Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Victorian Cottage Architecture : Making a comeback as we try to live 'greener'

Simple but classic colorful cottages like this one evoke a simpler time

The McMansion is dead Long live the cottage! Victorian cottage architecture is making a comeback. While many still lust for that 9 bedroom Victorian mansion many are discovering that cottages make more sense.
Not all 'cottages' are small. This one in San Francisco is elegantly detailed but needs paint and interior restoration and was on the market for well over a million dollars.

While many equate cottages with the modern tract home, the facts are that owning a cottage in the Victorian era was hardly considered a 'bad thing'. Home ownership was sign of prosperity at a time when most people lived in flats and tenements. While it is true that cottages were often built from what were termed "pattern books", there was a plethora of accessories one could add to their home to make it a unique creation. Elaborate fireplaces and fretwork were available, Thanks to "modern" manufacturing, tin work or wooden millwork was lavishly applied to the exteriors. Stained glass windows could be ordered from a catalog. In short "small' did not necessarily mean cheap.

Cottages surrounded by gardens allow people top get closer to nature while living in an urban world..
In fact in my neighborhood of Knox Hill the cottages, built as weekend houses for the wealthy, often share the same interior details as the grand mansions of Dayton street with stencilling , cast iron or slate mantles and elaborate trim details. My favorite cottages are the ones that were built by and for craftsmens of the era. These houses often have the most incredible workmanship.
Note the wonderful trimwork and "gingerbread" on this house. All available via catalogs of the local millwork shop or lumberyard in larger cities during the Victorian era.

In this day of 'going green' and reducing or footprint smaller houses make sense. By restoring them we save them from demolition and being put in a landfill. they are cheaper to heat and cool and can be effectively insulated at lower costs. by effective window rebuilding and storms they can be comfortable and non drafty.
The shotgun cottage was often built by shop keepers or clerks who worked downtown. This one close to an urban core and probaly built originally for few hundred dollards is now worth over 350K because of its convenient location

Cottages are a viable alternative to condo ownership as instead of living in a 900 square foot condo one can for about the same money own a 1500-2000 square foot cottage and have things like a real dining room and guest rooms and space for a home office and a small yard. For empty nesters scaling down or younger people starting out Cottages make more sense and we are seeing cottages being looked at with fresh eyes and greater respect.


unicorns_r_real said...


How funny that I have ended up on your site multiple times only to find this posting and it happens to have a picture of my home on it.

Having a home that's over a million dollars and in need of tlc in San Francisco is not uncommon at all. In fact, it's quite the norm. The exterior is scheduled to begin it's first major overhaul in decades beginning in the spring. We have just signed on our general contractor to help keep it all organized and on schedule.

She will indeed be getting a much needed multi-color paint job from a renowned San Francisco colorist and the roofing is being replaced.

This home, called The Nightingale House, is a SF historical landmark and is extremely rare, and one-of-a-kind here in such a quintessential wooden home Victorian city.

It is true that the kitchen and bathrooms will need to be remodeled at some point but the majority of the "Victorian" aspects of the house are intact, including the 3 faux finished iron fireplaces and the 3 sets of pocket doors which are all 9.5 feet tall and weigh a ton. In fact, we have had all the interior wood detail removed and are having it safely stripped of 130 years of lead paint. This includes the doors, surrounds, jambs, baseboards, pictures rails...etc. Yes, the house is freezing without draft protection. Oh well, we knew what we were signing up for I guess, right?

The tower up top holds our bed and offers awe inspiring views including the sunrise over the bay and city which shocks me every time.

Perhaps someday you will be able to pay a visit should you make it out to San Francisco. If and when you do, can I borrow about 500k? :P

Happy New Year,

P.S. I am very impressed with the work and effort you have put into your project and shared with everyone. It truly is a labor of love. I hope all those who see it and have a chance to visit understand that it is preserving a part of their culture too. Whether or not the Victorian aesthetic happens to be one they really understand or appreciate.

MidnightMagik said...

I'm curious and hope you could help.
I like to describe my home as a Victorian Cottage. I just want to make sure I'm correct on that point.
This is my home.
Thank you in advance!