It’s SPRINGGGGGGGGG! This might be old news to some of you but it just happened in the past couple of weeks up in the Hudson Valley. I’ve been blissfully popping Claritin-D and huffing prescription nasal spray and I don’t even care about these sinus headaches because it’s finally warm and sunny and not horrible outside.
You might be thinking to yourself: “since it’s finally warm, isn’t it high time Daniel got back to the cottage renovation?”.
You’d be correct.
Except it’s a different cottage. Not mine. I need another house like I need hole in my head. Bluestone Cottage is on hold for a minute while I attend to some more pressing matters that pay better than working for myself. Matters that look like this:
Here we have a whacky little 1,100 square foot cottage out in Olivebridge, which is a whacky little town near the Ashokan Reservoir, about 30 minutes from Kingston. We’ll call it Olivebridge Cottage, as it’s a cottage in Olivebridge. I know. You probably can’t even handle my creativity.
This is a client gig and I am stoked. This house is one crazy mo’fo’ and I can’t wait to get my grubby little paws on it.
The clients are actually a couple of friends who I’ve known for a few years now, Adriana and Barry. Adriana and I met when I went to Sweden a few years ago (Max and she were in the same program at Parson’s), and my love for her was intense and immediate. She’s a lunatic ex-attorney Texan-Brazilian-Jew-Unicorn hybrid with possibly the most energy of any person I’ve ever known. I met Barry sometime after that and he’s equally lovely, though slightly less frenetic, which is such a groovy balance. They live in Manhattan but got the upstate itch a while back and closed on this lil’ fixer baby a few months ago. It’ll be a place for them to escape to on the weekends and a vacation rental for visitors (yeah, you can stay here when it’s all done!), so pressure’s on to make it amazing.
The budget on this project is small and the timeline is short and the expectations are high and the challenges are numerous, so what could go wrong, right? Let’s take a little trip inside…
This is a funny house. Looks are deceiving here…it’s actually a pretty old house (maybe 1920s?) that’s been added onto at least 5 times, so there’s a lot going on and some weird spaces to contend with. The previous owner was a contractor of some sort who did some pretty heavy renovations in the 80s/90s—some of them good, some of them not so good. My job is basically to go in and fix what’s broken, do a big ole kitchen renovation, and refine all the small little details that just weren’t done so well the first time around. They’re not living there while this is going on, so I basically have the freedom to tear it all apart and put it back together again. Let me at it!
ANYWAY, above is the little entryway/vestibule thingy. It’s cute, but definitely needs some TLC in the form of paint, some better hooks, and maybe a lighting upgrade. I actually happen to kind of like that light but maybe not for this house. We’ll see how far the budget takes us…
To the left of the entryway is this little enclosed porch, which can technically be called a second bedroom. It’s small but full of windows, which makes it feel super bright and pretty. The plan in here is to remove the closet (it just takes up too much space, isn’t necessary for this house, and doesn’t need to be there for this to qualify as a bedroom—I checked). Then it’ll mostly be a lot of paint, probably replacing that fan, and decking it out all cute-like with a little daybed and a rug and all that fun stuff. I have a feeling I’m going to want to crash here by the end…
To the right of the entryway is the rest of the house! I’ll post a floor plan next time so you can get a better sense of how these spaces connect—it’s definitely a little unorthodox and bizarre, but totally workable.
Inside the living room, there’s a wood stove on a big bluestone pad and lots and lots of beadboard panelling. The beadboard is the nice tongue-in-groove solid pine variety, but we all agree that painting it out is going to be the best plan here. The previous owners did a sort of white-washed finish on it, but pine tends to go kind of pink unless you compensate with some yellow/brown tint, which is what’s gone down here. The pink tone combined with the major wood bleed on all the knots is just not a good look, although admittedly these pictures are pretty flattering despite what it looks like in real life. It’s not cute. The subtle texture of the beadboard painted white will be nice, though.
Here’s that area from another angle, so you can get a better sense of the space! It’s so good, right? Or, like, it will be. The vaulted ceilings are great, and all the windows give the whole house such beautiful light and views. Not every window has a great view, but most of them are all forest and lichen-covered boulders and upstate NY magic. It’s already such a nice place to spend my days working!
My immediate reaction to this house is that it really wants to have a fun, bright, casual, minimal Scandinavian cottage kind of vibe, which is almost too appropriate considering a big basis of my friendship with Adriana is our time in Sweden and Finland. She and Barry are totally on board with this, which is so exciting for me. I’ve kind of been lost in old-house-restoration-mode for the past couple of years, so I’m excited to flex some modernist/minimalist muscle in here and whip it into the kind of house it’s aspiring to be.
One side of the living room houses this really odd sunken space, which I’m sure used to be a porch and was also enclosed at some point. The ribbon windows along the long wall and side let in a great amount of light, but the vintage corbels in the corners and that weird trim piece in the middle between the posts are just all wrong for this place. This area is part of the fun and part of the challenge of this house. I have a plan and I think it’s gonna be great.
