Goodbye, Cottage Living

Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island, Georgia

One of my favorite magazines bit the dust with its December 2008 issue.  Cottage Living, launched with fanfare in 2004, is gone.

I don’t think I ever missed an issue, though in recent months — probably in a desperate grab for advertising dollars — the cottages had grown bigger and fancier and hardly deserved the name (can a 4BR house be called a ‘cottage’?)

What I loved most about the magazine were the ‘before and afters,’ makeovers of decrepit vintage homes.  I spent happy hours poring over the remodeling of California bungalows, log cabins in Virginia, freedman’s cottages in Charleston, S.C.

But those were easy clean-ups: charm, however soiled, begets charm.





Left and right: Unique to Charleston, ‘freedman’s cottages’ were built by and for freed slaves after the Civil War.  They were  two rooms deep and one room wide, with a side porch the length of the house.

The magazine also had an architect, Hoyte Johnson, take on the tricky business of suggesting fix-ups (in renderings, not reality) for dank 1960s ranches, boring brick boxes, and asbestos-shingled, aluminum-windowed 1940s American four-squares.

These were not always successful; in my view, they went a little too far “adding personality” in the form of pergolas, sundials, weathervanes, chimneypots, etc. (there’s a Yiddish word for that, but I don’t know how to spell it).

But these were fun to contemplate, and I learned a lot about balancing awkward proportions by shifting placement of windows and doors, and the usefulness of shutters to enlarge the look of meager windows.  And I totally agree that single-pane windows look ’empty and sad,’ and that replacing them with divided-light windows — real ones — has a dramatically positive aesthetic effect on the facade of any old house.colgan-before-l1colgan-exterior-l

Left and below: Would you believe this is the same house? They took a dull brick ranch and clad it in board-and-batten siding; the asphalt shingle roof was replaced with a higher-pitched tin roof, and the ceilings were raised inside.

Cottage Living, I’ll miss you. (The publisher, Southern Living, offered to replace the remainder of my subscription with Real Simple, probably my LEAST favorite magazine — obvious, repetitive advice on how to spend more money in a quest to live more simply — but that one’s still publishing, so what do I know?)

In the meantime, there are some copies of Cottage Makeovers, the final “special edition” ($10.99, no ads) compiling 20 makeovers from the defunct magazine, on newsstand shelves.  I say, get it while you can.

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
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11 Responses to Goodbye, Cottage Living

  1. Diane says:

    I too loved Cottage Living! This little blue cottage is Fish Camp Cottage and one of the cottages I manage thru Mermaid Cottages. My very good friend Jane Coslick restored this cottage and I lived right next door in another restored jane cottage called Hemingway HOuse! My business is now managing mostly Jane Coslick cottage which were all “loved back to life”. I love your blog! I look forward to reading what you’re up to and sharing my own adventures. I finished late last year my most current project- Mermaid Manor which was an 80 year old home that was moved rather then be torn down. Southern Living just featured a brief story on this home and slip covers ( i also make it a practise to re use old junk store and yard sale furniture in my cottages) Look foward to staying in touch!

  2. cara says:

    hi Diane -so glad you found my blog! (how?) I’d love to hear more about Mermaid Manor – and see some pictures when you get a chance.
    How great that you have videos on your website – I’m impressed. Thanks for getting in touch!

  3. ErayB says:

    Love your blog! In case you need this word in the future ~

    “Ongepatshket” – Cluttered, disordered, scribbled, sloppy, muddled, overly-done
    (I was sure it started with a “U” so this was fun to research!)

    I think that “overly done” should be the first definition, but I’m not fluent in Yiddish, so we will have to bow to the expert:
    Michael D. Fein

  4. cara says:

    Yes, ‘ongepatschket’ is the word, and ‘overdone’ is the meaning I was going for. Thanks for clearing that up, Eray!

  5. Becky says:

    So try the magazine “Southern Living”. You’ll enjoy it!

  6. cara says:

    Good idea! I’m sure there must be a few nice old houses south of the Mason-Dixon line;-)

  7. Kathryn Sain says:

    I too mourn the loss of Cottage Living, they replaced it with Southern Living, and I must say will not renew. Doesn’t apply at all, plantings or style does not translate to my life in So Cali…. Sorry to see it go. Was happily awaiting each new issue of Cottage Living. Have now gotten couple issues of Southern Living, and barely read them. don’t have a cottage, but I tried to make my so cali baby bungalow cottage/beach-ish. All with the help of Cottage Living. Too bad.

  8. jane coslick says:

    Happened upon your site and the article about the sad demise of Cottage Living. My cottage, Fish Camp, was the one in the photo on your blog. I am a preservanist and have been saving great old places since 1980. The magazine started out great but not sure what happened there. It did however help me spread the word in several articles about my passion.
    I love the blog thing and plan on using it to also spread the word and encourage what I feel is a most rewarding endeavor. Thanks for your great insights.

  9. Roger D says:

    Sure would like to know where I could find a copy(new or used) of “Cottage Makeovers”
    It’s June,2010 and I’m a year and a half late to order from Cottage Living.

    Know anyone who has a copy?

  10. cara says:

    Roger D, they just reissued “Fresh Ideas” (for Cottage Living) — exact same magazine as last year, and similar to the makeovers one. It’s out there on the newsstands now.

  11. Hoyte Johnson says:

    Thank you for your comments regarding my column at Cottage Living. It was one of my favorite jobs and I dearly miss it. Let me tell you, I couldn’t believe that so many people sent in pictures of adorable cottages that only needed paint or siding or proper windows. Face it, you can only recomend the obvious so many times. After seeing hundreds of these, I began to suggest subtle (or so I thought) ideas that would enhance the cottage ideal, especially to the folks that didn’t really understand the nuance of craft and scale. I always tried to give the folks something to dream on. Thanks for your support of the column and of the magazine. Hopefully it will live again in another form or another place!

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