Renovations Galore (part 1)

The month of August, we undertook a few big projects. One that I will reveal later, is our new parking lot (which is SUPER exciting all by itself!). But first, I wanted to reveal the big change in the ceremony area behind the barn:

chattanoogaelopement

IT’S LEVEL! And it has grass. And brick steps. And steps leading down to the trail where folks like to explore and some of the BEST wedding photos happen among the rocks.

chattanoogaevents

Here is how it looked a couple of months ago for a photoshoot — you can see it isn’t quite flat, but it also slopes quite a bit off the barn. We had added five feet of dirt earlier in 2017 and it compacted enough for use just in time for weddings last November, but over time it was still settling and nowhere near as level as we wanted it to be. Plus the grass from seed kept dying. We went for sod this time.

destination wedding venue mountains

I went digging for how much this space behind the barn has changed since we bought the land just over two years ago — I found this one, from January 2017 (with Cookie in it, which made me sad all over again).

barn before

You can see how MUCH it sloped — there was barely a useable area back here at all, certainly nothing for ceremonies.

And now, with 2 feet more of dirt in some places, plus rock — we treated it like a golf course, after a friend’s excellent suggestion. We have a couple inches of rock below the topsoil — that way, the ground dries faster than if it were only dirt alone. Drainage considerations on a mountain are serious stuff:

woodlandvenue

forestwedding

We did most all of this leveling by HAND you guys. That means shovels, and wheelbarrows, and sore bodies. There’s no way to get equipment through the barn, and to go around back is a little dangerous for machinery… and still slow. So by hand it was. We have the muscles to prove it. For a while we were looking pretty svelte too… but I think a few quarts of ice cream may have caught up with us since then.

chattanoogavenue

The first little set of stairs are reclaimed brick from an old chimney in St Elmo, set with railroad ties to make them pretty long. They were not leveled yet in this shot– just placed down so we knew we had enough of them.

bricksteps

Same view, from a few months ago with our photoshoot with Hillary Leah.

Oakleaf

One last before and after! We’re so thrilled to have it looking like…. an event space!

forestwedding

Next post… parking!

Revealing the Barn

Well, kinda revealing. It’s not finished — but considering where we started a few months back, the transformation is coming along well.

barn exterior angle

oakleaf cottage barn exterior

We had a deadline that we never expected would be tight, but with all the rain this spring it took for-ev-ah to get dirt and rock up here. Also, due to our location, a lot of work has to be done by hand. Mostly by two people. Myself, and Dave. I’ve got some pretty cool muscles going after slinging a pickaxe so often. Who needs a gym, when you are remodeling a barn on the side of a mountain?

barn deck oakleaf cottage

Our deck is complete, save we will be changing out the farm-fence look to tension wire in the very near future. It’s 16×50, and feels outright amazing – like you are in the treetops. After we stain it in a couple of months we can add pots and some minor furnishings out here for our Cottage guests to relax on while watching the sunset. We’ll be leaving lots of room for morning yoga, which some recent guests found the deck to be perfect for.

barn interior daytime

Inside, we are still working as well. The floor will get poured SOON, and we have some really cool details that will go into that. After that, we can install the lighting on the posts (and down the center), and we will be using reclaimed brick on the posts to give the barn a different, but solid, look.

first event

Our first event, a rehearsal dinner, went super well. Everyone loved it, and we loved watching how guests spilled out to explore the property and trails, some assisting newly walking kiddos who held on to their parent’s fingers — both for balance and to pull Mommy and Daddy everywhere. We were completely exhausted, but even through that were thrilled to see how people interacted in the space. It’s just as we dreamed.

bar area

We literally pulled our temporary bar together using the original lower stall doors about 2 hours before the event started. We were sooooo down to the wire. We’re happy it looks halfway decent, but looking forward to installing the original design with bar sinks and an undercabinet fridge. It will have a floating/locking island that can be used too, for greater versatility of space. But it dresses up nice.

barn at oakleaf cottage

Early this week, we had a small group of people come through to have a look at our little construction project, so we set out a little wine and cheese. I loooove pulling greenery straight from the outdoors in decorating a space.

tired dog barn party

Our tripod dog, Cookie, was completely worn out from playing host/official greeter and spent the majority of two hours right about here.

Work continues out here — this week, Dave has been installing the beams and details on the ceilings on the sides of the barn. It has a steel structure, which is nice and sturdy but not terribly pretty. From here, it’s all cosmetics.

new beams

We can’t wait to see what neat events will be in store for this place over the years, and have a number of great seminars and nature-related events in the works. Watch our events page or follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss out!

extra

xoxo-

Cris & Dave

 

 

Deck and Barn Progress

The passage of time is a strange thing when you are working on a big project, because every day you see one more small thing finished or changed and it seems like progress takes forever, until you look at your photos from a week or two ago and realize how far you’ve come.

This was the MOAD less than two weeks ago (Mother of All Decks, which is what we are jokingly calling the massive deck we are building off the barn’s stall doors). Dave and I now have added the beginnings of stairs, considerably more posts, cross bracing and more cross bracing, and the board aprons.

When the Cottage isn’t rented, we like to take advantage of the kitchen and create a picnic lunch somewhere on the property. We have a slight tendency toward workaholicism, and it’s good for us to occasionally stop and enjoy this place we love so much, but work so hard on. The grapes left by the last guest made a welcome addition to our Eggplant Parmigiana.

