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home design real estate

The Backyard Issue SUMMER 2021







Burlington’s hidden “1/2 homes”

Good Grocery’s guide to grilling

Putting the “chic” in chicken coops

An ode to backyard relaxation

In Underhill, a flower farm blooms

All about accessory dwelling units

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10 It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy … or at least a lot easier now that Vermonters have nearly beat back the coronavirus, masks are off and hugging is OK again. Also, sunshine. Some of us are finally scheduling trips to visit long-unseen relatives or vacation in some exotic locale. But often the best place to be in the summer is our own backyards. Hence the theme of this issue, which considers these sanctuaries from a variety of angles. Read on for a rhapsodic paean to the “Outdoor House” and grilling tips from a master chef. Learn how an avid gardener turned her backyard blossoms into a business, and how a couple of Burlington residents have navigated the new regs on ADUs — that is, accessory dwelling units. Check out some fine and funky chicken coops, and enjoy the voyeuristic discovery of “hidden” homes in, yes, other people’s backyards.

Hidden Homes .......................... 6 The 1/2s and 1/2-nots BY PAUL A R O U T LY


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home design real estate


18 The Backyard Issue SUMMER 2021






6 Burlington’s hidden “1/2 homes”

Good Grocery’s guide to grilling

Putting the “chic” in chicken coops

An ode to backyard relaxation

In Underhill, a flower farm blooms

All about accessory dwelling units

54” Orb LED

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ON THE COVER Michelle Fongemie’s backyard chicken coop in Hinesburg PHOTO BY BEAR CIERI

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32 Pitkin Street

Hidden Homes

The 1/2s and the 1/2-nots B Y PAU L A R O U T LY paula@sevendaysvt.com


If you didn’t know it was there, you’d most likely miss the little house at 32 Peru Street. Ditto the diminutive dwellings at 31 North Union, 79 Lakeview and 52 Ward in Burlington’s Old North End. All are sandwiched between or tucked behind larger, more imposing properties in the Queen City’s most diverse and densely populated neighborhood.

84 North Champlain Street



Not only are these hidden homes adorable, but they typically go unnoticed by all but the most observant pedestrian — and, of course, anyone delivering packages or the U.S. mail. I’ve been intrigued by Burlington’s tiniest abodes since I moved here, carless, almost 40 years ago. By the time I got my first wheels, at 28, I’d had four different addresses in the ONE and racked up countless miles — on foot — between Manhattan Drive, North Avenue, and Pearl and North Willard streets. Now living on Lakeview Terrace, I seek out my old haunts for an intimate look at the city’s starkest contrasts: a house overflowing with unruly students beside a place with perfect peonies and an American flag.


204 1/2 North Avenue from above




31 North Union Street


32 Peru Street


You see all manner of humanity and lifestyles in Burlington’s ONE. And the slower you stroll, the more you observe, whether it’s backyard businesses, awardwinning gardens, Little Free Libraries or a garage full of vintage Volkswagen Beetles. I like to see where people live — the funkier, the better. Behind a classic Victorian, you might find a multiunit, two-story apartment building that looks like a converted motel. Many singlefamily structures have been carved up into apartments; others have been added to — artfully or not. My soft spot is for the freestanding structures with a separate address — preferably with a 1/2 added — that are hard to see from the road. For example, the three-bedroom house at 44 Pitkin Street partially hides another dwelling almost as large, 42, on the same lot. Both were constructed in 1899, according to the City of Burlington’s property database. The modest house at 37 Crowley Street, at the end of a long dirt lane, looks like something out of rural England. Nearby, the owners of 204 1/2 North Avenue park their cars in a neighbor’s driveway and walk to their cozy, off-road home. They are surrounded on all sides by other properties — and, not surprisingly, by a sturdy fence. Good neighbors are essential in such tight quarters. One came out of her home to ask why I was studying 39 Blodgett Street, which looks to be powered by a solar array more than twice the size of the house. Another asked a similar question as I walked up the driveway to 31 North Union Street, a miniature cape with an octagonal front window. Once informed of my “project,” she went from suspicious to cooperative. Almost everyone I encountered directed me to another tiny “second home” candidate. I found the largest concentrations on Pitkin and Peru streets. Wondering if there might be an easier way to locate such dwellings, I made inquiries. “There’s not a single map that would show these by themselves that I can think of,” Burlington planning director David White replied in an email. In addition to the city’s searchable property database, he pointed me to Google Maps and the Vermont Interactive Map Viewer, which “allows you to see these buildings in relation to parcel lines to confirm that it is indeed a second building on a lot.” Frankly, though, I found that walking and looking is a lot more fun. A little “street sleuthing,” as White dubbed it, goes a long way. m



