All-in-one: Making the most of minimal

ADDRESS: 105 Perry Street


ASKING: $319,000



SIZE: 1,013 finished square feet

LAND: .23 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10

LISTED BY: Loring Woodriff of McLean Faulconer, Inc., 295-1131

I've always been a fan of Swiss Army knives– since long before Leatherman put an American twist on the concept– mainly because they pack so much utility into such a small package. This house is a 1950s version of the traditional folk cottage brought to the colonies from Europe, and the current owners have maximized the utility of this small package with modernist updates.

This modest single-story, side-gabled cottage has only six rooms– two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and one full bath. But the owners have made it feel spacious and comfortable for two adults and two small children by using good design sense.

The vertical beadboard paneling of the living room/dining room– which probably started off as dark knotty pine– has been painted white, and that, combined with light colors everywhere else, contributes to the feeling of spaciousness. Even the dark-stained pine floors– a nice contrast to the white walls in most of the rooms– are painted white in one bedroom.

The traditional double-hung six-over-six windows have no window dressings, maximizing the natural light streaming into the house, adding to the sense of spaciousness, and improving cross ventilation.

The house has only three small closets – one in each bedroom and one for linens, all with built-in shelves and drawers. But the floored attic running the full length of the pitched roof, with about five feet of headroom in the middle, provides plenty of storage space. Sturdy built-in stairs on the pull-down hatch entrance. and good lighting are also plusses.

A corner of the full-height basement contains the utilities: water heater, furnace, washer and dryer, central-AC air handler, small workbench area, and fuse panel. Though most of the appliances and mechanical systems are reasonably new, the electrical system was antiquated when it was installed in 1950, and, along with a tired air conditioner compressor just outside, it would benefit from replacement.

The small three-columned entry porch opens onto the living room/dining room/kitchen area. Space maximizing and good design continue here. The blond-wood countertop serves as a color divider between the black cabinets below and the white cabinets and walls above, with a backsplash of white and black tiles. These colors are complemented by the stainless steel refrigerator, commercial range, and dishwasher.

Adding to the charm of the kitchen is a large window above the sink illuminated by a low-voltage halogen light. Pans hang directly from the one section of wall with no cabinets. A section of glass-front upper cabinets with a dark wood finish looks tacked up after the fact, incompatible with the other kitchen finishes. New owners might want to replace them with white cabinets to match the rest of the kitchen.

The bathroom also makes use of white and black tiles– this time complemented by a red wall– but two antique-style wall sconces on either side of the modern stainless steel-edged vanity mirror don't quite click with the rest of the aesthetic.

One of the two bedrooms has a cool custom paint job– widely spaced vertical stripes in varying shades of light greens and blues over a white background. This is the room (along with the adjoining small hall) with the white floor. As with most things in the house, this unexpected element works well.

The steep lot has two retaining walls, one in front of the house and one behind it, and the slope is not conducive to a grass yard. Instead, the lot is attractively landscaped with shrubs, bushes, ornamental grasses, flowers, vines, and several exotic trees, including a Norway spruce and a Japanese maple. A weathered and crooked old arborvitae, only three feet tall, grows right next to the front steps.

A small shed behind the house provides some additional storage and workspace, but the wooden landings and steps leading to the shed have fallen into disrepair and need a major rebuild. A spacious concrete back patio has been surfaced with faux stone, and ivy is beginning to trail on the retaining wall and the small pergola, creating an inviting setting for al fresco soirees in nice weather.

The house is well situated within walking distance of the Downtown Mall, and from inside only mild traffic noise from McIntire Road is audible. The design decisions of the current owners have truly made this a Leatherman of a cottage.