Meet Richard Aiken. The sixty-five-year-old husband and father can do anything he puts his mind to. And he does these things well, too. He has two Ph.Ds, a medical degree, authored a book called The New Ancestral Diet, and also sings opera on the side.
Did we mention that he's an accomplished builder? No? Well then, read on to see what he was able to do with an old, run-down log shack. You'll be absolutely amazed at the "after" pictures of this place.
It Had To Begin Somewhere
Aiken had a long love of nature, and had always been interested in buying himself a place out in the woods. After all, what better way to get away from it all and escape the pressures of daily life for a little bit.
It's a fantasy that many people share, and most don’t act on it. Richard Aiken is not most people, however. And the house he ended up with probably isn’t one that a lot of people would have thought twice about buying, to tell you the truth.
As with most people, Richard assumed that purchasing a second home would be a very expensive endeavor. After all, a lot of folks don't own one house, let alone two.
However, he was approached by a man from Missouri who told him about a cabin in the woods that was really old and run-down. This was the opportunity Richard had been waiting for, and he bought the shack for just $100. The man would have given it to him for free, but Richard thought he should offer something.
Not Move-In Ready
As you can imagine, this cabin in the woods was in terrible shape. Richard had a lot of work cut out for him just to get it to a safe condition.
Not only was the hut full of dangerous debris, but the roof had completely collapsed at some point over the years. You could tell just by peeking through the doorway that it was not a safe place to spend any amount of time.
Even Worse Than Initially Thought
As Richard got down to the business of thoroughly investigating the cabin, his stomach sunk. He knew it was in bad condition but soon started to see just how decrepit the structure really was.
Most of the cabin's wood was completely rotten, which Richard knew would all need to be replaced. There’s nothing you can do with rotted wood, but he did want to save what he could as he prepared to rebuild the cabin from the ground up.
The Work Begins
First, Richard made markings on all of the exterior wood so he could recreate the same arrangement after cleaning up any boards he was able to save.
It might have seemed like a desperate situation, but a look at the scenery around the cabin was reassuring enough to keep Richard excited about the project. Who wouldn't want the chance to live somewhere this gorgeous out in the middle of nature?
The First Logs Go Down
Now that there was a spring-fed pond nearby, Richard decided that he wanted to rebuild the wooden cabin to be closer to the water than its original location.
Things were all ready to proceed! Plans were finalized and Richard knew exactly what to do to build his dream second home. This was just the kind of project he loved to work on, and the payoff was sure to be satisfying.
An Exciting Discovery
Richard Aiken's family came in to help him with this massive renovation on the old cabin. As they explored the area, they found a natural spring nearby. What a bonus – now the property could be waterfront!
The spring needed work, too. Richard and his helpers would have to unearth the water below the ground so there would be water views from the cabin. And the structure could be placed anywhere Richard wanted it since it had been dismantled.
A Pond Appears
By hand, the workers had reached the bedrock of the spring. Bulldozers had to be enlisted in order to dig further. It was well worth it, though – the bulldozers dug out a pond!
Richard built this dock on the pond. You can see his excellent craftsmanship just by looking at the dock, before we head on to see how the cabin had turned out. He obviously was putting a lot of care and detail into this project.
Bedrock Poses A Problem
Although Richard Aiken's plans dictated that he "remain true to the spirit of the original construction," he hit a roadblock. As he and his team started to dig, they hit bedrock around six feet under the ground.
Although this seemed like a setback, the solution they turned to was actually a bonus. The cabin would now be built a few feet above ground, which meant that it would have even better views than the original plans would have allowed for.
The Cabin Rises
First, Richard poured a concrete foundation for the basement floor. Then, Richard sought natural materials right there from the property that his new cabin was situated in.
The floor joists were made from white oak, and the shingles were split cedar. The new front porch had a rustic look that unified the cabin's look, and it all blended in beautifully with the natural surroundings. Richard’s vision was coming to life.
Preparing For Winter
A cabin in the woods might be perfectly pleasant during the warm summer months, but what about when the harsh winters came along? Not to mention, a cabin just needs a fireplace for authenticity! Of course, Richard had thought of all this.
Richard chose a Rumford fireplace, which was a popular choice in the late 1700s and mid-1850s. It would add a rustic appeal to the old cabin in its new life.
Adding A Flight Of Stairs
The new wooden cabin needed a staircase so its inhabitants could reach the upper floor. In true Richard Aiken fashion, the handyman used wood from a fallen oak tree to build his stairs.