Hot Tips Good Grocery’s Henry Long on getting the most out of your grill BY J O R D AN BAR RY • jbarry@sevendaysvt.com

The smell of woodsmoke wafting from a backyard is one of the surest signs of summer. Whether you’re throwing an elaborate bash or just cooking up dogs and burgers for the fam, the first step is usually buying a bag of charcoal and dusting off the grill. PHOTOS: JAMES BUCK

Henry Long and his Big Green Egg grill at a Good Grocery pop-up at Burlington’s Bayberry Commons




Grilling is a big part of Good Grocery, Henry Long’s Burlingtonbased provisions and prepared foods business, which launched in January. In fact, char might be the most common ingredient in his cooking. Long now hosts pop-ups every week or so at Bayberry Commons in Burlington, cooking local meats and vegetables on a Big Green Egg — the envy of many casual backyard grillers. Long, 23, is a Georgia, Vt., native who started cooking on the grill at Winooski’s Waterworks Food + Drink when he was 16 years old. He later graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and was attending business school when he decided to return to Vermont at the beginning of the pandemic. He wanted to be with family and do what he loves most: cook. The name Good Grocery comes from a common phrase among Long’s friend group. “When you’re eating something really good, and your mouth’s full, you say, ‘Oh, that’s good grocery,’” he explained. Long has taken the phrase as inspiration to find the best ingredients around, rather than stick to any specific flavor profile or type of cuisine. Good Grocery’s takeout-style menu has featured items such as dumplings made with Pigasus Meats’ pork and Funj. Shrooming’s mushrooms; charred local vegetable bowls with green tahini dressing; and charred ramp-leaf salsa verde, made with sustainably harvested ramps. And now, most of that cooking takes place outside on the grill. “It’s all about the carbon,” Long said. For ease of use, he recommends oldschool, open-air, iron-grate grills — and the standby of most American picnics since the 1950s, a classic Weber charcoal kettle grill. Long’s grilling tool kit also includes extra-long tongs, a towel, half- or quarter-size metal sheet trays with a wire rack to keep food from getting soggy, and an instant-read thermometer. He swears by the ubiquitous $10 chunky red thermometer, rather than the fancy Bluetooth-enabled versions that sell for 10 times that price. We asked Long to share his advice for making the most of your grill this summer. Here are seven of his hottest tips.

Start With Great Ingredients

It can take a while to get a charcoal grill up and running, especially compared to the instant gratification of turning on a stovetop burner inside. But after all the effort, it’s a pretty straightforward way

of cooking. To embrace that simplicity, Long suggests buying the best-quality ingredients you can afford. “Start with a great piece of local beef or pork and let it shine,” he said. “You don’t need a whole lot of it, and you can almost use it as a garnish.”

Grill the Whole Meal

Long also suggests rethinking what gets cooked on the grill in the first place. If you’re cutting down the quantity of meat you’re cooking, that opens up room on the grate for experimentation. “Take the strangest thing you wouldn’t think of putting on the grill, and try,” he said. His first suggestion? Apple pie. Or grilled fruit, especially if you’re

Strike While the Iron’s Hot

Vermont’s summers are glorious, but they’re short. “When the weather’s nice and the winds aren’t too windy, make sure you’re out there on your grill,” Long said. But be sure to watch the weather report, because it’s a losing battle trying to keep a charcoal grill lit during a downpour. Even with Good Grocery’s pop-ups, Long keeps an eye on the sky and isn’t afraid to move things to a nicer day.

blend, sometimes adding in Basques sugar maple charcoal from Québec for a regional touch, depending on the type of fire he’s after: super hot or really flavorful, longer or shorter. He’ll throw in different woods for flavor, too, such as dried chunks of apple trees that had fallen at his parents’ house. “But less is more with that,” Long said. “People think, Oh, just load it in there, but you can smoke your fire out, and if it’s not fully dried out, it’s just going to be a bad smoke.”

Use Your Coals

Don’t Be Afraid of Char

“The fire is a crescendo,” Long said. “It starts very, very hot. When you put your food on it, the whole air around it changes and it cools down. Then it heats

“Underscored. Exclamation point,” Long emphasized. The flavor and texture of char is unique to grilling and what makes the effort worthwhile. And if you accidentally overdo it, just scrape a bit off. “You can’t get that wood-fired taste from anything else,” Long said. “You can’t fake it, and you can’t skip it.”

