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Spring Street Cottage in St. Helena, California


Spring Street Cottage in St. Helena, California

April 16, 2012

My friend Carolyn Leonhardt (a former graphic designer) has spent the last few years "rescuing houses," as she says.

In this case, she rescued a tiny, dilapidated 1920 gunshot cottage in the Napa Valley, stripping it down to the studs to create a contemporary rustic cottage. "In California, life today takes place in the backyard," Carolyn says. "But these old houses are oriented toward the front, with the street as their focus." To bring the cottage into the 21st century, she deftly flipped the structure's orientation, moving the living area to the back and placing the bedrooms toward the front of the house.

Photography by Douglas Sterling.

700 spring street front 2

Above: The front yard consists of low-maintenance crushed gravel; the window frames are wood, with exteriors clad in steel. "I like the experience of walking into a house and the rhythm of entering a space," Carolyn says.

700 spring stret hallway

Above: One of Carolyn's many challenges was how to create an entryway. Her solution: to turn the front hallway into a gallery with two long ledges to display art and other objects.

700 spring street corridor

Above: The kitchen was designed with maximum flexibility in mind.

700 spring street kitchen 1

Above: The kitchen counters are honed black granite with a textured leather finish.

700 spring street 11

Above: Carolyn created a wall of white-painted pine cupboards on either side of the refrigerator; the widely spaced slats allow for ventilation (and make it possible to tuck a microwave within).

Spring Street Cottage in St Helena California portrait 8

Above: The island on casters can be easily repositioned; the shelf beneath is made of hog wire.

700 spring street lighting

Above: A row of Brightwood Classic Pendants with Opal Flat Glass Reflector Shades from Rejuvenation Hardware provides illumination in the kitchen.

700 spring street 8

Above: Carolyn preserved the original fir plank floors (much more durable than pine, which is typically found in houses of the period). She stripped the wood surfaces and treated them with iron sulphate, a chemical process (as opposed to a stain) that creates a variegated surface. A galvanized pipe mounted on the wall provides a venue for displaying art.

700 spring street floor detail

Above: Carolyn added zinc patches to the floor in areas where there was damage.

700 spring street 5

Above: In the master bedroom, Carolyn wanted to recreate the feel of an old summerhouse; a row of windows floods the room with sunlight.

700 spring street bath 2

Above: In the bathroom, Carolyn has repurposed shutters as cabinet doors, a custom-built vanity with black granite countertop, and storage shelves made of hog wire beneath the sink.

700 spring street house ext

Above: At the rear of the house, French doors open onto the backyard; the small deck is built around an existing mulberry tree.

700 spring street backhouse

Above: Across the back yard from the house is a garage (to the right ) and a small guest unit with an en suite bathroom. The standing-seam metal roof is a reference to California's farm buildings of the past.

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