Cottage living: The pros and cons of a small footprint

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What could be more cozy and quaint than an adorable cottage that oozes charm? For those who want a simple, pared-down life, yet still wish to maintain their privacy, a petite home can be the perfect choice. “A cottage is a very, very appealing space, from the inside and the outside, and it is characterized specifically by being small and very charming,” says Jessica Shreeve of Eileen Green Realty in Bellport. Here are some Long Islanders who find the small spaces very livable.

Bellport

An exterior view of the cottage home of
(Credit: Daniel Brennan)

A resident of Bellport since 1973, Donna Sheehan decided to stay in the village when she separated from her partner a little more than a year ago. “I love Bellport,” says Sheehan, 65, who despite moving from a rambling four-bedroom Colonial felt she’d be comfortable in a 900-square-foot home.

Interior designer Donna Sheehan recently moved into this
(Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas)

With an eye to entertaining in her new home, Sheehan, an interior decorator, created a floor plan that would maximize the seating, which included adding a round dining table that fits the space perfectly and a bench tucked into a corner that could be used as needed.

Interior designer Donna Sheehan recently moved into this
(Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas)

For her new abode, Sheehan converted one of the two bedrooms into an office and brought in furniture that fit the smaller scale of the cottage. To achieve a light and lean look, she chose Roman shades for her window treatments.

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Interior designer Donna Sheehan recently moved into this
(Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas)

The cottage, Sheehan says, is incredibly manageable, both in terms of cost and maintenance. “I always say, ‘It’s like having a condo with a backyard,’ ” she says. “You kind of have the benefits of the simplicity of living in a small space, yet you have outdoor space. You don’t have a neighbor right on top of you.”

Brookhaven

The two-bedroom cottage of Larry and Kathy Leible
(Credit: Heather Walsh)

Two-and-a-half years ago, Kathy and Larry Leible of Brookhaven downsized from their 2,200-square-foot house to a 950-square-foot cottage. The Leibles, who spend their winters in Naples, Florida, moved just a couple of blocks away so they could remain in the hamlet they’ve called home for two decades. Despite the short distance, the move posed a few challenges.

Larry Leible, 70, and his wife Kathy Leible,
(Credit: Heather Walsh)

“We had to get rid of a lot of things, buy different furniture to fit,” says Kathy, 69, a former receptionist whose husband, 70, is retired from the post office. “It was a bit of a challenge. However, it’s much more economical. It’s really easy to take care of.”
 

Larry Leible, 70, pours a glass of wine,
(Credit: Heather Walsh)

The Leibles solve the problem of entertaining in a tight space by hosting most of their Long Island parties in summer, when they can take advantage of their deck and backyard. The house sits on a half acre.
 

Kathy Leible, 69, and her husband, Larry Leible,
(Credit: Heather Walsh)

They say they opted for a cottage, rather than a condo, because Kathy loves to garden and the couple felt they’d be more comfortable in their own home. “It’s a perfect size,” says Kathy.

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Sea Cliff

An exterior of a Sea Cliff cottage located
(Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan)

Moving to a home half the size of her former Glen Head house, Barbara Rodgers had to purge half her furniture to fit into her 918-square-foot Sea Cliff cottage. “But I kind of feel like paring down and having less is more — it makes life simpler,” says Rodgers, 49, who lives there with her two children, a daughter, 19, and a son, 15.

The living room of an Elm Place cottage
(Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan)

Entertaining is a lot more casual now and often done alfresco.
“I had a 40-foot dining room in the last house,” says Rodgers, manager of Cardiac Medical Education at Northwell Health. “I used it twice a year. It was like wasted space.”

Barbara Rodgers relaxes in the living room of
(Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan)

The family makes great use of the home’s outdoor space, from the front porch to the patio to the yard.

The kitchen of her Elm Place cottage in
(Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan)

Still, Rodgers admits that storing bulky items, like kayaks and bicycles, can present a challenge. The prior owners, however, equipped the home with space constraints in mind. “They were very good at having extra hooks on the back of the shed or extra closet space — even outside of the house,” she says. “This way, everything has a place. It just takes a lot more thinking.”

Roslyn

The exterior of Kristen Powers' historic Roslyn Eastman
(Credit: Steve Pfost)

Kristen Powers, 43, has made her home at Roslyn’s Henry W. Eastman Tenant Cottage since 2013. “I tend to like the quirky places,” says Powers, who last lived in a 600-square-foot converted barn in Huntington. Powers says she relished the additional space in her 900-plus-square-foot cottage.

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Kristen Powers' inside the livingroom space at her
(Credit: Steve Pfost)

To live small, you have to be pretty organized, notes Powers. “There’s very limited closet space, and there’s only really a crawl space for a basement, and there’s no garage or shed or anything, so I try to be organized,” says Powers, an internal auditor at Mitsubishi Bank of Tokyo. “It’s a challenge.”

The entryway and livingroom space inside Kristen Powers'
(Credit: Steve Pfost)

For its limited size, Powers’ home, which was once part of a three-cottage property, sits on a rather large parcel: about a third of an acre. Dating back to 1850, Powers’ cottage is now the only one of the three that’s left. Named for a Roslyn-born attorney, the Henry W. Eastman cottage’s original footprint was 600 square feet. The kitchen was added in 1898 and then a bedroom and bathroom in the 1940s. 

The dining room space inside Kristen Powers' historic
(Credit: Steve Pfost)

Though she didn’t notice at first, Powers realized the ceilings are a mere 7 1⁄2 feet tall. “It didn’t even occur to me until I tried to put up my lamp,” she says, adding that the windows, of normal size, seem large in relation to the ceilings.

Sag Harbor

Michael Butler gardens at his cottage located at
(Credit: Veronique Louis)

Artist Michael Butler grew up summering at one of his family’s seven cottages in Sag Harbor’s historic Eastville neighborhood. For 30 years now, has lived in one.
“It’s cute and cozy,” says Butler, 61, of the 1920 cottage.

Michael Butler's living room, in his small cottage,
(Credit: Veronique Louis)

At first, the 660-square-foot house was not quite big enough for Butler and his possessions. “I am a collector,” he says. “I have lots of books, lots of items, and trying to find space to display these things or to even store things, it’s tight.”

Michael Butler's enclosed front porch, in his small
(Credit: Veronique Louis)

For the past seven years, Butler has been expanding and improving his home — a painstaking process. To add a basement, for example, the house had to be lifted. Now, there’s an additional 340 square feet in the back of the house that will eventually comprise the kitchen, dining room and a second bathroom. Currently, the house has a tiny galley kitchen, a combined dining-living room, two bedrooms and one bathroom.

The back of Michael Butler's small cottage, under
(Credit: Veronique Louis)

To fit his many belongings, Butler has about a half-dozen bookcases and uses boxes to store the rest. And with space at a premium, his dining room table doubles as a workspace for his artwork. “It’s a labor of love,” he says of cottage living.

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