Small Stone Ridge Cottage’s Clever Design Visually Increases Living Space
Simplicity pattern: A woodsy getaway proves the old adage that good things often come in small packages
Optical illusions: A lofty ceiling, tall windows, and living areas that flow into one another without thresholds all help make the tiny cottage look more spacious. The neutral palette and clean lines of modern furniture help, too, especially the big glass-topped table that all but disappears
Photographs by Michael Polito
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“Would you like a tour of the house?” asks Judith G. as she greets newcomers to her cottage in the woods near Stone Ridge. “Okay, take three steps forward. Look to your left: there’s the bedroom. Look to your right: there’s the living room. That’s it!”
You can tell it’s a line she’s used many times, and it’s an exaggeration, too, although only a slight one. The cottage is tiny — 801 square feet, to be exact — and essentially consists of one room with a sleeping alcove. But there’s a screened porch that adds 150 square feet to the usable space when it’s warm out, an efficient kitchen area, and a surprisingly roomy bathroom.
Country casual: The architect positioned the kitchen (below) so that it wouldn’t be visible when you walk into the room. Ikea cabinets and small appliances make it “a simple, efficient, cottage kitchen,” the owner says. The under-counter fridge keeps the look streamlined, and is supplemented by a large one in the mechanicals room a few steps away. There are large closets and a storage room behind doors on each side of the hallway (left) — “a clever strategy in such a small space,” remarks the owner.
Below left: The home’s exterior
Architect Kurt Sutherland, whose offices are in High Falls, designed the little house about eight years ago for a client who was “into Buddhism,” as he puts it, and looking for a quiet weekend retreat. “She wanted something small and simple, that took advantage of the beautiful woodland setting,” Sutherland says. “She wanted a woodstove and a small porch. And it had to be inexpensive, because she didn’t have a lot of money.”
What Sutherland came up with “blends vernacular style with modernist sensibility — that’s it in a nutshell,” he says. Outside, the cottage resembles many other modest houses dotted around the area. Gray-green cement clapboard siding helps it blend subtly into the site. But the interior has contemporary finishes, like a satiny polished concrete floor, and a feeling of bright airiness that small, older homes often lack.
Sutherland used architectural devices, such as a high, sloping ceiling and ample windows, to create the illusion of space. “If you just punch window holes, you feel like the window is a portal, and you’re looking out from inside a boxy room,” he explains. “Tall, wraparound windows on the corners make a space feel much larger — the corners aren’t holding you in.”
Spaces that overlap and flow into each other make a small house seem larger, too, as there are no thresholds on the floor to interrupt the area visually. The cottage’s kitchen is simply Ikea cabinets, a sink, and appliances arranged in a row along the high wall. A small breakfast counter and the couch separate the galley kitchen and sitting areas. Radiant heat under the floor gets a boost from a woodstove that also provides the coziness of a hearth.
As for the generous bathroom: The Zen-seeking client wanted it to be “a real room, an enjoyable space to be in, not just a utility closet,” Sutherland says. The shower and louvered doors hiding laundry equipment occupy one wall. A claw foot tub is set beneath a window, so anyone having a soak can gaze up at the trees outside.
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