Creating A Lived-In Look for a New Cabin in Minnesota's Northwoods

Best of Both Worlds: Creating A Lived-In Look for a New Cabin in Minnesota’s Northwoods

How do you take a newly constructed cabin and make it look like it’s been nestled in the north woods of Minnesota for the last hundred years? That was the challenge a customer presented to painting contractor Nick Slavik.

“I created my business for projects exactly like this,” says the owner of Nick Slavik Painting in New Prague, Minnesota. “A blend of historic architecture married with the most scientifically advanced coatings.”

Everything about the cabin near Pine River, Minnesota spoke of quality, so the coatings had to be the absolute best on the market.

“It’s just a beautiful, beautiful house and aligned directly with the core values of my business,” Slavik says. “I love to take everything that was good for the last 200 years in the painting and decorating industry and combine it with today’s most technologically advanced coatings, and then kind of marry those two so you get the best of both worlds.”

Custom hewn

The cabin owner himself cut down trees, milled ornate custom millwork and flooring, hand split the exterior white oak shakes, and milled and created all of the cabinetry and casework in the home. He wanted a depth and sheen to highlight the hand-split shakes and a traditional “northern Minnesota” log oil finish to stand up to the severe climate.

Slavik chose Duckback® Premium Translucent Wood Finish for the shakes.

“I wanted to pick a special finish,” he says, “something that was a beautiful, thick, long-lasting finish because I didn’t want the client to have to go up into northern Minnesota and spend his time at the cabin maintaining it.”

Protecting while showing the beauty of the wood

With the Duckback finish, he says, “you see the depth of the wood. It makes it look like you took some care and applied some love to this stuff.”

On the porch, he used SuperDeck® Exterior Semi-Transparent Stain, a penetrating oil-based formula that protects the beauty of the wood while allowing the wood grain texture to show through. It repels water and contains a scuff-resistant formula with UV protection that resists fading.

Saving time on interior trim

For doors and trim, Slavik went with Emerald® Urethane Trim Enamel, an advanced interior/exterior water-based urethane modified alkyd with the look and feel of an alkyd/oil finish.

“One of the biggest benefits of the Emerald Urethane was that we were able to coat the entire millwork package – windows, doors, ceilings, beadboard, all the casing, all the baseboard – twice in a day,” he says. “That saved us a ton of time and we didn’t sacrifice any quality.”

An elegant look for interior walls

For the walls, Slavik used Cashmere® Interior Acrylic Latex for a uniform and rich-looking finish.

“Instead of using color as the accent in the house we really wanted to highlight all of the handmade woodwork, so we made a really sleek monochromatic scheme, very traditional with warm cream shades. The walls, with their Cashmere Low Lustre finish, were actually a little bit shinier than the trim, so you get this beautiful juxtaposition of the light hitting things a certain way. It feels like it’s got some life to it.”

A perfect partner

A showcase job like this requires the right paint supplier, Slavik says.
“Sherwin-Williams is actually one of the only places you can source reliable materials this far north in Minnesota,” he says. “I used my experience to derive the finest finishes with them. The finishes were exceptional, and some of the newer advancements in technology helped the project move quicker. That’s very important when you’re away from your family for a project like this.”

Painters vs. nature

There were some non-painting challenges on this job too. To get the job done faster, Slavik and his crew slept in tents on the property, sometimes in freezing weather and with the constant threat of bears in the area.

“There was even a convict on the loose terrorizing people around the lake,” he says. “There was a break-in with shots fired the week before we were there. A manhunt that included state patrol and helicopters was underway during our last stay. But most challenging was the client’s standard for fine finishes.”

The end result exceeded his expectations.

“Nick chose colors, finishes and guided us through the process like a true pro,” says the cabin owner. “He made the cabin look like it’s been here for a hundred years. And his finishes are truly beautiful. You really need to see them to believe it.”

A memorable job

For Slavik, “this project had everything: advanced new construction techniques, historic architecture and a wilderness setting. I was able to work on interesting things in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

“And one day the client and I walked out onto the lake, cut a huge hole in the ice and sat in my ice-fishing shanty while we discussed the finer points of his cabin’s design. I then speared one of the biggest fish I’ve ever seen! This is one of the more rewarding things I’ve ever been involved in. It’s projects like this that keep my fire burning.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of PPC magazine. Story by Mike Starling, PPC Editor. Cabin exterior photo by Mike Starling. Stain application photo by Nick Slavik. Read about other painting project success stories in the PPC Projects archive.