Q&A: All About Our New Cabin + Video Tour

I cannot get over all the support, love, and curiosity that you’ve all sent our way after our move! Our new cabin has meant so many dreams are coming to fruition for us and I cannot wait to share every step of the journey with you. Trust me, I am already working on plotting our renovation projects and makeovers. I recently posted to Instagram in preparation for today’s Q&A and sooo many questions were submitted! We’ve officially been here for a month, so it’s time to get those questions answered and share more details of new our cabin.

Q&A: Answering Your Questions About Our New Cabin

Before I dig into all the questions you submitted on Instagram, here’s a refresher of our home tour video in case you missed it. Hopefully it gives you an idea of the square footage, layout, and current look of our new cabin.

Do you feel safe in the middle of nowhere? Will you install security systems?

I actually do feel safe, but I’m still very realistic. I know there are predators out there and even potentially dangerous people, so it’s all about being smart and taking precautions. Part of why I adopted a larger dog is to help me feel more secure, but we have also installed an alarm system + cameras and motion detecting lights.

How remote is it?

We’re about 2 hours from Seattle and basically butted up against the North Cascades National Park. Our street actually has a few houses on it, but we can barely see or hear anyone. Sometimes we can see our immediate neighbor, but everyone seems to keep to themselves out here so we haven’t met them.

How much do you expect to spend on renovations?

Woof… we don’t really have a figure for that yet since the house is more livable long-term than the bungalow was. Our plan is to keep adding to the money we made from selling the bungalow in order to maintain a bigger cushion and then invest in the renovations when we feel ready.

Will your home updates be sustainability focused?

Absolutely! We are planning to upgrade to more efficient appliances and gas stoves for heat to begin with, but also with material selection. When it’s time to replace the old laminate flooring and MDF cabinetry, my hope is to use materials that are American-made and sustainable natural materials… just not bamboo floors. I experienced those in our old home and they were terrible (too soft, too yellow in color, and I didn’t like the grain).

How do you plan out what you’re going to buy vs. keep and style from city to rural?

The new cabin is about 2000 sqft vs. our old house that was 640, so we brought literally ALL of our furniture so that it could hopefully feel more settled sooner. That being said, we have 2 rooms that are totally empty right now! Our dining table is definitely too small for the cabin, so eventually it will move into my office. But for now, everything from the old house is here even if it’s not the aesthetic I’m going for.

What style would you say you’re going to go for?

My inspiration is the Palisociety group of hotels with a bit of moodiness and some modern schoolhouse vibes. I want to incorporate a lot more color, texture, and vintage elements, too.

Any cons you weren’t expecting from moving away from the city?

The wifi has been challenging for me as I try to work more and more. It’s only been a month though, so I’m sure once winter is here I’ll have more to say about this!

Are you planning on doing any substantial renovations?

YES. Everything must go! But in all seriousness, we plan to repaint the entire house, continue removing the carpet, replace the laminate flooring, renovate both bathrooms, remove a shoddily constructed fake wall in a guest room, gut and re-do the entire kitchen…. and generally add some charm and style into the house. Barely any improvements have been made since the 90s, so I’m looking forward to modernizing the space and making it even cozier.

Are you scared of the bears/how secure are the chickens with bears around?

Is it bad to say no? I’m actually more scared of the big cats than anything else out here! That being said, I’m always very careful and make sure to have a bear horn with me, make lots of noise, and generally just be aware of my surroundings. In terms of the chickens, we’re building them a structure that is more secure than their current spot — it’s just taking longer than anticipated. Once it’s ready, we’ll be installing an electrical fence around it in addition to the cameras I already have set up. I’m not messing around!

What does it smell like?

This question cracked me up! It’s a mix of cat pee, apple spice plug ins, and body odor. One of the bathrooms has a really weird damp smell, so I suspect the wall heater pulls air from the crawlspace.

Are you worried about the previous owners seeing what you’ve said about them?

NOPE. They are adults who signed a contract saying they’d leave the home a certain way… and didn’t. I’ve since learned that there were some health issues that affected their ability to do things around the house — trust me, I GET IT thanks to all of the major health problems I’ve had these past few years. I’ve been there and YET have always been someone to keep my end of the bargain. Two days before we were slated to move out of the bungalow, we had a major family emergency, which meant we hired a cleaning crew to prepare the house for the new owner. That is the responsible, adult thing to do. I would never wish the condition of the house we received upon my worst enemy… that’s how bad it was. The sellers knew the expectations and had over a month to plan accordingly, yet they didn’t. So no, I don’t care what they read on my blog and social because I would gladly say it to their faces if given the opportunity.

What are you you going to tackle first in terms of renovation?

Our biggest priority right now is removing anything that could be contributing to the odor problems (read more about that here). That means most of the carpet has been ripped out and we’re going to start painting soon. In terms of the projects I’m sharing here on the blog, right now I am concurrently working on designs for the dining room, living room, and our main bedroom. The latter will get a ‘for now’ makeover so that we can actually inhabit and use it! Right now the space is just too smelly and dirty for us to use, so we have work to do in there like putting down flooring, painting, and replacing lighting.

Are you planning your garden for next year yet? Do you have a spot picked out yet?

In my head, YES. I have a lot of reading to do over the winter about permaculture. I had hoped to at least get the location tilled so I could start amending the soil, but there just hasn’t been time. It’s sort of taken a back seat as we try to remove the cat piss/BO smell from the house.

Did you feel there were things you knew to look for with your second home purchase vs. the first?

YES, but also our priorities were different. With this home, we were more focused on the location and the space. We wanted a separate garage/shop space, land (I wanted 10-14 acres, but Sean won the negotiations on that), 3-4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and it had to have phone service.

How do you keep Noodle safe from wildlife?

The dogs only go outside when we are able to supervise them and NEVER allowed to wander off by themselves. Each dog has a reflective orange collar plus these glowing lights and I wear a headlamp at night to take them out. Also, I generally make a lot of noise when they go out by talking to them, whistling, rustling leaves and stomping around… basically establishing my presence for anything listening in the bushes!

What are your heating sources?

We have a bigggg wood burning stove in the living room, a gas stove in the dining room, a gas stove in the main bedroom suite, and each bedroom and bathroom has small electric wall heaters. I’m gad we have a mix of heat sources so we can figure out which is the most efficient and affordable — plus having the wood stove and gas stoves are great for when the power goes out. We’re getting a generator this weekend, but it’s very good to be prepared!

Are there outbuildings?

Yes, we have an 800+ sqft shop with a loft.

Were you specifically looking in the town where your cabin is?

Not really! I basically narrowed down the options based on places we like to camp, hike, and climb. We’re off highway 20, which is one of our favorite routes into the mountains. I basically just digitally ‘traveled’ along the highways, looking at whatever listings popped up as I went. Then, I sent them to Sean to narrow down based on what he liked. We’ve wanted to do a move like this for at least 3 years, but the time was never right… once we saw this house on the market in July though, we jumped on it and here we are!

Thank you SO much to everyone who submitted questions! I tried to answer as many as I could, but always feel free to leave a comment and ask me more. I could talk about this cabin until I’m blue in the face!

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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