A CONNECTICUT YANKEE RETURNS TO HER ROOTS, RECYCLING OLD PIECES FROM HER PAST INTO THE HOME OF HER FUTURE
It's simply untrue that you can't go home again. You can, as one Connecticut native discovered after she retired from 40 plus years in education, 38 of them at a prestigious girls' school in Manhattan. "I was ready to leave the city and settle down on the property in Darien where I grew up," she says. Though the property included the Victorian home in which she had been raised, her heart was fixed on the small un-insulated cottage that had been built in 1901, serving as a summer rental all these years. Tucked into the woods and facing a small pond, this was where she wanted to spend her golden years.
Approaching the firm of Austin Patterson Disston Architects in Southport, this extremely practical-minded Yankee wanted to preserve the setting's natural beauty as well as preserve the integrity of the cottage—which was more Adirondack than Darien—while recycling fixtures and accessories from her life as a camp director in Maine (a family business) and her worldly travels. "While I believe in recycling," she says, "I also had a budget, and why buy when you already have something that's perfectly fine?"
With an eye to preserving the past, the architects chose to tear down the deteriorating 600-square-foot existing structure-without touching the natural stone fireplace and L-shaped porch—and build a new house whose size was deceiving at first glance. "We wanted visitors to see a replica of the original cottage when they first drove up," says architect Marti Cowan, "but then they'd realize that a bridge (which houses the dining room) joins the main cottage (living room and kitchen) to another boxy structure that houses the bedrooms, for a total of 2,500 square feet on the main level."
The original cottage once stood on stilts, and the new one-along with its bedroom counterpart-has a lower level. In the event that the homeowner might one day require live-in help, an additional bedroom was added under the main bedrooms (it's also a resale bonus).