Go Somewhere

Pack up your grill — or invest in a smaller, travel-friendly version — and take the backyard barbecue on the road. Weber makes a small kettle grill that costs less than $40 at local hardware stores; it’s ideal for cooking for one or two people, cuts down the amount of charcoal you need, and is portable. “It’s really not hard to do this as a picnic extension,” Long said. And while wood-burning fires aren’t allowed in the city of Burlington, grills are. Just be sure to check the ordinances of your picnic location and extinguish things properly when you’re finished cooking.


serving it with ice cream or yogurt. Using a pan on the grill lets you cook down berries and capture some of the smoke and aroma of the grill, giving dessert a deep, slightly savory twist. The same thinking applies to grilling leftovers: Put your cast-iron pan on the grill and warm up yesterday’s fried rice to give it a smoky new kick. “Grill your salad!” Long advised. Bitter greens such as radicchio or even frisée transform when they’re grilled. “Hit the frisée with oil and salt, then touch it on the grill for 30 seconds,” he instructed. “Then add some lardons and toss it with a mustardy shallot vinaigrette.”

up again.” He likes to make the most of those peaks and valleys, using different moments in the fire’s evolution to cook various ingredients. Throwing sturdy vegetables in the coals is a great way to maximize your grill’s output while minimizing your effort. Place peppers, eggplant, onions and other veggies directly on the coals and let them cook, turning as needed until they’re tender and nicely charred. Long’s go-to charcoal brand is Royal Oak, a hardwood lump charcoal. He stacks those chunks on top of a base of less expensive standard briquettes — the ones from Costco work fine, he said — for the fire’s longevity. He adjusts the

Make It an Event

Now that we can convene again, few places are better to do it than around the grill. “It’s ingrained in our biology to gather around the fire,” Long said. He loves the celebratory, communal aspect of huddling around a grill to socialize. To fuel his cooking and tide everyone over, he makes sure to have a bottle of natural wine from Wilder Wines — preferably bubbles — and a loaf from Backdoor Bread to char on the grill and dip into Jasper Hill Farm’s Harbison. “Forget your misconceptions about grilling and make it fun,” Long said. “Who cares if one of your pieces falls through the cracks? Almost everything is better on the grill.” m


Order from Good Grocery through direct message at instagram.com/goodgroceryvt or via text at 752-8145. Pop-up menus are announced two or three days prior; pay with Venmo or cash.



Haute Coopture

Chicken owners design stylish, functional homes for their flocks B Y M A R G A R ET G R AY S O N margaret@sevendaysvt.com

2020 was the year of the chicken. Specifically, it was the year of the baby chicken, purchased in late March by people who suddenly found themselves with more time on their hands, newfound concern about food security and a need to focus on something other than the deadly pandemic sweeping through the country. Chicks, like vegetable seeds and baking yeast, quickly became difficult to find as Americans sought activities and food sources they could control.

Michelle Fongemie’s backyard chicken coop in Hinesburg



Such was the case for Hinesburg’s Michelle Fongemie, who thought of chickens as a potential source of protein to complement her vegetable garden. “I think everyone’s mind raced to the worst-case scenario,” she said. “I’ve never been a doomsdayer before, but I know I’m not the only one who thought that.” Fongemie and her boyfriend bought 15 chicks, including meat birds. Immediately after the chick purchase comes a new challenge. Chicks typically live indoors for their first six to eight weeks, giving new chicken owners that much time to build an enclosed coop and fenced-in outdoor run. Coops range from small and simple to large and decorative, with some chicken owners choosing to go above and beyond for their flock. Fongemie had an advantage: Her boyfriend, Johannes Schoffelmeijer, had just moved into her house. (That was another pandemic experiment, as the two had only been dating since the fall.) Schoffelmeijer works at Lowe’s and was able to buy warped or flawed lumber at a discount. He also bought windows and flooring that customers had returned to the store. After he’d come home from


