Building a New Cottage to Look Old
Reclaimed materials and exposed wall framing disguise a state-of-the-art structure.
Synopsis: A Nantucket builder describes how he used recycled lumber from a variety of sources, traditional detailing, and modern construction methods to build a comfortable but old-looking cottage that meets strict building codes.
Nantucket venerates its old buildings. Without them, this Massachusetts island would be a far more ordinary place. A prosperous whaling outpost in the years before the Civil War, Nantucket now does a booming tourist trade. Visitors pile off the ferry and amble along cobblestone streets where exquisitely proportioned clapboard and brick buildings house gift shops, galleries. and restaurants. They go to outlying villages and marvel at weather-beaten 18th-century cottages. Old is good.
Given the island’s stock of architecturally pristine buildings, I wasn’t surprised by the ideas that a friend and neighbor had for his new cottage. He owned a magnificent lot overlooking Sesachacha Pond and the ocean beyond near the village of Quidnet. His plan was to tear down an old fishing shack on the property and replace it with a modestly sized cottage. Although the cottage was to have the feel of a place that had existed for a long time, he said it was to be built with the finest methods and materials.
The owners, working with local architects Lisa Botticelli and Ray Pohl, had produced a design for a one-story, four-room structure that borrowed a number of elements from traditional cottage construction and detailing. Recycled building materials—on floors, in cabinets, and in interior doors—unmistakably said the cottage had been around for a while. New lumber and modern materials would help the cottage to meet current energy codes while making it snug, weathertight, and comfortable.
Exposed rough-sawn framing gives the building an informal feel
Older Nantucket cottages are usually simply built structures with exposed rough-sawn framing. In keeping with that theme,…