MY FRIENDS FRAN AND BOB finally got tired, after 12 years of using their un-winterized weekend cottage in Spencertown, N.Y., year-round, of coming into a freezing cold house on Friday nights, hurriedly making a fire in the wood stove, and going into town for dinner while the place warmed up. They got especially tired of having no water on those winter weekends. (Originally they tried draining the pipes every Sunday night before making the drive back to Manhattan, but they froze and burst anyway.)
So did they insulate their cottage and put in a boiler? No. In 2007, they bought a more substantial year-round house in nearby Chatham, above, which they use from October through April.
They return to the Spencertown cottage, with its pond and 20 acres, when the weather warms up, and rent out the Chatham village house for the summer (this past summer, to production assistants for director Ang Lee, who was shooting the film ‘Taking Woodstock’ in the area). Win-win!
Their new place, a classic Greek Revival built in 1830, was the longtime home of Chatham’s family doctor. It is one of several identical houses on their street, stately but comfortable. “There used to be a porch across the whole front; now there’s just a little portico,” Fran says. At closing, the sellers gave them an old painting of the house that shows the porch, a mounting block, and the dirt road.
The house was one of only a couple they looked at, alerted to the listing by Lenore Packet of Country Gentleman Real Estate in Chatham. It had been on the market for a few months, listed at $225K. “I did a drive-by and said, I think it’s perfect,” Fran recalls. Later she drove up from NYC and checked out the interior. After a few rounds of negotiation, they got it for $199K.
The side wing, which is original to the house, is configured as a 2-bedroom rental unit with a separate entrance; the monthly income nearly covers the new mortgage. This past year, with the summer rental income, owning the Chatham house cost them exactly nothing.
The house was in very good condition, to boot; all Fran and Bob had to do was paint the walls and refinish the wood floors. They livened up the kitchen with a checkerboard floor and went all out with color in the front entry hall, below.
How inspiring is that?