Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

A Green Remodel: Making a Cottage Modern


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
17 Comments » | Published in Architecture, Decorating Modern, Green Design, House Tours, Landscape Design, modern inspiration, nature study, Real Rooms, Small Spaces  |  17 Comments



Hello, Cottage Living, are you reading?  When I missed my flight on Sunday I really lucked out. My friends Sophie and Kent offered me shelter in the 1940’s cottage they have been lovingly modernizing for many months. Circa 200 years ago, their neighbors would have been Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, as it is located between Monticello and Ash Lawn. It is truly one of the most beautiful spots around Charlottesville. It sits between the flood plain of Houchens Creek and beautiful woods, and when you look in out from the back, you can spy neighboring cows. Sophie and Kent are two of my pals from grad school. Kent has his Masters in Urban Planning and both of them have Masters in Landscape Architecture. Kent also has lots of experience in construction with a focus on green building, and Sophie is a kick-ass fiddler and gardener.

I wish I had some interior before pictures to show you, but unfortunately, they no longer exist. The space shown below used to be four dark, cramped rooms: A kitchen, a dining room, a bedroom and a bathroom.  S & K ripped the whole thing open and installed all new windows, which are all Low E, argon-filled sashes. The ceilings, once low and dark, were ripped out, and now they are 10′ high. The beams were restored from the original structure. The space is so peaceful and sunny that I felt like I was in one of the charming chapels that dot the landscape in the country around Charlottesville.

A very small addition that accommodates a new bathroom was added to the house’s original 840 square feet (it’s on the right side of the exterior “AFTER” photo). The floors are reclaimed heart pine, and all of the poplar siding and trim came from the Appalachian Sustainable Development mills in southwest Virginia, all of it harvested from certified-sustainable wood lots in the southern Appalachians.

I love that they used an antique dresser for storage in the bathroom:

Formerly an unused attic, Sophie and Kent opened up to the roofline and created an upstairs loft. Yours truly was not feeling confident about scaling the ladder after two margaritas, but I could see from below that it  added a lot of usable space to the house:

Here are a few more sweet nuggets:

There is a real nature study aesthetic all around the house:

While all of the walls are crisp and white, S & K’s careful editing of antiques, oriental rugs, artwork and objects add so much warmth to the modern space.

Curious about that lamp? The lovely and talented Christina Michas made the gorgeous shade for them as a wedding gift:

The house is still a work in progress, but I kind of dig these little traces of it:

To read more about the project, check out Strata Projects Design.

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!



  1. ali says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 10:45 am (#)

    Oh, my…Such an inspiring renovation! Looks to me to be the perfect place to write a novel. Go get ’em, Cottage Living.

  2. shayna says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 11:57 am (#)

    any chance of seeing a before and after floor-plan? our own 840 sq. foot cottage (and slopey backyard) is undergoing perennial changes and i would love some inspiration!

    thanks and amazing job!

  3. Lucia says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 12:08 pm (#)

    Wow, what a beautiful place. Sophie and Kent have made a fabulous, graceful nest. Who would expect anything less from these two. Thanks, Becky, for sharing.

  4. msen says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 12:30 pm (#)

    nothing like a slanted doorway and roof to finish the job.

  5. Becky says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 12:58 pm (#)

    Ali, a lot of writers have the same thought as you. John Grisham lives in the area, Sam Shepherd used to (w/ Jessica Lange), as did Anne Beattie and Rita Dove lived in Charlottesville when she was the Poet Laureate of the US. A lot of amazing musicians hail from the area as well, including Bela Fleck, The Hackensaw Boys and The Dave Matthews Band.

    Shayna, what you do not see here are the two bedrooms that run alongside the big room. they are on the front of the house. I”m not really sure if a floor plan exists, but I’ll ask Sophie. I know they wiped out four rooms to make the main room in the space.

    Hi Lulu! Missed you this weekend. I can’t wait to see your house!!!

  6. Becky says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 1:05 pm (#)

    Hey Loosh, do you have a Christina lampshade? Do I have to get married to get one? They are so awesome!

  7. eleisa says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 1:14 pm (#)

    I have always wondered… what are those bat shaped things on the roof called? and what are they there for?


  8. Becky says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 1:16 pm (#)

    Eleisa, I’ve often wondered that myself. Does anyone know? Please enlighten us!

  9. Ryan says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 3:10 pm (#)

    The “bat shaped things” on the roof were commonly used on slate roofs (and on metal) to stop/slow the slide of snow in the winter.

  10. Becky says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 4:56 pm (#)

    Ryan, thanks so much for solving that mystery for Eleisa and me!

  11. Noah says:

    November 6th, 2008 at 5:28 am (#)

    Wow beautiful house! I live in Charlottesville, actually am a grad student in the Architecture school that these folks went to. This is a beautiful house and an inspiration!

  12. Becky says:

    November 6th, 2008 at 7:48 am (#)

    Noah, I’m jealous of you – I miss being there so much! HOw are the new digs at school? I wanted to check them out this weekend but I ran out of time!

  13. Merry says:

    November 6th, 2008 at 10:46 am (#)

    Thanks for the inspiring pictures.

  14. eleisa says:

    November 6th, 2008 at 12:55 pm (#)

    Yes, thanks for the information. We have houses here in the south with them too. Maybe they also slow down renovators that are working on the roof 🙂

    Lovely home. Very restful to look upon…


  15. Noah says:

    November 6th, 2008 at 6:00 pm (#)


    The New additions are great, I got here right before they began construction, its great to have them done now. They make a big difference in the life of the school.
    Did you go to the A school?

  16. Lindsay says:

    November 7th, 2008 at 10:26 am (#)

    Hey everyone, it’s the new EIC of Cottage Living here (named a couple of weeks ago; I’m the founding Executive Editor) and we love this place! I actually got my master’s degree in architecture from UVA, and C’ville is one of my fav places on earth. One of our editors will be in touch about this story. Thanks!!!!!!

  17. Becky says:

    November 7th, 2008 at 7:48 pm (#)

    Noah, yes, I was in class w/ the owners of this house – landscape architecture from ’98-01. I also went to UVA undergrad (English and American Studies) from ’90-94, and I worked in Cville and took some art classes with Pam Black at PVCC (GREAT teacher!) in the years in between. I moved after I graduated from grad school, and I miss it so much. I always appreciated the beautiful town I lived in, but it seemed even more beautiful than I remembered last weekend! Make sure you leave that building and get up to Sugar Hollow every now and then 🙂


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