Cozy cottage lets the light in
Rexanne Stafford isn’t planning on retirement just yet, but she did plan, and build, her own home for when that time comes. The 62-year-old mother and grandmother recently moved into her new two-story, cottage-inspired home at the top of Gjoa Street.
Stafford wanted a home that would not only suit her needs now, but would also not need to be modified as she gets older. “What I did not want was a large house. And I really did not want to build a house, when I first decided to downsize ... but all the small houses were 50 years old. I did not want an old house,” she said.
She purchased the property a couple of years ago and had worked on the plans for quite some time. The first house she designed was an L-shape rambler, she said. But that would have meant taking out many of the trees on the lot.
The home took several months to build and she moved in last fall. Stafford was there every step of the way -- choosing materials, kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures.
Stafford wanted to add a lot of her own personality into the house, but she wanted the house to fit the lot as well. The main considerations to the design were to maximize the lot, keep the trees, but also be able to enjoy the view. “I started out kind of wanting it 'cabiny,' and it ended up being more 'cottagey,'” she said of the 1,500-square-foot overall design.
The exterior of the house is surrounded by a deck. The siding is cedar and accented with Park Bench Green-painted frames around the windows and doors. “I wanted a deck all the way around the house for the ease of washing windows,” Stafford said.
Entering the front door, you’re greeted by a staircase directly ahead and a cozy living room to the left. Each area of the downstairs opens to each other in a natural flow.
The dining area and kitchen are comfortable and able to handle several guests. The downstairs bathroom features a tall walk-in bathtub that was a “big expense,” she said. It takes awhile to fill-up, but drains in seconds, and it has jets, Stafford added.
Considerable thought was put into the placement of the bedroom, to make it only a few steps from the kitchen, bathroom, living room and garage. With living quarters on the main floor, Stafford won’t need to hike up and down the staircase every day. “When you build a house at 62, 20 years can go by really fast,” she said.
Energy efficiency was also a priority while designing the home. Infrared heaters are mounted above the windows to keep all the objects in the room warm. Much of the downstairs features cork tile flooring, which naturally stays warm. The rooms with tile come with in-floor heating.
The roof has a vapor barrier, but the walls breathe. The house received a 4-plus Energy Star rating.
“I really wanted to get the electric heaters off the floor, so I could put the furniture against the walls ... It’s all very efficient,” she said.
Building a house on the muskeg meant added unique challenges. The foundation of the house also took much consideration. Outside, there is a culvert under the house along with gravel fill to maximize drainage. “It was a little challenging in the fact that I didn’t want to put skirting around [the house], because it was uneven. So, I just built it up and, brought the gravel up to the [base of the house],” she said.
The second floor provides convenient accommodations for overnight guests. It also offers a terrific view through the windows and a skylight in the pitched roof. The stairway is lined in pine to give it more of a 'cabin' feel. Upstairs is a mixed-use room, storage room, another bathroom and a den area with skylights to let the light in. She also had a shelf built just to showcase a wolverine, one of her belated husband’s hunting trophies. She also has extra closet space for storage.
Stafford saved a little bit of money in the guest bathroom by installing a stand-up shower. A bonus to the upstairs is the room over the garage, which was originally going to be used for cold storage. But the contractors finished it in such a way that it was able to be insulated and turned into an extra room. “I just love it. It’s just perfect. I don’t need to come upstairs, but I can if I want to. And it’s a nice place for guests.”