work and Fongemie had finished teaching high school English online, they’d work on the coop. “It gave us both something to do,” Fongemie said. Schoffelmeijer focused on the build itself, while she painted the frame green, blue, red and yellow to match her house. “It was a good mix of the creative and the craftsman coming together,” she said. The chickens moved out of Fongemie’s guest bedroom and into the coop last May. A month or so later, the couple got engaged. Building the coop had helped them realize they were ready to build a life together. “It is the coop that love built,” Fongemie said. “We just went all in.” Though the desire for cuteness might be front of mind for some coop builders, making the structure work for the chickens requires a lot of practical considerations. Fongemie and Schoffelmeijer had to add in heated water pipes so the birds could still drink in the dead of winter. Another concern is security, as foxes, raccoons, hawks and weasels have all been known to go after chickens. In Burlington, Lyn Severance took no chances with the chickens she bought last year. The wire that encases her coop and run stretches underground so wily predators can’t dig their way in. She also added some aesthetic touches, including a chicken whirligig on top of the coop and polka dots on the wall. A friend passed along a vintage stained-glass-style window in a frame, which Severance hung from the ceiling of the run, repurposing it as a roost where the chickens perch at night. Severance loves to spend time in the coop. She sits on a milk crate and reads to the birds. “It’s an opportunity for me to read poetry and be with my chickens at the same time,” she said. While many coop design decisions are made with human viewing in mind, Severance also painted a blue, clouddotted sky on the inside ceiling of the coop — reminiscent of her graphic design work for Ben & Jerry’s years ago. Unless people know to poke their head in and look for it, only the chickens will ever see it. Deborah Kehoe and David Yergeau also have a colorful coop in their yard in Charlotte. The run is built from whitepainted lumber and has a pink door and window trim. Window boxes with flowers are mounted on the outside. “I just thought it had a real Barbie doll HAUTE COOPTURE


Lyn Severance’s backyard chicken coop in Burlington

Michelle Fongemie

Lyn Severance


» P.12 NEST SUMMER 2021




Deb Kehoe’s backyard coop in Charlotte




look,” Kehoe said. The couple has raised chickens for five years, but this coop was a pandemic project. They sourced the vintage barn door from Craigslist; it complements their home, which was originally built in 1790 as a general store. There have been hiccups: Yergeau once accidentally locked himself inside the run. He spent two hours inside before finally crawling out through the coop’s nesting boxes — the narrow spaces where the chickens lay eggs can be accessed from the outside by a swinging door. Coop security is important, though it’s nearly impossible to protect the hens against certain predators. Steven Higgins and Larkin Wellborn of Moretown reported that a bear tore apart their coop last month. Three of their five hens were lost. But they’re adding electric fencing and rebuilding what they call “Cluckingham Palace.” The coop is a repurposed children’s playhouse from Jamaica Cottage Shop, a Vermont-based outbuilding manufacturer. The couple added a run with an old tin roof, screens in the windows and gardens around it. Strangers stop to take


Haute Coopture « P.11

Deb Kehoe

pictures, and the chickens are all named after British royalty. “We have over $5,000 in it,” Higgins said. “They’re expensive chickens.” In terms of the money saved on egg purchases, backyard chickens rarely seem to pay off. But chicken owners often take delight in their birds, citing their

Steven Higgins and Larkin Wellborn’s “Cluckingham Palace” in Moretown

quirky presence and unique personalities as reward enough for all the hard work. Hens may live for a decade but lay eggs only for the first five or six years; humans with attachments may let these “retirees” hang around long after they’re technically productive. When it became apparent last year that

the world wasn’t ending, Fongemie decided not to eat any of her chickens. She collects eggs, including one nearly every day from a chicken that insists on laying it right by the front door of Fongemie’s house. “Chickens have become an unusual source of entertainment for us this year,” she said. m

CONNECT TO THE OUTDOORS AND EACH OTHER When you bring natural light and fresh air deeper into your home, it can change how you think, feel, and work in your space. At Marvin, windows and doors are designed to open new possibilities, helping you feel connected to the outdoors while you connect with each other. Experience windows and doors differently at your local Marvin dealer today.

www.sticksandstuff.com 2021 Marvin Lumber and Cedar Co., LLC. Architecture by Peterssen/Keller Architecture, Minneapolis, MN.


