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Turning a Little Fishing Shack into a Charming Cottage on the Lake

It all starts with a dream
By Gloria Gale
Published: April 1, 2007
Angie Warwick fell in love with the slate floors and vintage appliances in the kitchen, which remain in the renovated cabin.
Photo by Bill Mathews
This screened-in porch was added on. It has become Angie’s favorite place.
Photo by Bill Mathews
"I’m a dying breed,” Angie Warwick admits. “There are not too many people who would want to save a tiny cabin. Instead of knocking this structure down then replacing it with a big house, I wanted to rescue it and preserve tradition.”
Finding and salvaging a little old fishing cabin has reaffirmed her conviction, not to mention conjured up childhood memories of summer camp spent on great old lakes in New York and Vermont.

Birth of a Dream
Angie married and moved to Kansas City, but fondness for the lake never left. She and her husband spent many summers visiting relatives at the Lake of the Ozarks. “I still recall rocking my babies on the screened porch, listening to the sounds of the lake,” she says. That charming, older fishing-cabin-turned-weekend-retreat sparked the urge to one day find a small place of their own.
“I really looked for over two years in and around Kansas and Missouri,” Angie says. Finally, she got a call from a realtor who had grown up on Lake Lotawana, an older community on a manmade lake near Kansas City.
“My real estate agent called on a very cold September morning saying he had something in mind but not to give it much hope. And I remember he said, ‘It’s best if you bring someone who knows about remodeling.’”
So as Angie, her daughter and future son-in-law piled into the car for the 40-minute drive to Lake Lotawana, there was little expectation. “I was so used to being disappointed after looking at dreadful real estate over the years, I wasn’t surprised when we found ourselves staring at a sad little fishing shack that was very scary,” Angie confesses.

The Warwicks kept the red log siding on the house, plus all the original windows.
Photo by Bill Mathews
Room for Improvement
Undaunted, she opened the door to the 60-year-old cabin. “It was a total mess. There was a tree growing into the house and among other things, the doors and windows didn’t open. However, in its favor it had all the original appliances, a partial slate floor and it was situated on a great cove.”
Other plusses: the log-sided cabin was already equipped with electricity and water. The minuses were obvious: less than 1,000 square feet of space, poor configuration, dark and shabby.
“All I could see was a main living room, a tiny kitchen, dining area partitioned off by a storage area and one bedroom,” says Angie.

Meanwhile, her future son-in-law, who is a contractor, climbed around and declared the place relatively sound. “That helped,” says Angie, who reassured herself that she had remodeled homes in the past with good results.
And then with a surge of confidence, she bought it on the spot.

A fresh coat of white paint lightened the interior, while taking out the ceiling added visual height. The original stone fireplace anchors the living room.
Photo by Bill Mathews
Fishing memorabilia is scattered throughout the renovated fishing camp.
Photo by Bill Mathews
Renovation Time

Several years later, Angie and her husband, Hadley, are still working on the place. “What once was a summer fishing shack is now a pleasing little retreat that we can escape to. It’s only 45 minutes from our house but it feels like I’m always on vacation.
The entire cabin was given a fresh coat of white paint to lighten the interior. Then they removed the ceiling, leaving only a small loft which is accessed by a ladder.
Taking out the ceiling immediately added more visual height, brightening up the entire living room and kitchen area.
Though they left the slate floor in the kitchen and hall, they installed hardwood floors in the rest of the cabin and then painted them in a cream and green checkerboard pattern. The living room has its original stone fireplace and is furnished with scaled-down and wicker furniture.  
Initially, the Warwicks had their hands full renovating the main living area and then progressing to the kitchen and dining room. One end of the dining room was partitioned off with a thin plywood wall into a storage area or perhaps a bedroom. The Warwicks removed the wall and replaced it with curtains on a cable. “Now we have a bed in this area, but much of the time the fabric curtain is pushed back to open up the dining room area,” Angie says.

Angie’s Decorating Style? Nothing precious, she says. Flea market finds, souvenirs and lots of kitschy stuff adorn the kitchen and dining room.
Photo by Bill Mathews

Sweet Changes

Adding a screened-in porch off the dining room also helped enlarge the space. “It’s really my favorite place since it has a creaky porch swing. It’s just me, the lake and the sounds of the water.”
The kitchen, with all its quirky 1940s charm was part of the draw for Angie. “I like those scaled down vintage pieces so I left the sink, stove and fridge. There was already an island faced with bead board, which underscores the cabin’s cottage charm.”
As much work as the inside needed, the outside also has been completely redone. The couple kept the barn red log siding on the house, but added a hot tub, brick patio and new dock and landscaped the entire front and back.
The original windows were kept throughout, thus keeping the traditional l940s lakehome feel.
“Nothing very precious was used to decorate,” says Angie. “It’s a combination of flea market finds, little collections of l940s shell art, souvenirs of Iowa, old fishing memorabilia, wicker and lots of pottery and kitschy stuff.”

Painted wooden chairs surround the harvest table in the dining room, above.
Photo by Bill Mathews
It's All About Perspective
Angie enjoys the fact that Lotawana is a very quiet lake. Cabins have been here for as long as the lake which is approximately 60 years. “Though houses were built very close to one another, the two on either side of us were and still are weekend retreats.”  
Contemplating the whole cabin experience, she often reflects on the many moments around the dining room’s primitive harvest table surrounded by eight painted wooden chairs.
“One of my best memories is a Saturday evening dinner as the boys (otherwise known as husbands) went boating and the girls played bridge at this table. The flickering lightning bugs and quiet lapping of the lake were the background to this very pleasant scene.”
After being a soccer mom for the past umpteen years, Angie and her husband are looking forward to spending more time at the cabin. Particularly with their little grandson “who just loves it here.”
“Actually, I am very glad to have had a chance to save this place. We just got a television after six years so I guess that will help draw at least two of our three sons here. I imagine we will plan on keeping this place in the family – we have no plans to sell.”
In fact, the Warwicks are just getting started on enjoying the little fishing cabin that has a new lease on life.

Gloria Gale writes from her home in the flatlands of Kansas but dreams of one day writing from her log cabin in the Colorado Rockies.

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