Once an antiques dealer, Surratt found this table on the side of the road and cleaned it up. She discovered the vintage Fiestaware behind a wall in the resort’s main lodge: A built-in buffet containing several sets of the dishes had been boarded up for some 20 years. Photo Gallery »

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Talk about a labor of love. The resurrection from near-collapse of this modest one-room cottage is a perfect example of such a labor. The last remnant of a 1920s Beardstown, Illinois, “cabin court” composed of multiple tiny frame houses just like it, it is a relic of an era when middle Americans vacationed by giddily road-trippin’ with their new automobiles.

Tereasa Surratt, a creative director and partner at Ogilvy & Mather, whose grandmother lived next door to the broken-down, abandoned cabin, was hell-bent on saving it. “History has value,” says Surratt, who researched the property for years, with the goal of restoring the cabin to its original state. Over its lifetime, the 11-by-11-foot house had served as everything from a pit stop for weary travelers to an illicit gathering place to a hunt club’s cabin to the office of a trucking company. The owner of that company sold it to her in 2006 for $500.

For Surratt, it was both a mission of preservation and a personal quest: She wanted to restore the house in the woods in honor of her father, who had liked the idea of having a little cabin in which to read books but died of cancer before he was able to see his plans through. Her husband, David Hernandez, and her brother hauled the cabin onto a truck and delivered it to a plot of land she and her husband own in Sugar Creek, Wisconsin.

To bring the little house back to its original, humble glory, Surratt and Hernandez tore off the old shingles and put up a new roof, installed all new electricity, sanded the floor, and put in all new drywall. “It was so rewarding to take something that was forgotten and make it pretty again,” she says. “And to do it all ourselves.”

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photography: Aimee Herring
styling: Barri Leiner