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The Outdoor Home FINE LIGHTING N8h-pleasantranch121620.indd 1

An appreciation of the backyard’s relaxation stations

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Given the abundance of notable events in a life — 35 years and counting in my case, everything from the last episode of “Seinfeld” to COVID-19 — you might assume that the Ridiculous Deck Guy would have been quickly displaced from memory, tossed into the dustbin of forgetfulness. Nope. Though my encounter with him was brief, and though it occurred way back during high school, I recall it clearly. A tanned, mustachioed, middle-aged landscaper wearing jean shorts, he stood in my father’s backyard on a bright summer morning, gazing past the gardens that were supposedly his expertise. My father asked, for the third time: “So, how much for the junipers? Can I get a solid estimate on those?” And the RDG answered, as if waking from a trance: “Wow, that is some nice deck. Would ya look at that deck? I tell ya, that is a doozy of a deck.” I was leaning against the railing of

the doozy, as was my father, which is to say we were both acquainted with its attributes. “But the junipers,” my father continued, less miffed than stunned that 10 minutes had elapsed and he was still chasing a number. “What are we talking for the four of them?” Now, I concede that it’s entirely possible the RDG was a weasel, intentionally avoiding an estimate in order to gouge my father on the price of junipers at a later date. That’s a cynical

perspective to take, though, and I am not a cynic. On the contrary, I am a starry-eyed dreamer, a hopeless romantic, a believer in the profound love that can blossom between a man and a bunch of planks nailed together and raised on a foundation of concrete piers. I believe this because, well, I myself am an unabashed RDG. Always have been. Always will be. However, it’s not only decks that I find alluring. I’m likewise smitten with patios and porches and porch swings and verandas. And picnic tables and gazebos. And firepits. And lichenmottled granite benches, painted wicker divans, chaise lounge chairs strategically situated to keep a face in the shade and a pair of pale sockless feet luxuriating in gorgeous golden sunshine. Collectively, I refer to these rustic or THE OUTDOOR HOME

» P.17


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The Outdoor Home « P.15 elegant design features scattered about a property — these relaxation stations — as the Outdoor Home. To my mind, they are portals to everyday “microwilds,” invitations to a sort of blissful feral loafing. My mind is hardly unique. While lots of folks obsess over couch upholstery and 80-inch flatscreens, deeming the Indoor Home to be the quintessence of ease and enjoyment, a large contingent of us prefers to unwind en plein air. It’s perfectly sensible that a Vermonter, after six dim wintry months huddled around the hearth, would embrace a nylon hammock’s gentle sway. The value of that hammock (or bench, or divan, or chaise lounge) became even more apparent last year when the pandemic barged onto the scene, insisting that we trade the farflung for the hyper-local. Shelter in place? In the elemental place? Can do!

LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY, IT’S THE ADVENTURE OF RECLINING INTO BIRDSONG AND SHIFTING LIGHT. Among the many benefits of kicking it in the Outdoor House — fresh air, vitamin D, no Zoom — one thing in particular was highlighted by weeks and months of isolation. Quoting Henry David Thoreau, whose minimalist cabin at Walden Pond prompted him on the regular to plunk his fanny down atop a mossy boulder: “Contact! Contact!” Too often we inhabit a confined space, Thoreau argued, whether that’s society and its artificial norms, our craniums and their inane gerbil-wheel thoughts, or the Indoor Home and its boring beige walls. He aspired to unmediated sensual engagement with dirt and wind — i.e., the enlivening world itself. And me, I aspire to that also. The logistical, emotional and psychological challenges of isolation are real, for sure. But I’d like to point out that, considered from a different angle, this word “isolation” is basically a synonym for “contact.” Swaying in my hammock at dusk, I’m close to the chorusing frogs, the bats flitting their blackness across acres of cool blue sky, the lilacs, the lilac-scented breeze, etc. I’m at a remove from family and friends, movie theaters and

