Welcome to my cottage

I promised to post photos of my cottage renovation, and then I got busy writing and well, renovating (go figure!), and February flew by. So here is a tour of what I’ve done so far.

The house was built in 1938, and boasts a deep front porch and two rooms (now opened up) up front, plus three rooms in an addition at the back. The whole place totals just 672 square feet, so it’s… compact.

My neighbor across the street, who grew up here, says the cottage was built to house the manager of the apple orchard that grew where the neighborhood is now. Originally, the house was just the two front rooms, and a family of eight (six kids, two adults) lived here! When the back portion was added on a few years later, it must have made the space seem positively commodious.

Come on in with me. The first set of photos are how the interior looked when I saw it last fall (before my wonderful excavator, John Long, and his colleague, Jerry Fritts, who basically does everything related to building, carefully jacked up the side where the foundation had collapsed and built a new foundation under it).

Just inside the front door, looking at the half-wall between the kitchen and the living room. This space is the entire original house.

Note those classy vinyl stick-on tiles over the stove, and the lack of drawer and door pulls on the cabinets. You can’t tell, but the place was filthy, with food stuck to the floors and grime on every surface. It smelled of rotten wood from the water leak that caused the foundation collapse. The interior, slanting floors and all, had been cheaply renovated after a drug-dealer tenant trashed it, breaking out the windows and setting fire to the inside. Despite the abuses the cottage has suffered, it feels welcoming.

The living room, to the right of the front door, with the bedroom door on the right, and the hall opening just visible.

Roaring One, the old gas wall furnace in the living room that provided the only heat, was so loud I had to turn it off at night to sleep.

Let’s go through that door to the right.

My bedroom, and yes, the ceiling does slant to the back of the room, because the roof at the back of the house is a sloping shed roof.Β 

My bedroom is cozy at all of 8.5 by 11 feet in size!

Okay, back to the living room and through the opening into the hall….

And there’s the tiny (and dark) bathroom. The plumbing works, I’ll just say that.

Go left around the bend in the hall, and there is the smaller bedroom, which will be my office.

That’s my desk, made by Santa Fe cabinetmaker Sam Bair. It will never look that tidy again!

Now let’s fast-forward to today, and do that tour again, starting with coming up the steps and into the front door. There’s the kitchen, transformed.

New appliances, attaching door and drawer pulls to the cabinets, hanging a pot rack, replacing the old kitchen faucet, and adding some of my favorite turquoise blue accents really spiffs it up.

Yet to come: a tile backsplash in the blue color of one of the tiles behind the stove. The tiles are locally made from sediment dredged out of a nearby irrigation reservoir, and the glazes are gorgeous.

There’s just space in the corner of the kitchen to the left of the front door for a cozy dining nook. (The chairs are also by Sam Bair.)
Looking to the right of the front door beyond the half-wall with the kitchen, the living room. And yes, that’s my saddle on display. I did say that the cottage is small, didn’t I?


Looking from the living room into my bedroom and down the hall.

Where Roaring One lived is now a wall with an antique shelf holding cookbooks and kitchen implements. I replaced the old wall-furnace with a mini-split system for heating and cooling. (You can see one of the mini-split heads above the hall doorway.)

My bedroom isn’t big, but it is colorful and cozy.

Now come down the hall, and ignore the bathroom. I have ideas, but they’ll have to wait until I have a few weeks clear to get Jerry Fritts to help me to tear the whole thing apart…. As I said, the plumbing works, and the water is hot and plentiful thanks to my new tankless water heater, I’m grateful for that.

My office at the end of the hall. I did say that the beautiful Sam Bair desk would never look that tidy again…

Arabella, my venerable Christmas cactus, is happy with her southwest-facing window. She’s been blooming steadily since I moved her in a January blizzard, so I think she’s forgiven me for the grueling trip.

Now that I’ve taken care of the immediate needs (heating, hot water, replacing some fixtures, stabilizing the foundation and so on), I’m starting in on the neglected yard, where the first daffodils are blooming. Yet to come for the house: new windows throughout, new exterior doors (that don’t leak), and some galvanized steel wainscot for where the beautiful tongue-and-grove siding on the exterior walls was damaged at the lower edges. And then I’ll tackle that bathroom….

This cottage is my happy place. No matter the tragic events of its recent past, and no matter the sloping floors and slanting ceilings, the place is solid, and has a sweet feel and a good spirit. In these difficult times, I feel blessed to have not just a roof over my head and a comfy place to sleep, but a place that feels like–and is–home.

