The Small & Precious Space—Beneath the Stairs

Several years ago, the opportunity arrived to purchase the little house and grounds which intersected the L-shaped property of what is now known as, The House at Rooster Ridge. After the purchase we eagerly began to discover what would lead us to the renovation of this over-100-year-old building. Our first indication of the potential for this little structure was hidden behind a tiny door. Under the carpeted and narrow staircase which led to the second floor was a sheet rock wall and in it a small painted door, approximately 18″ tall by 15″ wide. As we peered behind the door, we found the first clue to the depth of the possibility of how amazingly quaint this little structure could become!

When the little door was opened we found a small space which had previously been used as a storage area for a vacuum cleaner. With flashlights in our hands the initial discovery was made—and the rest, as they say, is history! The floor of this tiny space was dusty and dingy—and constructed of very worn wide plank flooring. Peering inside and now with the assistance of light fully illuminating the floor we realized, what we were seeing between the several small separations between the planks, which lay side-by-side, was the stone-walled basement. This meant only one thing to us—as self-proclaimed-forensic-building-historians—that we were looking at the original flooring of this building!

The first action we took (excitedly, hurriedly) was to rip out the door and sheet rock wall which had been built to create this storage space. As the sheet rock was removed we also made our second wonderful discovery—the staircase was solid old wood. As we continued our inspection and through the enthusiastic discussions which followed, we came to understand that this wide plank floor ran beneath the existing and relatively new strip-oak flooring. This was the moment when we fully realized the little treasure we had found! And to think this precious gem was sitting right next door for—oh, over a hundred years!

One of the design themes at The Cottage at Rooster Ridge is the intention to create vignettes, small illustrated stories which are told in a visual language. The small and precious space, beneath the stairs in The Cottage at Rooster Ridge, is one of those tales.

Due to the small stature of this space the inspiration for this design-story unfolded as I pondered who would comfortably fill this space. I allowed my thoughts to meander, to carry me loftily to a lovely vision and as I did so, I imagined a young child sitting in this little room beneath the stairs. I watched an imagined tea-party with a brown furry bear and later, a quiet and special space to look upon a picture book.

And so it became, The Small & Precious Space—Beneath the Stairs. A table was added and upon it was placed a charming rooster lamp—complete with an amusing fabric shade depicting roosters and farm scenes and finished with a cheerful red pom-pom trim. The underside of the stairs were exposed by removing the angled wall—adding interesting geometric shapes and dimension then painted a warm vintage barn red.

A shelf followed—the top could hold little books and the shelf was adorned with wooden pegs to hang a little sweater or bag. During a recent antique excursion a French Iron Painters’ Chair was found and brought to The Cottage at Rooster Ridge adding the finishing touch. On the shelf hangs a Vintage Wreath Form, which was used to create fresh wreaths of greens and flowers, now the form awaits—to be filled at a moments notice should an announcement of a tea-party occur!

The Small & Precious Space—Beneath the Stairs came to be—as structured thoughts were invited to float away—leaving a small and precious space—within our thoughts, for a day-dream vision to arrive. We offer to you the same invitation, let go of what it is you actually see and welcome the ability to dream and design in your cottage!

Symbolism Abounds!

515 Madison Avenue

We were in hour five of six—cold and damp—muddy and rusty—hours of scouting the iron yard at our favorite location for Architectural Salvage. The confusion swirled amidst the chipped and bent iron rails as we attempted to reconstruct an image that existed only in our minds—creating a new puzzle, with no straight edges to start with. Frustration set in. We were on a mission to find 50 feet of Vintage Iron Fencing that could be adapted to recreate a banister on the upper balconies of The House at Rooster Ridge. We succeeded, but this not about that—

This little story is about what you might miss—the tale of reminding us to keep our eyes and our mind open—to all of the possibilities—yes, even when you are frustrated and freezing.

There is one heated room in the expansive warehouse of our go-to Architectural Salvage spot. Fortunately, you need to pass through it in order to use the facilities. Ahhhhhh…a break from the wind, the wet, the rusty, heavy, dirt encrusted, paint chipping, bent and crooked iron—adventure of it all!

As I walked through the (gloriously warm) building I became mindful—to stay open to the soft whispering of the heart aspect of the decorating style at The Cottage at Rooster Ridge. For me, the process is a soulful experience. I try to quiet my mind, stop thinking—figuring out—measuring—planning. And the method worked beautifully—as it usually does when I get out-of-the-way.