supermarkets, yet I’m as near as ever to nature. Heck, I’m suspended in nature — floating like a spider on a gossamer web. Ecologists and mystical monks tell us we’re all knit into the same system, the same fabric, the same web, and it’s merely a lack of awareness that can make us feel separated and distant. In my experience, sitting quietly — and aimlessly — is the best possible method of cultivating a holistic eco-awareness. Not hiking mountains. Not throwing dinner parties with friends. Not admiring the couch upholstery and the 80inch flatscreen. Just plain sitting. Solo. The enlivening world approaches me when I’m sitting, rather than me approaching it. And that’s significant — that’s the difference between being active and passive, between seeking and receiving. Granted, I’m a huge fan of arduous backpacking missions and pedal-tothe-metal road trips and a thousand other varieties of go, go, go that, thanks to the vaccine, are slowly becoming feasible again. But snugly fitting my body to the nooks and crannies of my immediate environs via the infrastructure of the Outdoor House opens a subtle, perennial adventure to which I’ll remain devoted regardless of herd immunity. Literally and figuratively, it’s the adventure of reclining into birdsong and shifting light. As I phrased it earlier, the everyday microwilds. Thus we return to the Ridiculous Deck Guy, my kindred spirit. Though definitely a comical buffoon, he probably deserves a kinder title. Wise Deck Guy is a bit of a stretch. Ditto for Eco-Aware Deck Guy. How about, hmm … Wholehearted Deck Guy? Yes, I like that, for it is the heart that yearns to connect: with fellow humans, with the exuberant energy of growing plants and roving animals, with whoever and whatever happens to be available on a fine lazy summer evening. So then, let’s picture the WDG chilling on a doozy, can of Molson Canadian beaded with condensation in his hand, butterflies and swallows and chipmunks and cottontail rabbits blurring in his peripheral vision. A wide green lawn is before him, the lawn reaching toward a thick green forest, the forest climbing toward the crest of a rumpled green ridge. Picture him calm and content amid this strange, scary, getting-better-butongoing pandemic, glad at least for a seat with a view, for a home outside his home. Picture his favorite teal Tommy Bahama beach chair — the chair set up precisely where he wants it, hundreds of miles from the beach. m

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Sharing the Garden An Underhill farmer-florist cultivates a new enterprise B Y M EL I S S A PA S A N EN pasanen@sevendaysvt.com

Most people do everything they can to keep rabbits out of their gardens. “I’m the only person I know who put a bunny in their garden,” Audrey Bernstein said with an expressive shrug during a conversation at her Poker Hill Flower Farm in Underhill.



Learn more at pokerhillflowerfarm.com and on Instagram @pokerhillflowerfarm.



The accomplished singer and voice coach is also probably the only person to have named her inaugural jazz album in tribute to a beloved pet rabbit, and then started a backyard flower farm in the late bunny’s honor. Bernstein, 56, brings a distinctive and eclectic background to the community-supported flower business she launched last year. Her mixed bouquets reflect her: soft swoops of beauty with the odd, intriguing spike. Combinations in shades of her favorite pinks, salmons and peaches might include snapdragons, zinnias, scabiosa, strawflowers, China asters, coreopsis and blossoming dill. They are often charmingly off-kilter. “I like stuff a little bit askew,” Bernstein said. Whatever she does, she dives in “with everything: hands, feet, face,” Bernstein said. Before she had turned 30, Bernstein had appeared semi-clad on a 1987 Sonic Youth album cover, kicked heroin while shoveling snow in Stowe, ascended from snowboard novice to the female top 10 worldwide, and enlisted high-profile music pals such as Moby to DJ a New York City party series. The Maryland native first moved to Vermont in 1987. “I was addicted to hard-core drugs in NYC but living a fairly glamorous and very interesting life,” she confided, pulling her Terripoo, Marty, onto her lap. Vermont saved her, Bernstein said, as did the intensity of devoting herself to snowboarding.


was devastated. “I was not sure I wanted to garden without him,” she admitted. “But I thought, Maybe I’ll plant some flowers for him.” Her then-boyfriend, jazz guitarist Joe Capps, took her on a nursery shopping trip to cheer her up. Their Underhill rental offered plenty of space for gardens. The following summer, Bernstein started selling mason jars full of blooms at the top of their driveway. The couple got married under a backyard apple tree in 2018. Researching designs for her homegrown wedding flowers, Bernstein discovered Floret Flowers, a Washington State farm and seed company that has inspired a new generation of farmer-florists.


Audrey Bernstein and Marty the Terripoo

About 20 years later, she was living in Los Angeles when she sunk to another nadir. She had built a successful eventplanning business, started a popular cupcake bakery and inked a book deal, and she was poised to launch a lifestyle website. But then two back surgeries and the recession flattened her. “My mother suggested I move back to Vermont,” Bernstein said. A self-described “crazy animal person,” she had two cats and a white rabbit at the time. Despite everything going on in her life, a friend insisted she adopt another rabbit, Blue, who had recently been rescued from the jaws of

a dog. “I saved his life, and he saved my life,” Bernstein said simply. She had always gardened, Bernstein said — on NYC fire escapes and in her Los Angeles backyard. “I love seeing the bizarre, tiny seeds grow,” she said. “It’s so miraculous.” In 2009, when she landed in Stowe again, she signed up for a community garden plot. “I just grew everything for Blue,” she said, noting that cilantro, basil and dill were the little black bunny’s favorites. “He’d be in [the garden] with me. I’d bring him little salads. It was our happy place.” When Blue died in 2016, Bernstein