On the other side of the living room is this funny/terrible TV cabinet set-up, which is going to get demo’d and replaced with something much cleaner and better looking that’s flush with the wall. I’m assuming this was constructed in the olden days of the 90s when tube TVs were still a thing, but it doesn’t need to be this deep anymore.
Up those couple of stairs is this little hallway, with a closet on the left and a full bathroom on the right. The flooring in this hallway is kind of a mess and will probably get replaced. A big challenge of this house is using the budget to not only fully renovate the space, but also unify all of these additions that hail from different eras and make use of all these different materials—right now there are six different types of flooring in the house, which just makes it feel choppy and disconnected.
The main bedroom is sweet but needs some work. The maple flooring runs into this room, too, and should look great with refinishing. The room is a nice size for a queen bed, a couple little side tables, and a dresser, but is going to take a deceptive amount of work to bring up to speed. The walls are in bad shape, the electrical is weirdly placed, that fan is driving me bonkers, and we have got to refine the moldings throughout the house. The 1×4 is just way too chunky for this modernist minimalist escape. That’s a lot of the work here…it’s like everything was done decently well until the last 10-20% of the last remodel and then things kind of fell apart. Nothing that can’t be fixed, though.
Back in the living room space, we have a few steps leading up into the dining room and kitchen area. The folding table and chairs are not permanent.
To the right of the stairs is this big propane-powered heater, which functions as the main heat source for the living/dining/kitchen space when the wood stove isn’t burning and keeps the pipes from freezing when nobody’s home. It’s kind of a beast and pretty unattractive, so we’re looking into possible replacements or at the very least relocating it. One of the goals here is to extend the stairs and open up that wall where the propane heater is sitting as much as we can, so I’m meeting with my HVAC dude today to brainstorm what we can do about it.
The dining room is nice, though! We’ll need to sort out the moldings, electrical, a new light fixture, flooring, paint, and obviously furniture! Can’t you just see a nice round dining table with some great chairs and an amazing pendant light? OK, well, you don’t have to. That’s my job.
On the other side of the dining room is the biggest issue with the whole house…this wall! Behind that door is a half-bathroom, which also houses a small utility closet for the hot water tank. We’re trying to figure out the best option for replacing it with an on-demand tankless hot water heater, which can hopefully move much more out of the way than where it is now—maybe even into the crawlspace below. And the half bath? It’s gotta go.
I KNOW. I know the classic wisdom is that more bathrooms add value to houses, but in this case, it’s just stupid. It takes up an ENORMOUS amount of space, and let’s just remember that this house is 1,100 square feet and really a one-bedroom but technically a two-bedroom. It does not need a half-bathroom like ten steps away from the full bath, and it certainly doesn’t need one practically in the dining room. I mean, excuse my french, but who wants to be eating dinner while someone is taking a shit right there? Nobody.
All that space could be put to much better use by giving it over to the kitchen, though! So that’s the plan. The existing galley kitchen is just small and cramped and worse for wear, so the bulk of this renovation is blowing out that half-bath, gutting the existing kitchen, and putting in a new fancy kitchen that’s open to the dining space and much better suited to entertaining and socializing and not having a poop-center right in the middle of it all.
The existing kitchen looks to be from about the 1950s and updated with a little paint and new countertops whenever the house was renovated last. Unfortunately the cabinets are mostly built in place and pretty much shot, so everything except the fridge and stove are getting replaced. The floor has a pretty significant slant going on, too, so we’ll probably have to take everything down to the studs and joists to get it all level and ready for new flooring and cabinets and everything else. Hopefully the structural issues aren’t too big of a deal, but unfortunately it’s one of those things that’s hard to figure out how extensive the problems are until things are opened up a bit.
Currently the kitchen also houses a washer/dryer unit, which we’re planning to relocate to the hall closet with new stacked units. It’s not super ideal to lose that much closet space to a washer and dryer, but it’ll free up the kitchen and because this is primarily a vacation house, it really doesn’t need a lot of closet space. We’ll need to add a little storage to compensate but that shouldn’t be a problem considering all the space we’re gaining back from losing the half-bath.
Anyway, tearing into this space is going to be fun fun fun. There are some things we don’t really know, like why the window sill is so deep or what’s contained in the soffit above the upper cabinets or why the sink isn’t centered under the window or how they got the checkerboard patterned curtains to match the backsplash tile so exactly, but I guess we’ll find out! Curtains might remain a mystery, though.
I can’t wait to get this project going! We’ve been talking and planning for a couple of months now and while the budget and timeline make me a little nervous, it’s all going to be great and so worth it. Adriana and Barry have been amazing to work with and I think we’re all totally on the same page with this place, which is just so much fun. Next time we’ll dig into the plans!
Yay for Olivebridge Cottage! This is going to be a fun one.