This is what I saw—a little corner peeking out—the last item in a mass of confusion leaning against a wall. Hidden from view and obscured by a depth of four feet of iron gates and window frames some with shards of broken glass snarling; “Keep Away!”

Refusing to be deterred—like a kid in a toy store—I raised my chapped, red, frozen hand (note to self; remember to bring gloves next time) and pointed at the little glimmer of brass and asked, “What’s that?” As my inquiry was “off-point” the question was met with, well, let’s just say, it was unenthusiastic.

And, yes, I really did want to find three guys to start moving the contraption which had been amassed by the myriad of debris (in my mind) that was blocking me from what I yearned to see. What I needed to see!

The Discovery! What is it? It says something!

Hidden behind the jumble of iron and glass we found a solid brass transom that once regally pronounced the address of 515 Madison Avenue in New York!

No longer attached to a building and without the traditional installed glass—it was simply put, a brass frame. It had all of the requirements; four sides, relatively flat with an opening in the middle…sounds like a frame to me!

The statement/question followed, “It’s gorgeous, but what would you do with it?”

Anything! My answer didn’t seem to be assisting me at arriving at the conclusion I was hoping for—time to think quickly—as sometimes partners need concrete answers. I’d put a gorgeous mirror in it with a 1′ inch bevel and hang it in the dining room!

At The Cottage at Rooster Ridge we attempt to allow ourselves—the privilege to forget what something is, or has been—and focus on the possibility of what it could be!

With heart, Art Lives!

The Art of the Collection: Vintage Plummets

Juxtaposed to yesterday’s article; Linear Thinking…Prohibited! with the fullest intent of irony at it’s core, we wish to share the ultimate in linear thought…The Art of the Collection: Vintage Plummets!

A plumb-bob or a plummet is a weight, usually with a pointed tip on the bottom, that is suspended from a string and used as a vertical reference line, or plumb-line. Truly…it doesn’t get any more linear than that!

In our first article discussing collecting; The Art of the Collection: Vintage Soda Bottles we spoke of the myriad of reasons that one begins to collect. Artistic appreciation—the lines (pun intended,) shape, form or material. Historical perspective—it’s original function, history and the rich stories as we attempt to answer the who, what, when and where.  Other times it is the simple beauty of something or what it evokes in us—at times, it is our memories that becomes the fuel that propels us.

A memory was the key-note in the collection of Vintage Plumb-bobs at Rooster Ridge. With Steven’s original brass plummet that once had belonged to his Dad having spent decades in a toolbox it was at long last brought indoors. The comfort and warm emotions had created the stir to collect more, and so it began—A Collection of Vintage Plummets. Who would have guessed?

Research ensued and the hunt began! It is interesting to see the various shapes and sizes of the multitude of plummets. The variations seem to be dependent upon different factors; the particular use, the age and the country of origin. We have recently added a retro-top-style plummet which came to us from England. Another plummet came from Greece; in order to increase its’ weight while limiting additional expensive brass, lead bearings had been placed inside. We were able to unscrew the top to discover the source of the metallic rattling noise. Yes, they spilled out everywhere…along with some antique Greek dust!

How elaborate the design is, the uniqueness of the shape and the level of sophistication of engineering all became part of our education and discovery.

Some collectors choose to display their collections behind glass, in a fixed and stationary presentation. At Rooster Ridge most of our collections are out, sitting on shelves—and yes, often rolling off them as well! The plummet was held in the hand—cupped by the craftsman and in the case of vintage plummets they have been used for decades. We have found, quite charmingly, our visitors are compelled to do the same, often asking if they can hold them! While experiencing the solid weight one cannot help imagine the particular task at hand when the plummet was utilized. I would venture to guess if one were so inclined, a story could be written for each and every one of them…if only plummets could speak!

Our collections are also used! They have survived to current day and we see no reason to retire them! At times, they carry on in the tradition of their original function. Other times they are used in decorative displays; on mantles and in table settings. Discreetly nestling a row of plumb-bobs amidst beautiful ceramic dishes, flowers and cloth napkins can be an interesting conversation starter! Questions often begin meekly with the obvious direction, as to the beginning of the collection—we have found the transgression to personal stories and memories of people and wonderful things being built follow shortly thereafter.

At Rooster Ridge we find the richness of life often comes in the depth of character of what surrounds us—and always from the beauty that comes to our door—through the hearts and stories of our visitors…or from the stories of those, who at one time, visited us—we miss you Sid!

Art Lives!