One of the most exciting parts of creating Idlewild Cottage is the fact that we get to design…everything. Essentially, we bought a foundation, detached garage and land (about 3 acres, mostly wooded) when we got this place. It was the perfect location for us, in a wonderful neighborhood that gets more foot traffic than vehicles going by. The Cottage is walkable to all the town amenities such as the corner store, post office, restaurants, church, school, etc. Best of all, if you walk up the road, you’re at Lake Sacandaga. Now, it’s a small town, so it’s not like a city center, but it suits us.

The house was beyond saving, other than pieces. Years of neglect had done its damage inside and out, and the style of living of the previous owners (leaving food out, letting dog and cat food pile up beneath cabinets, etc.) led to a pretty healthy rodent infestation. I knew we could make it work, but it was only when the price of the place dipped below $100K that it was even worth considering. The house is going to receive all new windows, doors, walls, electrical, plumbing, insulation, roof, siding, porch, floors, etc…and all that comes at a price. Luckily, we are working with Brian McCormick of McCormick Carpentry to make this into a reality. I have the best kind of recommendation for his work–my own.

Our previous house, which we loved but just wanted to scale down a bit, was built by him. He has an eye for quality craftsmanship and utilizes space to the max. When Jason and I first were talking about a major renovation, I said, “Would it be totally weird to call the guy who built the house we’re now selling?” Turns out, it wasn’t–he was actually just putting his “dream house” on the market, too. Turns out dreams aren’t linear, they morph and change with your life and circumstances.

Original house, but looking a little better than it does in person…

What the Cottage will look like when we are done…in about 3-4 months, ugh.


Front of the house and side views, to understand the dormers we are including.

Back of the house and detail on the roof lines around the attached garage area.

We are using a vinyl gray cedar shake-look siding for the house, to lend it that Cape Cod-style vibe. Trim will be a classic white and navy, and we have incorporated several stained glass windows into the design. Oak hardwood floors are going to be run throughout (currently they are just in the bedrooms), except in the mudroom and bathrooms. The roof is shingled in the Owens-Corning 40 year architectural shingles in Estate Gray. Unfortunately, several years ago the decision was made to remove the plank roof and replace it with a chipboard base–so sad.

The house layout is small but functional, currently. We’re basically going to slightly enlarge most of the rooms, and give a large sense space by vaulting the ceilings over the master bedroom/living room.

Current layout: 1010 square feet. The long area running the length of the house is an old enclosed porch that was improperly done and needs to be redone.

First floor layout, after. We actually keep most of the same areas in the front of the house but open it up. Stairs are relocated to the back of the house, and this nook becomes an office/guest space with a Murphy bed. One of the bedrooms was swallowed for a master bathroom, and a small powder room is added to the first floor for guests.

To get a sense of how the second floor lines up with the first, see below. Bedroom 2 (Hazel) is a little larger than bedroom 3 (Lucy) because of the bathroom, but that’s okay. Jason and I are firm believers in small bedroom space and more living area space.

About 500 square feet is added on with the second floor, which includes two bedrooms and a bathroom. Angled ceilings, window seats and luxe touches will add charm and sophistication to the “kid floor.”

Our contractor Brian and I sat down together one night and worked on this plan for about 4 hours straight. Windows, walls, piping, electrical–everything has to be considered. I added two large stained glass windows in the living room, and another at the top of the stairs (we were in Nyack for a wedding this fall and scored big time). Pocket doors were inserted wherever possible to increase floor space in the small rooms. The enclosed porch area’s flooring is now raised so it is level with the rest of the house, making it feel cohesive, and not an afterthought. We selected the Anderson 400 windows for their quality, and enlarged them throughout the home–aside from the big bank of windows in the living room, the rest were those wonky 50’s-style eyebrow windows.

Also enlarged is the front porch area, and double columns were added to each of support columns for aesthetics. Even though it’s a cottage, I still want it to be cute and have a presence! Later additions will include stone walkways, picket fence, and other “homey” touches. I’m trying to view the Cottage as a slow and steady project, rather than a race. I know we’ll be in this home for years to come, and I want to take my time with decisions outside of the walls, windows, etc. that need to be in place in order to move in. In the meantime, you can find me pouring over Pinterest, blogs, HGTV, magazines, etc… 🙂

Emily Behnke

Formerly a high level professional in a scientific organization, Ms. Behnke now owns and operates an organization and design company focused on living well in small spaces.