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Continuous Improvement | Do-It-Yourself Cabin

Pete Champagne has rebuilt, remodeled or renovated nearly every inch of his Massachusetts cabin.
by Sarah Asp Olson | Photos by Joseph Hilliard


Massive storms in the area, including a 2011 tornado, have taken out a good number of trees on the Champagnes’ property. They’ve started to reforest with young pines, maple and birch trees.

When Pete Champagne’s wife, Jean, heads out for a weekend away, his first thought isn’t about what’s on the digital video recorder.

“Every time she goes away, I’m always like, ‘What project can I do in the amount of time she’s gone?’” says Pete, a physical therapist with a background in construction and furniture making. “She could drive out of the driveway, and I’m on my way to Lowe’s.”

In 2004, the Champagnes built a log home on the outskirts of Sturbridge, Massachusetts. They chose a popular design from Kuhns Bros. Log Homes — the Sterling model — and made a few, initial tweaks, including a sunroom addition. But the real construction began after the couple moved in.

“When we finally got in the house, I decided I wanted to upscale,” says Pete, who also had a big hand in the primary construction of the home, which was built by his brother-in-law’s construction company. “I wrote a list out of each room and what I wanted to change.”

Over the past eight years, as Pete has worked his way through his do-it-yourself cabin project list, he has rebuilt, remodeled and customized nearly every inch of the 2,400-square-foot space he shares with his wife and their two beagles.

“Pete is constantly improving his home,” says Paul Flury, the Kuhns Bros. representative who worked with the couple. “He is not only hands-on, but he’s very artistic as well. And he pays close attention to detail. He has taken an already beautiful home and made it even more impressive.”

Do-It-Yourself Cabin Projects
Some of Pete’s most notable changes include:

  • Tearing out the majority of the windowsills and moldings, and replacing them with stained pine for a two-toned home windows design.
  • Ripping out the staircase and custom building an impressive set of stairs that has become the home’s showcase feature. Pete modeled the grand wood-and-wrought iron staircase after one he saw in another log home. “It’s so different than what was there,” says Pete. “The newel posts are all 6-by-6. The stair treads are stained a different color so they can pop. We love it because it’s so different and such a unique piece to the house.”
  • Constructing the basement bar/rec room of his dreams using reclaimed wood and stone from his property. In addition to laying oak hardwood and tile flooring, and handcrafting the pine bar and pub table, Pete built pool cue racks and ordered a custom 6-foot pool table from a local vendor.
  • Landscaping the backyard. The space, which includes an outdoor granite-topped bar, gazebo and a fire pit, has become one of the couple’s favorites for entertaining and relaxing. The 20-foot waterfall that gushes — rather than trickles — along the back border of the yard is another of Pete’s pet projects that adds to the ambience of the yard.

It took three tries to get the perfect red for the Champagnes’ bedroom wall, but all the effort paid off. The warm hue, paired with pine walls and Pete’s custom two-toned windowsills, creates a cozy space for sleeping, reading and relaxing.

Final Touches
Neighbors and friends have taken notice of Pete’s knack for construction and meticulous attention to detail. Although he works full time as a physical therapist, Pete continues to run a construction business on the side, and stays busy with basement renovations, outdoor living space installations and custom furniture making.

The couple continue to tweak and improve — a coat of paint here, new log cabin flooring there — though Pete may be nearing the bottom of his do-it-yourself cabin to-do list.

“I only have one major project left — then everything is really done,” he says. “I just have a front wall in the yard to redo. I’m hoping to get that done this year, and then just sit and watch the birds.”

Square footage: 2,400
Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2
Builder: Alex Construction & Remodeling (508-865-2218)
Cabinetry: Young Furniture (800-821-6080;
Countertops: Discover Granite & Marble (877-411-9900;
Dealer: Flury Builders (800-810-2773;
Fireplace masonry: Tim Kennedy
Flooring: Lumber Liquidators (800-427-3966;
Front door: Therma-Tru Doors (800-843-7628;
Knobs/hardware: Home Depot (800-466-3337;
Log producer: Kuhns Bros. Log Homes
Railings; stairs: Built by homeowner
Roofing: Tamko Building Products (800-641-4691;
Sealant: Perma-Chink Systems (800-548-3554;
Stain: WOODguard (800-238-2523;
Windows: Andersen Windows & Doors (800-426-4261;

Published in Country's Best Cabins
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