Using repurposed wood added an aged and rustic look that you just couldn't get with new wood. Not to mention, a live tree wouldn’t have to be cut down for it. The new staircase is a real piece of art.
Time To Add The Final Touches
As Richard knew, a home's front door is one of the most important elements of its exterior. After all, it’s the first thing visitors see and it’s how they physically get into the house.
Of course, Richard insisted that the cabin’s door and windows be constructed of beautiful wood to complement the rest of the cabin. The carpenters who were tasked with this project created simple window and door frames that contributed to the overall woodsy look of the home.
How To Fill The Gaps?
Since this cabin had been constructed of round logs, there were gaps in between them that needed to be filled in somehow. This would provide much-needed insulation from the outdoor elements.
Richard used chicken wire and an outdoor sealant to accomplish this. The special filler that was used help maintain the natural look of the logs and didn't appear too obvious.
A Look At The Interior
After the exterior of the cabin was all done, it was time for Richard and his family to get to work on the interior décor and furnishings. Of course, they used rustic chairs and tables and had the fireplace stocked with a tall pile of wood.
All of these rustic elements gave the cabin a very cozy and homey feel – just what Richard had been looking for when he started this project.
That Special Dining Table
You didn't think Richard would head to Ikea to purchase his new cabin’s dining table, did you? Of course not. After all, a dining table is the heart of the home.
The Aiken family had Amish neighbors, who built them a custom table using native white oak and a fallen walnut tree. The table was designed to be lightweight and transportable so it could be moved close to the fireplace during the winter. The house didn’t have central heating, so this was a really special feature.
Lighting Is So Important
Electric service isn't always reliable all the way out in the woods, and Richard chose a candle chandelier for his new home because of this. Now, if the power was out the family would still have ample light to go on with their regular activities.
Additionally, the cabin’s peaked roof allowed tons of natural light in. The window seen here was placed specially to allow for maximum daylight to enter.
Saving Space With A Loft Bed
This cabin gets cozier and cozier! Just look at this loft bed, tucked away safely upstairs. It's undoubtedly a great place to curl up with a good book (or just get a relaxing night’s sleep).
There’s even a window in the sleeping nook, allowing its occupants to open up and breathe in some fresh country air as they rest. Richard thought of all the details when he built his dream cabin in the woods.
What About Cooking?
Now, this is genuinely rustic. Since this cabin has a hearth, there was no need for a full kitchen. A hearth can be used to cook just about anything you can think of, and since the Aikens are a family that likes to prepare meals together, this was very important to them.
Cooking over an open fire is also a fun and cozy way to spend a cold evening together as a family.
This Shack Was Transformed By None Other Than Chip And Joanna Gaines
If you've seen a single episode of an HGVT show featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines, then you know how amazing their home transformations are. Even so, some of these renovations are more incredible than others.
Take this dilapidated old house, for example. Just wait until you see what the Gaines did with it. This might just inspire you to buy a fixer-upper of your own the next time you’re looking for a new place to live.
A Ravaged Home
Michael Matsumoto was a producer on the hit show Fixer Upper, and he and his wife Jessie appeared on it during season four. They found this wreck of a home and purchased it for $12,500.
Old pictures of the house before Chip and Joanna performed their magic show just how destroyed this house was. Pretty much every element of it needed to be replaced. Many people would have opted to level the place but not the Gaines!
Wow! This Can't Be The Same Place
If you paid attention to the first photo of this house's former state, you might not believe this is the same place. The shack was in complete disrepair, with the ceiling caving in, its siding missing, and general debris everywhere.
But a new roof, porch, and windows (along with a bunch of other stuff) really transformed it into a stunning country home ready for a new family to move in.
There Wasn't Even A Kitchen Before
Although there wasn't even any evidence of a kitchen visible in the before pictures of the shack, look at the modern yet rustic space that Joanna created. Now, this is a kitchen that a gourmet chef would be proud to cook in.
The island and added seating make this space perfect for entertaining. The gorgeous wood floors and the stainless steel appliances, along with the open cabinets and high ceiling, all give this kitchen an incredible and modern look.
A Room To Live In
When they moved in, the Matsumoto family was expecting twins (in addition to their current kids). Time was of the essence, and Chip and Joanna delivered just what this growing family needed in a new living room.
