Keys to a cottage
How two artists saw promise in a home unloved and a yard neglected
• By Rebecca Long Pyper •
IT TOOK VISION FOR SHELLEY CUTLER to see the potential in the garden cottage she shares with husband Phil Jenkins in Pocatello.
With 17 goldenchain trees dripping ochre-colored flowers in June and potted geraniums blooming on the porch through October, this house is the quintessential cottage — small and thoughtful, deliberate and transcendental.
It didn’t always look that way.
When Cutler bought the place, she was sold on deep yard, where she knew her green-thumbed husband would flourish. The quaint size and original features were fun too, but the place was a disaster — so much so that she scooped up the house for a cool $27,000.
The good news about price didn’t equal a wholly happy renovation. The property had been a mechanic’s yard — the space out back was nothing but oil, Cutler said. The house was ramshackle, but the yard had promise and was a good size for Jenkins to work his magic, and that was a must.
Since then the couple has stripped their cottage, exposing wood on the kitchen cabinets that reach to the ceiling and embracing the well-worn countertops. Tearing up two layers of kitchen linoleum and carpet elsewhere revealed hardwood, and walls got a coat of white primer — that’s it.
What is now a light-filled shop was once a shell of a garage. Jenkins hung cast-off windows along the exterior wall to invite sunshine in and placed thrown-away cabinets from Idaho State University below to conceal homemade pottery glazes. The garage door was yanked and replaced with French doors, and shelves were hung for displaying their vibrant handmade pottery, make the space great as a gallery.
Whatever the house lacks in square footage is made up for in character and innovation. Their home, though sparse on furniture, is furnished with antiques. And collections are the décor of choice, with groupings of old suitcases, birds’ nests and dress forms begging to share stories. If you’ve got time, Cutler will tell them.
The primitive finishes allow the vintage furnishings to really sing the way only antiques can. And Cutler’s obvious affection for items like dolls, fibers, craft books and pillows means she’s gotten lots of gifts from likeminded friends.
“When people find out you like (certain) things, they’ll give you things — sometimes too many things,” Cutler said.
Jenkins, who is an English gentleman, was a natural for nurturing a yard-sized garden. “He planted everything in this yard — everything,” Cutler said. “Every year it’s like, ‘Can I plant one more?’” Now she’s in on the action too, tending the geraniums that make a cottage impression out front and filling the bully barn out back with her collection of cruisers in charming colors and with names like Ugly Betty.
For years the couple has had their home paid off. They’ve still got projects ahead — their kitchen will get a facelift and an apron sink within a year — but for now this cottage has their personalities personified.