June 25, 2012

Northern Minnesota Custom Interior - Mitchell Watkins Construction

Mitch is very good at what he does, and his work has a large affect on our family life.  So I thought I'd share some photos of a project he's worked on over the past months.  (I don't often have photos.. it's something I should do more of.)
This project is a vacation / lake home, located where northern Minnesota meets Canada, accessed only by water. (New construction.)
That meant our skid steer, tool trailer, equipment, and all building materials were barged to the site.
Main construction was done last fall, Sept-Nov.  Mitch boated to the site each day until he couldn't break through the morning ice anymore & the boat motor was freezing up.  At that point he had to hold off until the lake froze solid enough to drive on.  Staining had to wait until warm temps and was just in progress last week when we stopped in & I took these photos.  

The location & limited access were not the only logistical complexity.
The owners, whom I had the pleasure of meeting on a trip up in January (and found to be wonderfully friendly) live in the twin cities area.. so while the project was a few hours north of us, they were a few hours south.. and meeting at the site wasn't usually an option.  Mitch spent a lot of time on the phone & in conference calls during the planning phase, and used his phone to text photos of progress & for daily input & decision making throughout construction.   Both parties seemed to handle this very well, and from all that I've gathered & witnessed - they're very happy with their new cabin! 

Mitch did a great job with many custom elements & also in dealing with an architect's plan that had it's share of errors & glitches.  He got to implement both his structural skill & knowledge and his creative talents throughout this project.  Construction drew in a fair amount of spectators & Mitch's craftsmanship has wowed the socks off people.

I took these photos with a small point & shoot, and all the windows were taped off with plastic since the exterior staining was in progress.  All furniture & cushions from the wrap around deck / screen porch were also piled into the living room due to this.   So my shots are selective, and I'll share more at a later date.      

Originally, the owners had planned on standard pine tongue & groove paneling throughout on walls & ceilings.  But they wanted to do something more rustic in the bathroom, so Mitch showed them a sample of some aged & weathered sawtooth paneling from a local mill.  They liked it so much they decided to put it on all of the walls.
As lifelong northern Minnesotans, personally Mitch & I grew tired long ago of the overdone wall to wall pine T&G.. and think this choice made a huge distinction from the cookie cutter MN cabin to something custom, with more unique character & interest. I think it stepped up the style quite a bit.
The plan called for false beams to be put up on the ceiling.  Mitch thought all that new pine up there would look odd with all the darker, rustic walls.  It was his idea to use the aged wood for the beams to both break up the ceiling & tie it all together with the walls.  Big thumbs up on that decision from me.  I love it.   
All of the interior lumber came from local logs & local saw mills.   A few choice pieces even came from logs harvested from our own property.  
A good friend of Mitch's who does custom log work made the railing (which the staining crew was yet to do) and the owners also had him make bunk beds for the kids' rooms, which are on the upper level.
With all the rough sawn wood, it was decided to do sawn / squared off logs to keep in style with the rest of the house, rather than round logs. 
Slate was chosen for the flooring on the main level, for it's durability with four-legged-family members & kids tracking sand in from the lake.
The stairs & upper level/loft area flooring is Tamarack, made in Meadowlands, MN.
The owners salvaged windows from the old cabin that existed on site before new construction.  It doesn't sound like there was much to salvage, and they wanted to incorporate these windows somehow.   They were installed in the upper level kids rooms, where they also add the function of letting in light from the lake side of the house.
A view of the kitchen -  there's some of that plastic over the windows from the staining going on outside.
These photos offer very limited views & coverage.  Hopefully I'm able to go back sometime soon to get more thorough photos, as well as shots of the exterior finish & details (gorgeous.)
For now, though - a glimpse of what Mitch does.  I usually just get to look at these things on paper, as I scan drawings or relay messages, or sneak peeks at blueprints & notes that are on our kitchen table.  To get to see & photograph a project has been fun.

Update:  Exterior photos are now posted right over here.


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog Amanda! What a deal to score director's chairs for $.50 each! They were such a pain to paint but well worth it. Your family is beautiful! :)

  2. What an incredible cabin! You have one talented husband.