Finding the perfect architect? Call it serendipity

Built in July 1928
Built in July 1928

You know isn’t it funny how things fall into place sometimes, when you least expect it, when you weren’t even looking for it?

Serendipity seemed to be following us…from the day Will took a detour on his way home from work that led to his discovery the  red house and white cottage were for sale, to an invite last spring to join some of his  family friends for cocktails. That is how  the perfect architect for our project fell into our laps.

During the convivial conversation on the patio over drinks we learned that one of the couples, Arthur and Ginger Schwartz, had actually been to look the red house and white cottage when it popped up onto the market, the very property we were about to buy. They had loved the property but felt undertaking the necessary and enormous overhaul was more of a commitment that they were willing to take on.

Ginger raved about the property, the charm of the red house and the magical gardens. She confided in me and said, “this place really spoke to me” and since I highly valued her opinion, that made me feel all that more convinced Will and I  were doing the right thing. Arthur as it happens,  is a well respected architect with a keen eye, a wonderful clean and modern sensibility and an utmost respect for the historical significances of the houses dating back to the 1700 and 1800s. We could not have asked for a more perfect combination. Serendipity and all.

Arthur felt as strongly as Ginger, if not more so, about the potential of the property and offered to do a walk through with us. This was no easy task as a family of four occupied the house, filling ever inch and every corner to the brim with stuff, every window draped and shut. You could barely move, let alone see much and yet Arthur’s enthusiasm for the promise this project held and the few initial thoughts he shared with us were exciting. Will and I could see the house transform before our eyes. We ooohed and awed over the original hardware, the wide scuffed floorboards and the quaint low ceiling heights. We were in love and had found the perfect architect who would help us transform it.

While Arthur was busy getting started with the initial plans on the red house we ran into trouble on the white cottage and losing the bathroom space. Arthur was on board to rescue us and here are his initial drawings for the cottage.

We went from this……

The footprint of the white cottage including the front porch and shed
The footprint of the white cottage including the front porch and shed

 

to this

the revised interior of the white cottage, now without the sq footage of the shed.
the revised interior of the white cottage, now without the sq footage of the shed.
The white cottage from the side (north) , and facing the street (west)
The white cottage from the side (north) , and facing the street (west)
The white cottage from the south side and rear
The white cottage from the south side and rear

Tiny Cottage Tiny House….How to live in 340 square feet? Demolition of the shed

How to live in 340 square feet?

The cottage, all the walls and existing framing down
The cottage, all the walls and existing framing down

 

Once every surface in the cottage was stripped down as far as it could go, we realized that the fire damage to the shed which housed just a few important things like the bathroom, a back hallway with basement access and rear door, was so extensive that it had to be torn down. Jason had warned us about this possibility so fortunately we were not caught completely off guard, but it did feel like we had taken a slight turn off our path.

The back wall of the shed coming down- note all the fire damage on the peak
The back wall of the shed coming down- note all the fire damage on the peak
The rear facing exterior wall of the shed down- exposing a glimpse the "money shot", and the tree house which appears on all the ancient plot plans
The rear facing exterior wall of the shed down- exposing a glimpse the “money shot”, and the tree house which appears on all the ancient plot plans
Shed roof over the bath beginning its descent
Shed roof over the bath beginning its descent
The roof of the cottage coming down- again more visible fire damage on the roof rafters
The roof of the cottage coming down- again more visible fire damage on the roof rafters
The tub from the cottage bath upside down, lying on the foundation of the very barn that burned down causing all this damage
The tub from the cottage bath upside down, lying on the foundation of the very barn that burned down causing all this damage
The white cottage after the shed had been demolished
The white cottage after the shed had been demolished
Shed debris. Repurpose? I think not
Shed debris. Repurpose? I think not

 

 

Now we were faced with having to re do the floor plan, and incorporating the bathroom, and basement access into our floor plan that was now reduced to a 17’ x 20’ space- that is 340 square feet in case you were wondering.

 

Will and I spent hours during our nightly pre-dinner hours reconfiguring, rethinking just how we were going to tackle this challenge. We surrounded ourselves with floor plans, architects renderings, yellow tracing paper, rulers, and pencils. (Insert picture) What if we did this? Well how about this? Would this work?

Here is Will, on one of many nights re- ing...remeasuring, rethinking,reconfiguring, redrawing the cottage floor plans- note scotch on the rocks and cheese required
Here is Will, on one of many nights re- ing…remeasuring, rethinking,reconfiguring, redrawing the cottage floor plans- note scotch on the rocks and cheese required

 

Just how complicated can a 340 square foot space be to design? Lets see, consider all the components that had to be incorporated into it considering the main objective was to keep the cottage as a self contained unit, a stand alone rentable space for the immediate future, and one that could serve as a master suite when linked to the red house was that was renovated. A cottage with a dual purpose, split personality anyone?

Sleeping area? Check – keep in mind a queen size mattress takes up 33.3 sq. by itself before you throw your feet over the edge.

Fireplace? Check -a key component in the design and unfortunately almost smack in the middle of the cottage.

Closet? Check

Bathroom? Check

Kitchen? Check

Basement access? – Oh boy…

 

Cottage floor plans on tracing paper
Cottage floor plans on tracing paper

 

HELP!

 

 

 

Deconstruction of the white cottage post asbestos abatement.

White Cottage existing floor plan
White Cottage existing floor plan

Will began the deconstruction process of the white cottage, emptying out the basement and removing the furnace and debris left behind. A costly and unanticipated Asbestos abatement was next and the walls came tumbling down.

Standing outside, looking in. Sub Zero temperatures making it hard to hold my i phone ! The door was locked by accident. Asbestos gone, framework standing
Standing outside, looking in. Sub Zero temperatures making it hard to hold my i phone !
The door was locked by accident. Asbestos gone, framework standing

The following photos show what the interior of white cottage looked like, once the walls were removed.

 

The white cottage, down to the bare bones post asbestos removal
The white cottage, down to the bare bones post asbestos removal
The living room, exposed fireplace- closet and pantry space on left, looking into bedroom on right
The living room, exposed fireplace- closet and pantry space on left, looking into bedroom on right
Standing in the kitchen, looking into the living room on left, and the former pantry on right
Standing in the kitchen, looking into the living room on left, and the former pantry on right
White cottage- exposed fireplace- looking from bedroom into the former living room
White cottage- exposed fireplace- looking from bedroom into the former living room
This view is taken standing in the former bedroom area, looking into the former kitchen. YOu can spy the neighbor's scorched barn through the windows.
This view is taken standing in the former bedroom area, looking into the former kitchen. YOu can spy the neighbor’s scorched barn through the windows.

 

But here is the best part of our deconstruction!

Once the plaster was down and the walls stripped to the minimum we found a handwritten date on the boards. The cottage must have been built in summer 1928- it was signed F.S.W. but so far no idea who that may have been.
Once the plaster was down and the walls stripped to the minimum we found a handwritten date on the boards. The cottage must have been built in summer 1928- it was signed F.S.W. but so far no idea who that may have been.