6. Outdoor Living

Cool Hollow House offers a wide range of places to relax and entertain.   Naturally for the most part we entertain indoors most of the winter months.  However once the better weather breaks, we start preparing to be outside as much as possible.  When we bought the house there was a badly warped and rotting brick and wooden patio on the back of the house at ground level.  Four plus decades had badly deteriorated it, requiring it to be addressed, and ultimately removed.  There is also a concrete patio next to the stone spring house over the root cellar, and of course the “River House” that has been mentioned previously. 

The last blog mentioned the deck that had been put on during the kitchen renovation, and when we moved the door that had been cut in to the side of the house in the 1950s.  As you might have noticed by now, the house is of good size, and figuring out a way to create a good flow and traffic pattern with the new deck, keeping it historically appropriate, and keeping it within budget was a challenge.  As a housewarming gift, we were surprised with a 5 person Hot Spring salt water hot tub.  The tub was delivered in March 2016, and a platform was built to rest it on as the deck was being designed. 

The hot tub was to be sunken, creating clean, sleek view of the creek.  A simple rectangle was the final design with 2 staircases leading off of it, one recessed as to not impede the look of the house from the drive, and the other led down to the concrete patio.  The old brick patio and railroad ties were removed and the new deck was put in its place, however elevated off the ground to meet the first floor (remember the house is built on a slope).  We chose to use vinyl railing, skirting, and decking manufactured by Trex.  While this did change the budget we felt that the life of the product would pay off in the end.  We designed a series of low voltage lights in the railings, and on the risers of the stairs.  This would help people see better in the evenings when we entertain.  Retrospectively the railing material is less substantial than we would prefer, and design options were limited.  However the overall look is a success, and the custom skirt adds a vintage touch, so it’s a toss-up whether we would go that route again.   A custom hidden trap door was designed to cover the bulkhead so easy access to the basement was still an option. 

The “River House” is one of the most special structures on the property, and our favorite (after the house).  A sign from an era past had it labeled above the door as the “slave quarters”.  While Cool Hollow was the farm of very wealthy people, they in fact did not believe in slavery and never had any (to our great happiness).  The structure was in fact a stone forge, c.1780-1800, used for making metal products.  The fireplace and low slung windows made this an easy identifier for one historical trust member that visited the property, and with a little digging it was confirmed.   In the 1960s a terrible microburst knocked a huge tree on the structure, destroying the roof.  The owners at the time embraced the damage, and made it into an outdoor living area, as it remains today.  We use this structure very often.  During a large party we threw during the first fall, the interior of the chimney in the forge collapsed (luckily the last guests had just left when this happened and no one was hurt). 

We had to hire masons to rebuild the smoke shelf, and had them re-point some of the areas that needed the most attention.   Plans to enhance this space are in the works, and once that starts, I will dedicate another post to the “River House” specifically.