On a day when I oddly find myself rooting for both the Bears and the Packers, here’s your Sunday replay from a post I originally wrote last February.
Many years ago, I was describing a cottage that I had listed to a customer over the phone, when she stopped me in mid sentence with “so there’s no heat in the house?” I assured her that there was indeed heat, but in her lexicon”cottage” meant “heatless shack”. You know that I like the word cottage. Cottage. It just sounds nice. It sounds quaint, simple, relaxing. I like selling them, I like remodeling them, I like living in them. They’re great, but what exactly are they? What makes a cottage a cottage and a cabin a cabin? While we’re on it, why do people say soda instead of pop? Perhaps it’s all in the upbringing and your geography, but in my world, there’s no confusing a cottage for a cabin.
The Lake Home and Cabin Show was in Schaumburg last weekend and though I didn’t go, I’m guessing there were lots of log furniture dealers, perhaps some Amish, and lots of wood. Stained wood. Knotty wood. Wood. See, cabins should have wood. The wood shouldn’t be painted, and the sign over the front door that says “Welcome to the Lake” should be made out of pine, pine drenched in lacquer. Wood burning stoves are common in cabins, and so are lofts with those ladder like staircases with log rungs. Lacquered. Cabin’s can be by lakes, but they should always be in the woods. I’m going to my cabin in the woods. Cabins have front porches, but they’re covered and not screened. They’re open so you can see the neighbor folk driving down your dusty gravel driveway to bring you some firewood for your stove. Cabins have LP tanks outside and wells. Cabins are usually found north of Madison on lakes with Indian names. Pictures on the walls in cabins are by Thomas Kincaid, and the pictures usually have cabins in them. I don’t really like cabins.
Cottages on the other hand, I like. Cottages have wood too, but it’s painted. Cottages have signs that say “Welcome to the Lake”, but that sign will be painted, and it may or may not have a sailboat somewhere on or near the sign. Cottages have sleeping lofts, accessed by a staircase, wherein the cottage owners cram as many beds as possible so as to provide sleeping arrangements for as many children as possible. Fireplaces are common in cottages, but they’re usually brick or stone, and they burn wood for enjoyment and a little heat, not for heat and a little enjoyment. The porch is a staple of the cottage, and that porch may be screened or glassed. If it’s screened, it’s a (drum roll…) screened porch. If it’s glassed, it’s a sun porch. Regardless, the porch should have a wood floor, either painted or stained are both acceptable. If painted, white, porch gray, or blue is preferred. Cottages can be on a lake, near a lake, and they can also be in the woods, although the lake form is more appropriate and fitting. The pictures in cottages are usually of boats, lakes, fish, boats on lakes, boats with fish, fish in lakes, boats with sails, boats made out of wood. Stained, not painted. Unless the boat is a Lyman, then painted is preferred. Cottages shouldn’t have paintings by Thomas Kincaid in them. Cottages will have heat, perhaps gas forced air, but it could be a floor furnace, which if removed by the new owner, the hole left should be patched with the indigenous wood floor, and not patched in a manner that shouts to your every visitor, “there used to be a floor furnace here!” If paint peels off the wood in your cottage, don’t sweat it. It’s cool. Just revell in your peeling paint. Pottery Barn tries their darndest to get their paint to peel, and your paint is peeling naturally. Don’t fix it, cottages with peeling paint are cool.
What, you don’t own a cottage? Well you should. I have cottages in the Lake Geneva market priced from $100k all the way up to my lakefront cottage for $1.795MM. That cottage has hardwood floors, a fieldstone fireplace, a front porch, and pictures of boats on the walls. So whatever your cottage dream, chances are Lake Geneva has the pefect fit for you. It’s a cottage kind of town, and you should consider me your cottage Realtor. If you buy a cottage from me, I’ll buy you your very own “Welcome to the Lake” sign. Painted, not stained. With or without sailboats, your choice.