- Bri Macdonald spent her summer renovating a cabin on an island in Ontario, Canada.
- She transformed the rundown building into a cozy home filled with natural elements.
- Macdonald will be back next year to renovate the bathroom and kitchen.
Bri Macdonald threw herself into the deep end this summer.
She spent two months alone on a remote island in Ontario, Canada. There, she learned skills like driving a boat and surviving in solitude.
And, by the end of her two months, she had also turned a rundown cabin into a Pinterest-worthy home.
“I’m so proud of the fact that I did this all by myself,” Macdonald told Insider. “The highlight is seeing how much I’ve grown.”
Macdonald graduated college and launched into interior design and content creation
Macdonald joked that growing up, she didn’t play with Barbies. She played with Barbie houses.
“I’ve been obsessed with interiors and everything like that ever since I can remember,” she said.
The 24-year-old, who went to school for interior design, said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, her summer job fell through. She was itching for a creative project at the time, so while her sister was out of town, she decided to renovate her bedroom.
She recorded and shared the process on her TikTok and Instagram accounts @brii.macdonald and started building a following. Today, she has nearly 200,000 followers on TikTok and almost 150,000 on Instagram.
Macdonald graduated college earlier this year and landed her first major project: renovating a dilapidated cabin on an island in Ontario’s Georgian Bay.
Macdonald said her family owns two cabins on the bay, and she remembers spending her childhood summers there. While one of their cabins was livable, the other, which she said was on a separate island about a two-minute boat ride away, was not.
Her family decided they wanted to transform the unused space, so they hired Macdonald to completely renovate the cabin.
Macdonald headed out to the little islands in June to start her project. Throughout the summer, she stayed in the cabin that was livable while she worked on the unfinished one.
Macdonald said getting to the cabin was an ‘adventure’
The cabin Macdonald renovated was the only building on the secluded island. Meanwhile, the nearest town was a 30-minute boat ride away.
In order to get all the supplies she would need for the renovation, Macdonald had to learn how to drive a boat. She said that before this summer, she had always visited the lake with her family, which meant her parents were the ones driving the boat. But she was working on the cabin project by herself.
Her parents spent a full day teaching her the ins and outs of boat driving, and after that, she was on her own, she said.
But even once she felt comfortable behind the wheel of the boat, she still couldn’t access the cabin.
“There were no paths and no dock on the island, so I had to park my boat up on the rock, and I had to go through the forest to get to the cabin,” she said. “It was quite the adventure.”
When she finally arrived at the house, she said, it was in disarray. Bugs infested the cabin, dust covered the books left behind, and cobwebs filled every corner of the tiny cottage.
“I was super overwhelmed at first because I was thinking to myself, ‘How, logistically, am I going to do this?'” she said. “But the one thing that I think is what motivates me so much to do these crazy projects is just how excited I get, and I can see potential.”
Macdonald spent two months renovating the cabin
Macdonald’s first step was the gut the cabin.
Unfortunately, she said, bugs had infested the furniture, bedding, and books, so the majority of the belongings were thrown away.
Beyond all the mess, Macdonald said she immediately “had a vision of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to create.”
The cottage started as one large room with a closet. Macdonald decided to remove the closet to open up the space.
She also knew she wanted the cabin to have a cottage-core feel with lots of neutrals and natural elements.
But before she could do that, she had to tackle tasks like adding insulation, placing new windows, and hooking up electricity since the cabin runs off solar power. For those major tasks, Macdonald hired a contractor.
Finally, she got to her favorite part, which was designing and decorating the space.
“I just wanted the same colors as what you’re surrounded with,” she said. For example, she painted the exterior blue, mimicking the nearby ocean.
She also decided to whitewash the interior. The cabin walls were natural pine, but Macdonald painted them white up until the walls started forming the cathedral ceiling.
As for the ceiling, she kept it natural pine, which Macdonald said opens the space and makes the ceiling the focal point.
Macdonald also prioritized making the cabin practical. The rugs and couch cushions, for example, are machine washable. For the porch, which was previously open, she added screening around its three sides and a swing — creating a space that will get much more use.
Macdonald said she spent all day, every day working on the cabin. She’d wake up around 8 a.m., drive the boat two minutes to the cottage, and work until sunset around 7 p.m.
Her final task was to add the furniture and decor.
In the middle of the room is a queen-sized bed with blue-checkered bedding. Two white nightstands hug both sides of the bed. Across from the bed is a dresser and a bench area for storage.
She displayed her grandma’s quilt on one wall of the cottage. Another wall is home to a set of hooks designed to look like tree branches.
“It doesn’t even feel like the same space now. It’s so nice now,” she said. “And what I’m most proud of and what I think makes it so special is the attention to detail.”
Macdonald said throughout the renovation, she grew a community online — which helped her navigate living on a remote island.
“It doesn’t really feel like my project, it feels like our project,” she said.
Macdonald still needs to renovate the kitchen and bathroom
A few feet away from the cabin are separate buildings that are home to the cottage’s bathroom and kitchen.
Due to Ontario’s weather, Macdonald couldn’t stay to renovate those spaces. At the end of September, she winterized the cabin and said goodbye for now.
But she’ll be back next summer — and this time she’ll already have her boat skills mastered.