COCHECTON, NY

1875 Shaker-style farmhouse | 2,000 sq. ft. | 4 bedrooms | 2.5 baths

 

 

In the middle of the winter of 2000, Liz and Michael bought an old 1875 farmhouse in Sullivan County NY. It had been on the market for 3 years and was in distressed condition. Neighboring children even called it "the dare house" (I dare you to go up to it and look inside the window). When they took Michael's parents up to the house for the first time, Michael's dad took Liz aside and asked "Why did you let him do this to you?"

 

Although the building was an eyesore, it was structurally sound. It had not been "remuddled," which is what happens when the original integrity of a building has been aesthetically compromised with bad renovation decisions and executions. It simply needed a little TLC.

 

OK, maybe more than a little.

 

THE CHALLENGE

 

On the minus side —

  • The roof had ugly asphalt shingles and was leaking

  • The siding was a strange type of masonite that didn't hold paint very well

  • The only bathroom was in the kitchen

  • The boiler did not work

  • There was a hole in the kitchen floor in front of the sink

  • There were old, rusted autos scattered around the 7 acre property

  • There was no insulation

  • The wiring was so old that it had cloth insulation

  • The rear chimney was crumbling

  • Bats lived in the attic

 

On the plus side —

  • The building was square: that is, it had not sagged in any one corner or direction

  • All the original windows were intact, complete with wavy window glass

  • The original clapboard was underneath the masonite, largely intact and in good condition. This was a concern: replacing all the clapboard would have busted their budget

  • As mentioned above, it had not been "remuddled": this had the additional practical benefit of not having to tear out that much more during the demolition process

  • The pictures below show the property as it was when we bought it

GALLERY:

BEFORE RESTORATION

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770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
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770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
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770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton

Liz and Michael set about bringing this property back to life:

 

First, they worked on the curb appeal: they cleaned up the debris on the 7 acres, removed the ugly siding, repaired and painted the clapboard, and installed a new roof.

 

They hired an architect who had knowledge of and experience with accurately restoring historical features of old farmhouses in the local area and whose designs had a fresh clean feel. 

 

Then they began gutting the interior, right down to the 2 x 4s and the floors. They wanted the building to exceed energy conservation standards, so this required thickening (furring out) as well as insulating the exterior walls, which had no insulation at all.

 

They researched windows and learned that while older windows are major thermal bridges, they can be as energy efficient as modern ones and less expensive when restored properly. So they carefully removed the old windows, stripped off the old paint, straightened and re-installed them. Storm windows that were consistent with the look of the home were added to enhance energy efficiency.

 

Though Liz and Michael considered themselves environmentally aware at the time, these changes were made more out of a concern for simply saving on heating and cooling bills than about embodied energy, carbon footprints and climate change.

 

Reconstruction of the interior came next. It was critical for Liz and Michael that as they renovated, they restored without "remuddling". The goal was to incorporate modern features in a way that blended in with the historic features of the original construction. By simplifying and refraining from introducing inappropriate features for the sake of convenience or out of a misguided design sensibility, the authentic dignity of the home was brought back to life.

 

Additional work included:

  • Sanding the floors and coating them with 5 layers of thinned-out wood stain

  • Replacing all plumbing and heating

  • Replacing most of the baseboard heating with hot water radiators

  • Tearing down the exterior mudroom and adding an extension to the kitchen, increasing its size by 50%

  • Restoring all baseboard and trim moulding in a simple, Quaker style and painting it white to give it a bright, fresh look

  • Painting the walls in muted, light colors

  • Adding windows to the bedroom that matched the scale and proportions of the others

  • Converting a second floor bedroom into a master bath and bath. The bath was covered with white subway tiles and the master bath was wainscotted. Period appropriate sinks were installed in all baths and the kitchen as well

  • shopping around for some good deals on a period appropriate sink and claw foot tub at local yard sales

  • Restoring the surviving original old doors, knobs and latches

  • Installing a wood stove in the living room

  • Building custom shelving and cabinets for the kitchen and painting them with milk paint

The gallery below will walk you through some of the steps in the renovation on this project.

GALLERY:

RESTORATION PROCESS

EXTERIOR

click to enlarge

770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
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770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton
770 County Road 114, Cochecton

INTERIOR

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Though a project like this is never truly done, by the winter of 2003 it had reached a stage where Liz and Michael could sit back and spend more time enjoying the place than working on it.

 

During the summer, Michael and Liz never needed an air conditioner, although the cold winters proved that they were not as successful at reducing heating fuel costs as they had hoped. Even so, heating costs were still held to a reasonable level given the climate zone.

 

They ended up with a home that felt light, clean and airy. Period fixtures and furnishings that they bought at local flea markets and antique shops gave the home authenticity. The gallery below will show you the finished result. The total cost of acquisition and restoration was $170K, a full 31% below its appraised value.

 

Finally, Michael and Liz learned that bats were a good thing. For starters, bat poop (called guano) makes for the best garden fertilizer there is. It is 10% nitrogen, 3% phosphorus and 1% potassium. Nitrogen promotes rapid green growth; phosphorus promotes root growth and supports flowering, while potassium helps plants grow strong stems.

 

But Liz and Michael still didn't want the bats in the attic. So after the windows and the roof were repaired, they put a special "door" in one of the windows so that the bats could check out but they couldn't check in: sort of the opposite of a Roach Hotel. Near the garage, they hung a bat house. And then Liz, Michael and the bats led a happy co-existence.

 

BAT HOUSE

LIZ & MICHAEL'S HOUSE

GALLERY:

COMPLETED RESTORATION

click to enlarge

 

Cochecton farmhouse
Cochecton farmhouse
Front porch in the late afternoon
Cochecton farmhouse
Cochecton farmhouse
View of farm in the distance
Farmhouse at night
Cochecton entrance
Cochecton: attic window
Central stairway
Central hall
Cochecton Kitchen
Cochecton kitchen
Cochecton kitchen
Cochecton Kitchen
Cochecton Kitchen
Cochecton kitchen
Kitchen hutch
wooden bench
Cochecton Kitchen
Kitchen dining set
Cochecton Dining
Cochecton Living
Cochecton
Bedroom
Hoosier
Cochecton living room
Cochecton bath
Cochecton bath
Cochecton
Cochecton
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Cochecton bath
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Cochecton
Cochecton center hall, upstairs
Cochecton master bedroom
Cochecton north west bedroom
Cochecton
Cochecton
Cochecton
Cochecton

With most of the restoration was completed, all that remained was to determine how close Michael and Liz had come to matching the spirit of how the home looked 100 years earlier.

 

One Sunday afternoon, as we were putting the finishing touches on staining the floors and painting the window trim, these wonderful photographs from the early 1900s magically arrived at our front door. Michael will talk about the fascinating story behind these pictures in a future blog post.

In 2012, Michael and Liz put the farmhouse for sale. It sold it quickly, within eight days, to an architect and her husband, in an area and at a time when almost no other properties were selling and with no comparables, for 58% more than our acquistion and construction costs. From this we learned that maybe we were on to something.