  We don’t stop long, but it’s fun to swing our feet under us like little kids and talk about next steps or things we are looking forward to. How we will string lights in the trees, the view from the deck in winter, what kind of furniture we should have out here most of the time, the workshops we’d love to host. Before long, guests will be able to lunch (or dinner, or breakfast, or coffee) out here — and they won’t have to balance on a 2×12 to do it, either.

Last week, I laid new gravel in front of the barn. With so many loads of dirt being brought in, plus all the rain, the drive in front of the barn was terribly rough. I spent a day in the mud, trying to shovel the ruts out and get it level again, and the next two days spreading gravel — but it looks much improved and was the first step toward something looking better, rather than worse, as construction often does.

Around the same time, Dave poured the last section of footer and sill in the barn — we had to leave the back doors open while shuttling in all the dirt for the Barn Lawn (raising the ground level back up by about 5 feet from where it had been dug out during the barn’s build some years ago). This end of the barn was 32″ lower than the other, which also necessitated a lot of dirt/fill being needed in the barn.

The interior of the barn now has the start of the electrical rough-in, we spread gravel throughout, and I spent Saturday removing the original oak boards and the thin insulation behind them (seen in the sill photo above). The oak will go back up after the new insulation is installed next week, and we are saving the old insulation for the goat shed we will build this winter. None of this is particularly picture-worthy and we both hate showing something that isn’t perfect — so note, you don’t see much of the walls in the below picture (if you follow us on Instagram, you may notice I don’t post pictures of the barn or construction, but I do show it in the Stories.)

Also — oh HAPPY DAY! — I finally found reclaimed windows to replace the existing vinyl windows (and in two places, we are adding windows). We were beginning to think we might have to cobble several windows together, as the opening size is rather unusual and generally custom order — but this guy had the precise size we needed, and the exact number! We will be cutting the window openings taller to make room for them, and we are both excited to see more natural light coming in to the barn interior.

We will have more natural light coming in from the other side as well, as we are taking the original stall doors that led to the outside (and now lead to the deck!) and changing them to look a little like this:

It feels so good to be finished with the “deconstruction” phase and start seeing progress toward the place looking better. Hope you are having an amazing summer so far!

Cris & Dave

 

 

 

 

Year One

We cannot believe a year has passed since we purchased Oakleaf Cottage. A year ago today, we left the title office, packed a tiny overnight bag, an air mattress, a bottle of wine and our favorite celebratory glasses: a pair of gold-decked champagne flutes Dave’s mom found at auction. We treated ourselves to dinner at Canyon Grill, still trying to absorb what we had done, and what we needed to do.

We dozed off with the full solstice moon shining blue through the uncovered windows, lulled by the sound of a pair of owls talking to each other across the night, and a soft breeze in the treetops. Dawn arrived clear and cool, and we sat on the steps of the front porch, sipping coffee, drawing sketches, discussing details and plans, dreaming and getting distracted by the beauty around us.

oakleaf cottage exterior

A number of changes took place in the first few months – starting with remodeling the Cottage. It has fabulous bones, a classic “four over four” farmhouse layout that feels like home, or your grandparent’s home. There is no want for windows and natural light, and the living spaces have the perfect balance between openness and privacy.

We wanted to draw out more of that sense of an older home, every change we made was with consideration of what an older farmhouse would have. We settled on tongue and groove for the ceilings rather than beadboard, as we knew it would be very difficult to make the home seem 100 years old — but we could make it feel 80, with built-ins and simple trim.

Our first year saw a couple moderate-sized events, a few insanely fun photoshoots, and even a commercial was filmed here!

riverworks marketing1

Photo courtesy of Riverworks Marketing

We are still undergoing more changes, and this year’s focus has been on the barn. We’ve never seen a barn smack dab in the woods before, and certainly not snuggled up alongside such an impressive rocky mountainside. We’ve been bringing in loads of dirt, first to level the floor of the barn (it had a 28″ difference in floor height from one end to the other) and then to fill in the area behind the barn where a lot of dirt had been dug out by the original owners to create a level enough space for the barn – we are on the side of a mountain, after all.

oakleaf cottage barn original

behind the barn original

Behind the Barn – Last Year

Standing on all that dirt, four feet higher than we had ever seen it before, felt surreal to Dave and I (and not just for the fact that we spent a lot of money on dirt we could stand on). We see the area behind the barn as being such a fun place, like a back lawn. We can’t wait to have dinners and Celidihs (Kay-lees) here.

We were first exposed to a celidih while in Nova Scotia, taking in Celtic music during the yearly festival known as Celtic Colors, which brings in musicians from all over the world to play Gaelic-inspired music. In its traditional Scottish or Irish sense, it’s simply a social gathering, involving music and dancing. It’s so much fun, we want to have a place to hold such music here — and what better place than next to a mossy rock wall that looks like it came straight out of Darby O’Gill and the Little People?

This past year has been extremely exciting for us. We’ve done most all the work ourselves, and so it’s been a lot of long days and late nights and early mornings (which explains some of my sloppy blogging history). We can’t wait to move forward and share more of this gorgeous place. We are, every day, grateful and in awe of this place we come to, a place that offers new surprises all the time, like our little friend Casper:

casper_peekaround_white squirrel

Here’s to our first year!

  • Cris & Dave