Cosy in the Woods

Cozy in the Woods

When our (twin) sons were very small, one of the stories they loved hearing was contained in a chunky little book called Cozy in the Woods. The would ask for it often as they began to speak (“Cosies . . . woods!”), and given that it is illustrated by one of my favorite artists, I was more than happy to read this endearing story to them again and again. Now, as we continue to settle in at Acorn Lodge, I find I hear the echo of their small, sweet voices in my head regularly (“Cosies . . . woods!”), and especially as we finally begin to unpack our books, we are indeed feeling cosy in the woods!

We own thousands of books, and many of them have been squirreled away in long-term storage for more than two years now, since we could not accommodate them all in our San Francisco home. The bookcases that line the two long walls in the Great Room here have, at long last, been built into place over the last few weeks, and so we have begun the task of lugging box after box of books into the house and unpacking. Some of the books are as yet unread, treats (one hopes!) for future dates, but we are delighted to commune with the others once again as old friends.

We have been fortunate to have our fair share of visitors at Acorn Lodge since we moved in a few months ago. There is joy in the warmth of friendship, in the exchange of stories, in sharing this space with them — an undisputed cosiness generated by their company for which we are grateful. We find many of the same charms in our books: because of the possibility they represent to explore the unknown, to suggest new ideas, and to offer fresh ways of looking at the world, books are friends to our need to create meaning. We were determined from the outset to provide adequate space for our books in our new home. For us, there is no ‘home’ without books, and we are gratified to cosy up Acorn Lodge with their treasured presence.

The first volumes that were unpacked comprise our collection of children’s literature, one that is not inconsiderable. I believe that the most important means of nurturing children (aside, of course, from providing for health and safety) is simply to read to them. Many years ago, I was asked by the Director at our children’s nursery school to share my love and knowledge of children’s books with the other parents at school, so I created an annotated list of the books which were our children’s favorites. The list was added to in the years that followed, after I had joined the staff at the nursery school, and I offer it up here in case anyone is looking for a good book with which to cosy up to the child(ren) in his or her life.

Kelly’s Picks (PDF)

With our library at the ready, full of volumes to suit everyone from the youngest to the most ‘mature’ among us, we feel truly blessed and unequivocally at home. The leaves are falling now from the trees outside the Great Room windows, but with books to hand and a fire to sit beside, how could we be anything but cosy in the woods?!?

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

— Cicero

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A Plan

The Footprint

The home that is now finally beginning to take shape — on paper at least — is one that I began planning 12 or so years ago. Back then we were living in our first Palo Alto house. We were a few years out after the last of a series of remodels which had seen the house being cedar-shingled and otherwise ‘charmed up’ as well as we could. We had three fireplaces, lots of built-ins, and a big (English) farmhouse-style kitchen by the time we’d finished, but at the end of the day, that house was a central hallway (70 foot-long hallway!) ranch, and, at 3,400 square feet, it felt about 700 square feet too big for me.

We began, casually at least, to think about moving on. One day I stopped in at a real estate Open House on my way home from the market. The absolutely delightful shingled cottage that was on offer boasted a floor plan that contained not one hallway — and I fell in love with the idea. Alas, at a sum total of 1,200 square feet the house was nowhere near big enough for our family of five, but I committed a sketch of the floor plan to paper so that I could hold on tightly to this notion that so appealed to me.

Months later, on the way home from yet another trip to the market, I stopped in to look at the house that we did buy and move into — a 1906 brown-shingle that also contained not one hallway! With its big kitchen, (mostly) original windows and mouldings, and high ceilings, this 2,600 square foot house was just about right in every way for us, and we relished the time we lived there. Once we had made the decision to leave it, I began to document and record the details of the house that we especially valued, the dimensions, finishes, and architectural particulars that made the house the charmer that it was.

Based on the floor plan of the wonderful-but-too-small cottage, with dimensions swelled in order to accommodate our needs and with close attention to details of construction that will make the house seem older-than-brand-new, Acorn Lodge is taking shape wonderfully under the stewardship of our talented team of architects at Farrell-Faber Associates (full disclosure: Kevin Farrell is my cousin). Taking my cue from Arts & Craft ideals that assign a social purpose, as well as a decorative one, to the production of goods, we are trying as often as possible to use local talent for the project: from our architects to the construction crew to the craftspeople we will call on board, Acorn Lodge will be a home-grown product that reflects and celebrates Northern California¬† — with our Anglophile overlay, of course!

The interesting thing I noticed as we hunted for just the right piece of property was the way the details of the house changed for me, in subtle ways, based on differences in the properties themselves (total acreage, topography, etc.). I found myself flipping the orientation of the floor plan based on compass points; changing my ideas about how the house would be clad (siding vs. stone vs. shingle); considering completely different exterior color schemes. It’s one thing to have a firm idea of what one wants — certainly the design process is somewhat streamlined when the time comes to put ideas to paper. But then again, rigidity does not serve the process well: it’s been fun to be able to consider others’ suggestions, weighing them to see how well those new possibilities fit into the overall scheme or perhaps prove to spark new lines of thought. I believe that the creative urge is sometimes elusive, that artistry can’t be forced, and I’ve learned to recognize that “aha!” feeling that the ‘just right’ idea brings — patience is its own reward in allowing the process to evolve organically so that the integrity of the project is not merely maintained, but actually enhanced. I can hardly wait to break ground, but wait I will, of course: I believe to my core that everything will unfold as it’s meant to.

Always have a plan, but never plan on your plans.