Celebrating coming home with a fire in the fire pit.

42 thoughts on “Welcome to my cottage

  • What a lovely transformational story. I am curious where the other mini-split head is located as we are considering replacing a gas furnace with a mini-split.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Lora, Thank you! The other mini-split head is in my office, because that’s the southwest side of the house and thus the hot side. This is my third mini-split system, and I love them. The one caveat is that they’re expensive if you need more than two or three heads, and you will if you don’t have good airflow around the house. I use ceiling fans to distribute the air, and that works well. (I like MinkaAire fans, which are not the cheapest, but they’re super-efficient and absolutely silent.) Feel free to email me if you have other questions (info[at]susanjtweit[dot]com)

  • Ron and Vi Cauthon says:

    Susan, I love your touches of turquoise blue that you’ve used before. I am amazed at how you’ve used space so well. Happy, happy homecoming. And let us see the next projects. Vi and Ron C.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Vi and Ron, Thank you! I will definitely post more when I get the next round of renovation done, which may not be until May because of supply-chain issues with the windows. Good thing I am soooo patient. (Hah!)

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thanks, Priscilla! This is definitely my place. It’s just the right size (I know you know what I mean, since you are living in a small space too), and despite it’s traumatic recent past, it has a sweetness to it that I cherish.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thank you, Sarah! I feel fortunate to have landed here. I have a lot more renovation ahead, some of it substantial, but I have time, so I won’t rush. (Much. I am so NOT patient; I just have remember to not bite off more than I can chew, as it were!)

  • Oh Susan! It’s beautiful and so YOU! Your southwest style and colors, and simple living in a richly textured way! Thanks so much for the tour, esp the before and after! Love picturing you there in your happy place!

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thanks so much, Carolyn! I have enjoyed each of my eight re-storying projects, ranging in size from nearly 4,000 square feet to 672, and this one is far and away my favorite. It’s very me. πŸ™‚

  • Wonderful to see the place, Susan, and I’m wishing you happy times there. I know it’s a work in progress, and I hope the coming stages provide satisfying work at a manageable scale, with plenty of time to use that saddle. Love the idea of that local tile!

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Andrea, Thank you! It’s a mostly fun project so far, and very satisfying. As for the saddle, I use it almost every week for a day or half-day ride. The local tile is super-cool, and lovely to boot. I’m thrilled to have found it. Here’s the site if you’re curious.

  • Susan, your cottage is so lovely! You have turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse! You are so talented at doing that. I remember the Cody house, and before that the industrial lot in Salida. Enjoy your beautiful cottage!

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thank you, Julie! I have really enjoyed all of my projects, but this one is my favorite. I have more to do, so I’ll share more when I have the next phase done. πŸ™‚

  • Well, gosh! I just love it! I really should not disparage the huge, beautiful childhood home I live in, but I covet a place with just room for me. Well done, Susan! (P.S. I am reading Bless the Birds right now. It’s so beautiful.)

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Gretchen, Thank you! (On both counts.) I have lived in big beautiful houses too, and medium-sized ones with tons of character, but at this stage in my life–much to my surprise–small suits me best. I think it’s a form of elder-nesting: I want my life to be full of love and all that nourishes me, which means less stuff and space to take care of. I also want every bit of my space to have meaning and be beautiful, so I am spending way more than would be “sensible” on renovation. I can afford to do that with small; I couldn’t with large. May Bless the Birds inspire you in all sorts of ways! Blessings, Susan

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thank you for reading it and appreciating my cottage, Julia! It is my eighth “re-storying” project in the past ten years, and my favorite. At this point in my life, small is perfect for me. And the cottage is so charming, despite some very troubled times. I feel quite fortunate to have found this place, and to be able to bring it back to life. πŸ™‚

  • Wow, Susan! You have landed on both feet and made yourself a beautiful nest. I hope we can get together some time when we’re up at our cabin near Ridgway.
    Dick and Gay

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thanks much, Dick and Gay! It would be fun to get together when you’re at your cabin. In the meantime, be well and keep writing your population matters columns, Dick. BTW, Geoff T says to say hello.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Hi, Cherie, Thanks! I got the kitchen rug from a trader in Santa Fe when I lived there. It’s from a community of fine hand-weavers in Oaxaca, and is wool, some of it vegetal-dyed, on a cotton warp. I have three different Oaxacan rugs from that community, and they are all unique and all beautiful. (I realize that probably isn’t the answer you are looking for, since you can’t just go online and buy one! Sorry about that.)

