Friday, October 19, 2012
Sunday, October 14, 2012
This attractive little cottage in Berkeley, California was built behind an existing small house. Karen, the homeowner, needed additional space for regular long-term guests. Since Berkeley allows accessory dwelling units, she hired New Avenue Homes to build one for her. New Avenue Homes offers a turn-key approach to getting a small house built, managing the design, permitting and construction processes.
Karen’s cottage has 280 ft2 (26 m2) on the ground level plus a sleeping loft. The ground level includes the living area, a compact kitchen and a full bath. A butcher block work surface doubles as both a desk and a dining counter. If you’d rather face your dining companion, there would be enough room to replace the work surface with a small table and a couple of chairs.
This rustic cabin is on San Juan Island in Washington state. Perched on a hill, it has a commanding view over the islands and waterways below. The 672 ft2 (62.4 m2) cabin was designed by architect David Vandervort. The cabin consists of two 2-storey “towers” joined by a single storey living area. The towers are reminiscent of forest fire lookout towers, with wide overhangs supported by knee braces providing shade for the wrap-around banks of windows.
The upper portion of each tower is a sleeping loft accessed by ladder. The towers are connected at the lower level to create an open living/dining/kitchen area. The cabin is off-grid so there is no inside bathroom, and heat is provided by a wood stove.
There’s no address — the road has no name . . . it’s not even really a road . . . it seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere,” says the French accessories designer Jérôme Dreyfuss, explaining how to (possibly never) find the rustic country retreat he shares with his wife, the fashion designer Isabel Marant, and their 8-year-old son, Tal.
Surrounded by acacia trees on the banks of the Loing River in Fontainebleau, the tiny clapboard cottage is only 35 miles southeast of central Paris, but it feels worlds away, thanks to its untamed, verdant surroundings and lack of mod cons like electricity, heat and plumbing. (You flush the loo the old-fashioned way — with buckets of water hand-pumped from a spring.) The spartan setting suits the family just fine. “It’s surprising how little you really need,” Dreyfuss says. “The expression ‘less is more’ takes on real meaning here.”
There’s a strict no-fashion-talk policy in effect at the cottage, which is strewn with colorful old kilims, flea market finds and stacks of thick wool blankets for use in the winter months. “We barely have time to speak to each other at all during the week, so the last thing we want to discuss when we’re here is work,” says Dreyfuss, whose handbags are hot commodities on both sides of the Atlantic. Adds Marant, whose namesake cool-girl label enjoys bona fide cult status: “We don’t see friends in Paris anymore. We invite them to Fontainebleau. Especially the ones with children; it’s truly a kid’s paradise.” As if on cue, Tal takes aim at a nearby tree with a crude slingshot, using chestnuts as ammunition, and then attempts to vanquish an imaginary foe with a bow and arrow made from branches. “Our petit sauvage — that’s what we call him,” Dreyfuss says affectionately, as his son drags a kayak down to the water. “Half the time, we can’t even get him to wear clothes. And he never, ever wants to go back to Paris on Sunday nights.”
Looking around, it’s easy to see why. In addition to the kayak, a canoe and a surfboard for paddle boarding, Tal has a nifty treehouse, a tree swing, ropes for Tarzan re-enactments, a trampoline, fishing poles, water guns and numerous pup tents, which double as guest accommodations for his friends. A few minutes later, the youngster can be heard challenging a group of hapless kayakers, demanding a toll before they can pass. “He thinks he’s the boatman on the river Styx,” Dreyfuss quips.
Serendipity led the couple to their piece of paradise seven years ago. “We happened to see an ad in a free paper we picked up outside a bakery and called the broker immediately,” Dreyfuss says. “The first thing we noticed when we got here was the air — it’s pristine.” And blissfully free of the usual sounds of civilization. “Aside from people paddling on the river, you hear only nature,” Marant says.
Sometimes, nature can be a little loud. “I came here with Tal right after we bought the place and woke up in the middle of the night to hear someone breathing heavily right outside the bedroom,” Dreyfuss recounts. “I was terrified and began plotting how I would make a run for the car with the baby. I fell asleep with him in my arms and a giant kitchen knife next to the bed.” In the morning, Dreyfuss discovered (rather sheepishly) that the nocturnal intruder had been a wild boar.
These days, most of the couple’s visitors are of the two-legged variety, and besides child’s play, much of the activity centers around food and drink. “I love to cook,” Marant says, “but never have time to do it in Paris.” She spends Saturday mornings at the market in the nearby village of Bourron-Marlotte, buying fresh bread, croissants, beautiful cheeses, meat, fish, eggs and produce. Perishables are stored in a little fisherman’s cabin embedded in the riverbank that is equipped with a vintage icebox. “I buy tons of food, because we never know if we’re serving 5, 10 or 25,” Marant says, as she prepares a platter of locally made saucissons, rillettes, cornichons and olives in the minuscule kitchen area. “Jérôme’s in charge of the barbecue, and I try to balance all the meat he makes with lots of fresh salads and seasonal vegetables.”