Sixty-five-year-old self-described “hillbilly” Richard Aiken is many things. He’s a husband, a father, the recipient of two PhDs and a medical degree, an opera singer, and an author of The New Ancestral Diet. He’s also, apparently, a pretty great builder.

Richard had wanted to live in the woods for a long time, but always thought it would be a bit expensive. After all, can you imagine just wandering into the woods and making a new home for yourself out there? Talk about a tough project!

When a man in Missouri told Richard about his old cabin that had fallen into disrepair, he immediately saw an opportunity. With some hard work and determination, he was about to have the getaway of his dreams!

Richard Aiken paid $100 cash for a cabin in Missouri, even though the man selling it offered it to him for free. With the idea he had in mind for the structure, he knew its real value was far more.

It was full of debris, and its roof had collapsed. It looks dangerous just peering in through the doorway, never mind actually hanging out inside!

When Richard looked over the contents of the abandoned cabin, he knew most of the wood was badly rotten. Clearly, this was not a structure sound enough for living in.

He meticulously labeled and catalogued each piece of wood after removing the rubble. That way he would know how they would be put back together later…

The cabin may look like a wreck at this point, but real estate is all about location, and location doesn’t get much better than this. So beautiful and peaceful!

It got even better when Richard and his family discovered a natural spring nearby. Now that is lucky. They could create their own waterfront property!

They reached the bedrock by digging into the spring by hand. Then they brought in bulldozers to dig out the lake itself, and build a dock.

With the location confirmed, the lengthy process of reconstruction was ready to begin. Richard had his plans and his labels ready, and knew what had to be done.

Richard wanted to “remain true to the spirit of the original construction,” but that proved quite difficult. For one thing, they reached bedrock at about six feet below the ground, so they needed to build the cabin a few feet above the ground.

They poured the basement floor with concrete, and though it pained Richard to get materials from living trees, he decided that it would be worth it. Other changes included the use of white oak to form new floor joists, and split cedar shakes as shingles. A rustic front porch was also added to the cabin.

It wouldn’t be a log cabin without a hearth, but Richard had to approach it carefully. The Aiken family purposely chose a Rumford fireplace, common between 1796 and 1850.

They built stairs out of a fallen oak tree, saving more trees from being cut down. How gorgeous is that staircase? Truly one of a kind.

The family brought materials and designs to a carpenter who turned them into the doors and windows of the cabin.

They used chicken wire to fill the breaches in the cabin.

Here’s a panoramic look at the cabin’s interior.

The Aiken’s Amish neighbors used a fallen walnut tree and native white oak to build a harvest table. It was designed to be easily movable so they could be closer to the fire when it was cold.

The candle chandelier makes for a great light source when electricity doesn’t work, and the peaked roof allows natural light into the home.

The loft has a nice, comfy bed for a relaxing snooze after a long day of country living.

The hearth can be used for everything from hot drinks to making entire meals.

After ten years of restoration, the Aikens’ project was completed in 2013. Richard had finally achieved his cozy cabin getaway that he’d always dreamed of having. If you think this view is beautiful, wait until you see the rest!

Taking a look at the drastic changes between the $100 cabin Richard originally purchased and what he built in the end is unbelievable. It doesn’t even appear to be the same structure. The inside is even more of a remarkable change….

The interior had an even more drastic improvement:

Though the Aikens are still touching up the exterior a bit, they’ve still spent a lot of time living in the cabin.

This was the perfect setting for a family Thanksgiving, in which the Aikens found inspiration in Native American culture by assembling a Sacred Four Directions Harvest Table.

Richard was proud to have a natural, vegan Thanksgiving.

This cabin is clearly a labor of love and Richard says that he hopes his work there never ends. Check out the next slide for another incredible project involving a historic log cabin!

Richard Aiken is far from the first person to restore an old log cabin and make it into a fully-functional home, though. Take this one from Grayson, Virginia for example, courtesy of Total Log Cabin Restoration!

Unlike Richard’s log cabin, this particular one was in much better condition once Total Log Cabin Restoration got their hands on it, at least in the sense that it didn’t look like it was completely falling apart.

Nonetheless, there was still plenty to do, and Total Log Cabin Restoration certainly had their work cut out for them. You can still see just from looking at the cabin that it was showing its age.

The wood was starting to show some discoloration, and the splintery sections needed to be smoothed out. This problem would have only gotten worse over time if they left it unattended.

Each and every part of the cabin needed to be restored. That’s why it was up to Total Log Cabin Restoration to use every tool at their disposal to make sure that they didn’t neglect anything.

Truly the passion these workers have for restoring old structures is palpable. This work will inspire others to pursue their own dream projects!