      • Cherie Luke says:

        Road trip to Santa Fe! I live in Colorado so very doable. Love seeing you at CONPS conference in Feb.

        • Susan Tweit says:

          In that case, it’s road trip time for sure! I got my rugs at Malouf on the Plaza. They’re not cheap, but they come with the weaver’s name and an assurance that they’re legit. Fine Oaxacan wool rugs are heirlooms on par with fine Navajo rugs (but not quite that expensive). As for the conference, I’ve been part of the group that puts together the Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conf since it was dreamed up by a coalition of folks seven years ago (I was their first keynote speaker), and I’ve stayed involved because it’s a great group of folks, including CoNPS–it’s run by a coalition, not one organization–and because I love their mission. Glad you enjoy it!

  • Lindy Barnes says:

    Oh, Susan, it’s adorable. I have always been fascinated with all of your building/renovation projects and this one is no exception. What a perfect tiny cottage. I’m always amazed that you are able to find the perfect people to take on the work involved in your projects. I’m also always amazed that you are able to see the beauty hidden in the “ugliness” of the homes you have purchased and then set to work uncovering that beauty. I’m smiling and clapping :).

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thanks much, Lindy! I have been very fortunate in finding wonderful trades folk to work with–it helps, I think, that I know something about what I’m doing, that I’m willing to work alongside them, and that I appreciate good problem-solving and fine craftsmanship. As for the places I find, it’s an intuitive thing: Whether I see a picture or see the place in person, they speak to me. Sometimes the connection is so instant and so strong despite the surface conditions that it scares me a bit, and I’m not always sure I can give them what they need. But so far, it’s worked out well. πŸ™‚

  • Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!! Your cozy cottage looks totally amazing. I can’t wait to see it in person one of these days. So glad to see Arabella looking her usual beautiful self. Please tell her that one of her offspring is doing well here in my nest at The Reserve. No flowers yet, but she’s healthy and looking good!
    Big hugs to you and the Guy,

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thanks, Liz! And I can’t wait to show it to you. Arabella is indeed looking very happy, and I’ glad to hear (but not at all surprised) that her offspring is thriving with you. Hugs back to you!

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thank you, Rain. I’m still pinching myself at finding this charming cottage, and at being fortunate enough to be able to give it the love it deserves. Next up is new windows throughout, and then a deck wrapping around the back of the house, replacing damaged wood siding, and eventually, gutting the bathroom. But that’s all for later. For now, I’m enjoying being here, and working on the yard.

  • Debra Dolan says:

    I really believe less is more; love your cozy home filled with your treasures. Always enjoy a peek into the life of Ms. Susan T. Thanks so much for sharing. Happy Spring!

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Hi, Debra, Thanks! I agree that less can be more, and that’s certainly true with this cottage. I really do love it, and am having a lot of fun bringing the place back to life. It’s still very leaky and energy-inefficient (cheap windows and exterior doors that no longer fit), but I hope to have that remedied before summer. Happy spring to you!

  • Susan, the cottage is charming and inviting. Each expression of your taste invites the story behind the selection. Your color scheme is warm and yet vibrant. I remember your Colorado building and marvel at your ability to create a perfect space. Thank you for the tour and look forward to your next book. I hope we will share our spaces one day soon.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Dear Pat, How lovely to hear your voice here! Thank you for taking the cottage tour, and for seeing what I see in this charming little place. It’s a sweet and nurturing space for me, and I take a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction in knowing that others can see the stories and love I’ve put into it. (And there is much more to come!) Are you going to make the trek to Oklahoma City for the Women Writing the West conference this October? I’m on the planning committee, and I can tell you that it’s going to be inspiring–one of the great ones! Much love to you…

  • My dear friend,
    I am humbled and amazed by your many home/transformations. Somehow you’ve handled some major life challenges and yet you still create so much beauty in your writing, lecturing, and house love-up.

    What brand of vitamins do you take? Jeff and I both want to know!

    Sending love, love,
    Sharon and Jeff

    • Sharon and Jeff, You are so sweet! I am just doing my best to leave my small part of the world in better shape than I found it, just as you are, if in a different way. The house re-storying gives me a physical outlet for my energy, and also satisfies my inner design engineer. So it’s stressful in some ways, but it’s such a kick when a solution I have designed in my head actually works! I am inspired by all you do. πŸ™‚ Love to you both.

Comments are closed.