I just finished reading Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved:
A Woman Moves a House to Make a Home
- by Kate Whouley
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (April 26, 2005)
Since my family is in the middle of moving a caboose into our backyard, I found many of Kate Whouley’s experiences entertainingly familiar. Cottage for Sale describes the year-long experiences of the author (and her cat Egypt) in purchasing, moving, and marrying a tiny 1-bedroom cottage with her small 1-bedroom house on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The author is a freelance consultant and writer who wanted a separate room for her office. Her entire house, after the cottage is added on, ends up smaller than 800 square feet, so this is a project and a book on an intimate scale.
Kate Whouley’s motivations for marrying two old houses rather than building a new addition seem partly the lower cost, partly aesthetics, and partly environmental – wanting to reuse and recycle. I share many of her values and motivations. Our own home was built around 1926 (before the land was part of San Jose) and is probably the oldest house in our area. Our neighborhood has recently been invaded by nasty new “monster houses” or “McMansions” – two storeys, 3,000 square feet or more, overwhelming their lots with big driveways, minimal yard space, massive garages, and ugly-or-at-best-boring design – replacing older 1,000 to 2,000 square foot cottages surrounded by large gardens. Check out The Not So Big House for more on the trend toward smaller, better built, spaces.
I don’t agree with all of Kate Whouley’s choices. Uncharacteristically, she put in a new mahogany wood deck rather than use Trex (recycled plastic and waste wood decking material) because, as she writes: “It is sooo ugly!”. We used Trex on a deck and a balcony several years ago and have been very happy with it. It does not burn feet in summer, does not shed splinters or need upkeep, and is already the soft grey of weathered wood. We plan to use Trex for the deck (station platform) which will go along the side of our caboose. However, Kate Whouley’s choice to reuse older windows and doors and in general to spend extra time and money to respect the original style and period of both of her small houses makes good sense to me.
Cottage for Sale documents the small sequence of choices the author made to give a meaningful and useful shape to her home. William Morris:”Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”