Joanna covered the walls with her trademark shiplap and also added plenty of shelving – vital for keeping toys and other items off the floor and out of the way. Hardwood floors and an inviting area rug complete the look in this new living room.
This Isn't Anything Like An Outhouse...
Since Chip and Joanna were pretty much building this house as a new one, from the ground up, they had a lot of freedom with their design. One thing that Joanna insisted on is a grand master bathroom that future buyers were sure to enjoy.
This looks like a space that anyone would enjoy bathing and relaxing in. The photo was taken from the walk-in shower and shows that the bathroom has plenty of storage space, as well as an inviting claw-foot tub.
The Master Suite Isn't Too Shabby Anymore, Either
This house is nothing like the shack it used to be! Just look at the master bedroom. As Joanna frequently does, she used natural wood on the ceiling which adds a cozy feel. What's extra special is that the wood she used was reclaimed from the original house. What a touching reminder of how far the home has come.
Other than the new/old ceiling, the room now features a bed that’s large enough for the whole family to cuddle in and a large window that floods the space with natural light.
The Children's Rooms Were Very Important
Just as any parents would, the Matsumotos wanted the best for their kids. Here is their daughter's room, which is pretty much the perfect place for any little ones to grow up in.
This room featured muted colors and a unique four-poster bed. A basket of toys on the floor would invite a child to come and play, while cheery and bright sunlight streams in through the double set of windows.
This Bedroom Calls For Fun
Although her designs are never boring, Joanna Gaines really hit the ball out of the park with this bedroom for the Matsumoto family boys. The central feature is a custom bunk bed shaped to look just like a treehouse – a bed any kid would probably be excited about.
The parents wanted an interactive room for their sons, and they sure got it with this whimsical design. This one even overlooks the outdoor play area. What fun!
Entertaining Made Simple
The family didn't feel the need for a traditional dining space, and Joanna honored their wishes. Instead of a stuffy indoor eating area, she gave them a large table and plenty of seating in a covered area outdoors.
This is a great spot for everyday family dinners but can also fit more people when the Matsumotos want to entertain company. Even though this dining area is outside, it’s still loaded with Joanna’s trademark style accents.
Creating Separate Spaces
In order to create separate living and kitchen areas, Joanna and Chip split the shack's large open space and divided it up into two main areas.
Looking back at this "before" photo of the previous structure, it’s really incredible to see what the Gaines were able to accomplish during the home’s remarkable transformation. Of course, both the kitchen and living areas have nice, open feels to them now. They’re just better defined as separate spaces.
How Did The Family End Up In Texas?
As mentioned, Michael Matsumoto was a producer for Fixer Upper. He and Jessie, along with their kids, had lived in Los Angeles but decided it made more sense to move to Waco to be closer to Chip and Joanna and the show's production.
In an interview with Joanna, Michael admitted that he could never have pictured himself moving away from L.A. but that the family fell in love with their new home.
Changing Roles, Temporarily
As a producer on Fixer Upper, Michael Matsumoto wasn't familiar with being in front of the camera. Instead, he was usually behind the scenes. Appearing on the show was an exciting new experience for him.
"On a typical day I work as a co-worker with Chip and Jo, so it was really different being the client," he said in an interview. It must have been pretty strange for him to step in front of the cameras for this episode.
Their New House Was Perfect For Their Needs
Michael and Jessie later said that the experience of appearing on Fixer Upper and having a brand new, custom home built for them was amazing. They reported that they could not have been happier with their new home and how functional it was.
One element of their new house that was cited as a favorite is how child-proof everything was. As parents of two, with twins on the way, safety is a vital concern! As parents themselves, Chip and Joanna took this important need into consideration.
"The Little Shack on the Prairie"
The Matsumotos said that a major lesson they learned from their appearance on Fixer Upper is to use your imagination and be bold with it! Michael said that he already had a vision of the home that the family wanted and now that vision has been brought to life.
He admits that it's not an easy task, however. "I think the hardest thing for people to visualize are good bones or good elements to work with," he said. Having Chip and Joanna on the job was obviously a big help with this.
Joanna's Biggest Challenge
Joanna has said that this fourth season episode, titled "The Little Shack on the Prairie," was one of the biggest challenges to her professional career. She's also expressed gratitude that the Matsumotos entrusted her and Chip with something as important as their family home.
Looking back at this shack’s before pictures, it’s hard to believe what Chip and Joanna were able to do with just a vision and the commitment to work hard.