3. The North Wing

Sketch I did for the original concept of the library that occupies the space of the original c.1820 kitchen

Sketch I did for the original concept of the library that occupies the space of the original c.1820 kitchen

The Federal house is arguably the most copied style of house in the United States.   Today you can find endless variations that have been built throughout the two centuries since around the country.  Federal architecture held prominence from roughly 1780-1830.  The architecture of this time is represented in buildings using Georgian form, simplified, smoother surfaces with more restrained detail and nods to ancient Roman architecture.  Common of these structures was a wing or “ell” that would project off the rear of the house.  The functions of the household such as the kitchen, storage spaces and rooms for the help in wealthier homes were generally located in these additions.  Cool Hollow was one such house where the owners were wealthy enough to have help, more on this history later.  Our house has a more rare plan where the “ell” wing is visible from the front, this is mainly due to the fact that the home is built on sloping ground, but also its prominence from the road was greater enhanced with this wing built as such.  The original kitchen was in this wing as evidence by the massive service fireplace and original cranes in place that would hold the cookware over the fire.  A set of winding enclosed stairs leads from this large room to an upper bed chamber where no doubt the house workers lived.  Coming back to the present, both of us and our families are readers, and collectors of rare books.  We wanted a space where we could sit in a leather armchair, have a fire and a glass of wine, enjoy some music, read a book, and have conversations or entertain small groups of people in a more relaxed setting than the salon. 

Original 1820's Kitchen(had been used as a den) before renovations. 2015

sketches and plans we made before construction. 2015

Work started in earnest, soon however we came to worry, while the crew worked long days, not enough progress was being made, and the crew was smaller than we had expected and had been promised.  As September rolled into October we were hopelessly behind, and numerous setbacks with the crew left us in a position where the party which included live entertainment, catered lunch and dinner, a dj, tent with dance floor, etc., would have to go on with an unfinished project.  To add insult to injury the carpet that had been put in just months earlier as required flooring by the bank had paint spilled on it from the workers, and was ruined.  The party came and went, and so did Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  While we did end up with a lovely end result, much more hand holding was required and concessions on the final price was made by the contractor to make up for the huge inconvenience and severe schedule delays.   My best advice to all of you that are beginning a major renovation.  Get multiple bids for projects, even small ones.  Interview them, ask for references, and examples of their work.  The lowest bidder is not always the best choice.  Best value is achieved by the price, quality, and good reputation when choosing a potential contractor.  For the furniture in this room, we chose a mixture of period Hepplewhite American furniture that dates to the late 18th and early 19th century, period oil portraits, and an 18th century Chippendale sofa that we purchased at an estate sale for $8 and had reupholstered.  If you think that buying all of this stuff must have cost a fortune, I have some good news.  Most of the things in our home are purchased at auction, or estate sales, and are bought for very, very reasonable prices.  One special piece in this room, the fine period chandelier came from a Middleburg, Va mansion sale, and is in the Empire style with fine detailing, and crystal prisms.  

The library as it appears today.

*Note: recently we purchased on eBay a couple of rolls of vintage Schumacher black grass cloth wallpaper lightly printed with a red chinoiserie pattern for the walls above the chair rail.  The pictures you see are as it appears now.

My next post will be moving on to the winter of 2015-16 and discussing the improvements that we made to the grounds while the colder months allowed us to work outside more comfortably.