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.

Before

Before

After

After

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.

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