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The Cottage Ornee is a Winner!


A few days ago Amy Stewart at Garden Rant was talking about a beautiful new book, Shed Style and Elegant Hideaways by Debra Prinzing with photographer William Wright and published by Clarkson Potter, which was all about the various useful and elegant sheds that gardeners used. Some are totally functional, but others have more elevated styles and uses. Then Amy asked all of us to write and describe our fantasy shed. I wrote about our Cottage Ornee which I said was my fantasy shed in the flesh. Or hemlock, as it were. She said the best description would win an autographed copy of the book – and the Cottage and I won!h I must remind you that the words Cottage Ornee are always said with a heavy French accent.

I explained that it took 3 years just to decide that a 15 x 15 square would be the perfect size. Henry wanted a hip roof to keep the building low and as unobtrusive as possible. At a dinner party I asked our friend the architect how to handle the 8 pieces of wood coming together at the peak of the hip. He said architects worked very hard to avoid having 8 pieces of wood coming together anywhere. So we came up with the idea of a pyramidal plexiglass skylight. A perfect solution with unexpected benefits. It keeps the unfinished wooden interior from being too dark, and all the bugs that find their way in go up to the skylight, and away from the guests below.

Since we built the Cottage with our own fingers, mostly Henry’s, although son Chris did come to help put on the tin roof, it took another 3 years to finish. Things don’t move too fast here at the End of the Road. The corner posts rest on four giant boulders in lieu of foundation footings. Our friend the architect said this was a legitimate technique. The building would float in the seasons of frost and thaw.

This is the view to the south across the Rose Walk and to the fields which are mown once a year after the field birds are finished nesting.

The table can seat 6 or even 8, and we’ve had breakfasts and lunch out here. Teatimes, of course. A place to have a cool drink after weeding on a hot afternoon. There are card games with the grandchildren. Bliss! But I want to tell you that you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a riotous candlelit dinner with a bunch of 20-something young friends, who finished the evening by Reading Aloud – a psalm, a children’s book about Frieda Kahlo in Spanish, a piece by Colette about her mother in the garden . . .. Laughter and Literature.

Opposite the table, on the north wall is the Bench where we can nap, read, or rest after weeding. We sleep out here when summer guests fill the house.

This is the northwest corner. My corner. You’ll notice the block window closings. When the window is opened, the window is held up by a bent nail in a beam. I specifically mention this because while the bent nail school of interior design is not usually classified as elegant, the perfection and elegance of this building grows out of it use, as comfort for us, and as welcome for our guests. Some people have likened it to a Scout camp cabin because of the unfinished wood; there is a certain whiff of carefree childhood about the building. When we sit out here with the cooling Heath zephyrs we have no cares. We are aware of the perfection of the day.

4 comments to The Cottage Ornee is a Winner!

  • Greg Draiss

    What a great escape. Just what a back yard get away should be, clean simple and functional.

    However I would live in the cottage and go to my house for a luxury vacation

  • Doctor Mom

    What a wonderful place in which to enjoy summer!

  • Pat Leuchtman

    Greg and Doctor Mom

    The Cottage is a wonderful place to spend the summer and if the house were as clean simple and functional I’d think it would be a great place for a luxury vacation, but after nearly 30 years of work there is nothing very luxurious about it. It does have electricity and plumbing, so maybe I am not being fair.

  • GardenAuthor

    Congratulations… on the concept, reality and ensuing award. What an ideal getaway on a hot summer’s day.
    I loved the tour… Deb

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