can be terrifying, but wow when you get a home run out of it”¦ Thanks for the dose of humanity! And thank you for sharing!
    ~ your new fan

  86. 5.9.21
    LD said:

    I remember when this was happening and wondered why no conclusion. You really did just dump that house and leave. But… is amazing. What an accomplishment. Kudos to you!!! I could not imagine doing something like this at 25.

  87. 5.9.21
    Jean Stone said:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this!

    My husband and I built a house that I designed on graph paper. Our neighbor, recently retired college design professor, drafted the plans. The ground broke in 2011, and it was 2½ years in the making.

    I fully identified with your story, and yes, a lot of love goes into a massive project such as this.
    In our case, hubby and I both were laid off during the project, but wouldn’t leave it incomplete. We were able to pitch in and help.

    I agree with the love/hate relationship, and if I had to do it again, I would!

    Thank you for your wonderful, entertaining story!

  88. 5.10.21
    Angela said:

    Wonderful to get this look back at what was a hugely stressful time and project in your life, to hear you can now view it with perspective and appreciate how it helped you to grow. I remember reading this as you went through it, when all went quiet – the true “worst of times” – when you couldn’t even find the energy to write. So happy it didn’t break you. I don’t always make time to follow projects on IG, but ALWAYS take time to read your blog posts!! Thank you for writing.

  89. 5.11.21
    Andrea said:

    Daniel, I was so delighted to see a new post from you, and am still delighted each time I read it. Love your writing. The deft way you set out your work, your life, and their effect on each other… I read a lot of home/decor blogs, and yours is the only one that makes me reflect on who we are as people as we create and live in our spaces. Hoping you’re very well as we begin to emerge (fingers crossed) from this pandemic year. Thank you with all my heart for your writing. Sending you a hug.

  90. 5.12.21
    Hayley said:

    I’ve waited years for this story! Thank you for sharing Daniel. You are an inspiration.

  91. 5.12.21
    Alix said:

    You are amazing. I am currently in the middle of something that was supposed to be a renovation and is actually a complete rebuild but a really tricky one inside some existing walls and it is emotionally, financially and physically draining. Good on you for getting through this and I hope that with some time/distance you can appreciate what an incredible job you did. Bravo!

  92. 5.13.21
    Ellen said:

    This house is exceptional! So glad we got to see the finished product and that 5 years removed it is a happy/fond memory of an incredibly difficult time. So impressed with your accomplishment!

  93. 5.13.21
    Andrea said:

    WELCOME BACK!!! I diligently check because I LOVE your blog and your writing style. I have missed you!
    Beautiful job on a stunning home – you are incredibly talented!

  94. 5.14.21
    Jeannette said:

    [Accidentally posted this to your kitchen post, 1000 pardons.]
    I hope you will be restoring the posts in the saga of the reconstruction of Olivebridge. That was truly a Himalayan summiting. It’s a moral story, a Bildungsroman even, in which a young person is tested and becomes a man as a result. I think the tale is essential to your narrative arc. I think it’s your book and your movie. I hope the powers that be will consent.

  95. 5.21.21
    Jenny said:

    You are fabulous, and you should write a book…seriously.

  96. 5.23.21
    Sarah G said:

    “Because ultimately these spaces don’t exist for pretty pictures; they exist as a backdrop for life to play out”

    THIS – I feel this so hard. It’s how I approach everything I do in my house, and you put it into words better than I ever could.

    Olivebridge Cottage turned out so beautiful! I’m so happy that you’ve had time to process and could come back to it and love it. Great job!

  97. 6.2.21
    Bonnie said:

    Hi Daniel! I didn’t realize that I’d been missing you until this update showed up the other day. I remember following along with this house rebuild/new build(!) and enjoying it so much because I love your writing style. I had no idea until now that it had been that much stress for you. But it’s gorgeous The windows are the best part for me, facing the wilderness and nice and low, a perfect height! You were right about the height!

  98. 6.11.21
    Linda Diane Myers said:

    Well if this doesn’t just make my day.

  99. 7.1.21
    Sall said:

    Dude!! I was following from Manhattan!! Look at you go!! Loved what you did w Hudson Valley and now this!! ❤️❤️

  100. 7.1.21
    Abigail R. Jacob said:

    OMG Daniel, IT’S SO CUTE!!! This house will be my bookmarked work for Scandi style from here on out, which I swear to Pete has never spoken to me before, but used here it’s so full of light and yet accessible and warm and cute and not sterile at all. Seriously, please be proud of your work because it’s amazing!

  101. 7.14.21
    greta said:

    It is so pretty and looks well thought out in spite of the minute by minute decisions. Bluestone is going to be great, too.

  102. 8.25.21
    Aly said:

    I’m a little late to seeing this, but I remember this project back in 2015! You were one of the first renovation bloggers that I followed and I remember all the stress that came with this. I just re-discovered you recently and it was kind of fun to go back down memory lane with this. Never saw the “afters,” but it is beautiful, modern and timeless. Time heals most wounds and it’s amazing what you can accomplished when you’re forced to do it.

  103. 9.4.21
    Deborah said:

    Hi. Read your post while enjoying my coffee this morning. It was like reading a good book. I didn’t want it to end. Love your honesty and humor. Goals.

  104. 12.27.21
    kristen said:

    You did well.

  105. 1.2.22
    Žanna said:

    I love this home and especially the personal story behind it. Thank you for sharing!

  106. 1.20.22
    Heather A said:

    What did you use for the exterior paint? Great job!

    • 1.24.22

      Benjamin Moore Aura, low-luster! The color is Onyx! :)

  107. 1.21.22
    Sarah said:

    Ohmygosh. I do relate. I worked on two hotels age 25-30. I say that working in them was awful but I will always love that project and have trouble remembering every freaking detail that I put into it for YEARS. It’s all
    A blue now.