Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meanwhile, at the Cheney Cottage

Today, Andus and I met and went over some ideas for the Cheney Cottage. As always, Tom and I prefer not to alter a house too much from its original condition - in fact, we prefer to bring the houses back as close to original as possible.

I think sometimes we can be frustrating for an architect. Our idea of putting our own stamp on a house is to tread very lightly, without changing it much. I think most architects like to make a project theirs, and change an old house into something that reflects more of their style and design tastes.  Fortunately, Andus is willing to work with us. I think he sometimes raises an eyebrow about our decisions, but ultimately, I think he sees what we're trying to achieve and enjoys working with us on it.

So today, he and I went over some plans for the Cheney Cottage. Andus had thought that, since the back of the building will now face south, we might want to add some windows, and also move some of the windows in the kitchen, but Tom and I both want to retain the original look of the house.  We really don't want to change the exterior facade at all if we can help it, and we definitely plan to keep all the original windows.  

We did come up with an idea for how to lay out the kitchen (which is basically just a big room right now) and how to make the two 1/2 bathrooms on the second floor back into one full bath.

This afternoon, Tom and I went up to the Cheney Cottage.  We got to go alone, just the two of us, and spend some time looking at the house and figuring out how it must have been and what work we have to do.  It felt so great to walk up the steps, put a key in the door, and go in - knowing that it's now our house (even if it's not sitting on our land).

The Cheney Cottage needs a lot of work.  Outside, the house has not been maintained by the University, and it is badly in need of a good paint job (with all the scraping and prep work that goes with it).  The windows all need to be reglazed, and the front porch is in a seriously deteriorated state.  The roof is also at the end of it's life, and needs to be replaced before the next rainy season.

Plus, the house clearly is ready to be moved.  The landscape around the house is solid concrete, with cars parked right up against the back and right up to the front porch.  There is nothing that says "home" about where the Cottage is now.

Inside, not much has been done, and most of the changes that have been made to the house will be relatively easy to fix.  For example, most of the wiring that has been added is surface mounted, using conduit.  We want to rewire the house, so it will be easy to rip out all the old wiring and then we can start fishing romex through the various walls and floors.  We also plan to refinish all the floors (which are currently covered with brown indoor-outdoor carpet).

One of the more interesting things we want to change is the connection between the front entry and the living room.  The room origianlly had half walls on either side of the opening, which would have made the stairs have a feeling of being separate yet still be able to be seen as part of the room.  At some point, the wall was brought all the way to the ceiling, but the half walls still are there. In fact, the cap pieces of the half walls stick out of the finish wall:

So it should be a relatively easy to tear out the wall above the caps and retain the original look of the room.  The stairway will again be fully visible from the front room.

The house also originally had a dumbwaiter (or maybe it was a laundry chute) from the second floor to the first floor. The original door is there on the second floor, but it doesn't go anywhere.  We plan to reopen it to make it a usable laundry chute, terminating in the kitchen.

Another interesting decision we made today was to retain the back room. At present, the house has a small room off the kitchen, which we had originally thought we would remove before the house was moved. We had thought that this small room (about the size of a mud room) was added long after the house was built.  But we looked at it today, and while it doesn't strike us as original, it is an old enough addition to warrant further consideration.  Now we're thinking that the room should stay, and we plan to use it as a laundry room - both for the Cheney Cottage and for the Delaney House.  

The house also cries out for restoration.  We looked at the coffered ceiling in the living room, and all the woodwork was probably originally shellacked.  In the dining room, the wainscot was also probably left natural, so we hope to have the time and energy to strip all that woodwork. It would really make the house a showplace. 

So now we have a plan, and we're working on getting the permits.  The Cheney Cottage will soon be 62nd Street bound.  

1 comment:

  1. Gee - I thought you were o.k. with getting more windows in the back, which will be facing the yard and the south light. We did submit the plan with windows added there, and I'm hoping the Landmark Preservation Commission is o.k. with it.
    I agree that, in general, you don't change too much about this beautiful house, but I do think more light there is better.