Through Floret and others in the floral field, Bernstein has expanded the flowers she grows, from early season tulips to ranunculus, Icelandic poppies and anemones to sweet peas and stately delphiniums. She’s fallen for dahlias: the salmon fireworks of the Labyrinth variety, fuzzy-hearted platinum blond anemone dahlias and the impressionist brushstroked Papageno. And if you dismiss mums as commonplace, Bernstein promised that spider chrysanthemums, with their sculptural arrays of petals, will change your mind. “I love all the shapes and the beauty,” Bernstein said. “I love seeing people light up when they see the arrangements.” She also loves taking photos of her flowers in her collection of antique vases to post on Instagram. In 2019, Bernstein started selling bouquets through seasonal CSA subscriptions, which customers pick up weekly at Burlington’s Tomgirl Kitchen or Stowe’s In Company. Prices range from $45 for a three-week petite tulip share to $320 for a 14-week mixed-bouquet summer share.

Gabrielle Kammerer, founder and CEO of Tomgirl, has nothing but praise for Bernstein’s bouquets. “Audrey’s sparkling and engaging personality comes through in the quality of her colorful and bountiful flowers. I’m always thrilled to see what new blossoms have come to life in her garden,” she wrote in an email. “From one female entrepreneur to another, I am cheering her on, and very excited to see her passion for flowers come to life in the form of a local business we can support!” That business itself is flowering. This year, Bernstein has tripled her garden space to about an eighth of an acre and doubled the number of shares to 20 at each location and five more in Underhill. And she still sells bouquets in jars at the end of the driveway for $15 to $25, paid via the honor system. Bernstein also offers dahlia tubers and starts, subscription bouquet delivery for office or shop décor, and à la carte wedding packages. Customers can order one-off bouquets or special occasion arrangements, as well. Bernstein laments that the flowers have crowded out the chairs on which she and her husband used to enjoy a glass of rosé with cheese and crackers at the end of the day — though there’s still room beyond the garden fence. “I love being in my garden, just being in there with the bees and the hummingbirds,” she said. “The flowers are great, but this,” Bernstein emphasized, gesturing to her little dog happily exploring between rows of plants, “is why I garden.” m



Accessorizing Your Home PHOTOS: LUKE AWTRY

Two Burlington residents share the good, the bad and the onerous about ADUs BY AMY L IL LY

Carol Stenberg has lived in her New North End home in Burlington for three decades, but only in the past few years did the 65-year-old architect consider where she wanted to spend her later life. With a partner in southern Vermont and a professional practice mostly in Maine, she wanted to keep a base in Burlington.

Carol Stenberg at her ADU on Brierwood Lane in Burlington



As it turned out, a perfect space was available on her own property: the attached garage and covered porch of her 1955 ranch home. Accustomed to smaller spaces — she lived on a sailboat for four years — Stenberg decided to turn the 290-square-foot area into an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU. According to “ADUs in Burlington: A Homeowner’s FAQ Guide,” a March 2020 document published by the City of Burlington, an ADU is “an efficiency or one-bedroom apartment that is subordinate to the primary dwelling, and

REAL ESTAT E includes facilities for independent living, including sleeping, food preparation, and sanitation.” Essentially, an ADU is a small housing option inside already built structures. We talked to two Burlington residents about the ups and downs of constructing one.

A Retirement Solution

When Nest visited Stenberg’s Brierwood Lane ADU, a friend was lending her tools for tiling the tiny entryway. The former home of Stenberg’s Prius, garden tools and “lots of junk” had been transformed into an efficiency that was almost complete.

had already decided to renovate the garage as an addition without a full kitchen. (The kitchen would have made her property a two-family home requiring its own parking space, something the length of her driveway ruled out.) But when the parking rule changed, she dropped that application and applied for a new permit for an ADU. Stenberg doesn’t yet have her certificate of occupancy, which is issued after the structure passes all inspections, so she’s used her ADU only intermittently over the past year. Her 32-year-old daughter — a pandemic refugee from Brooklyn — has been staying in the house.


“It was my COVID project,” Stenberg said. The pandemic wasn’t her only impetus. In February 2020, Burlington’s city council adopted ordinance changes that tweaked the zoning rules to make ADUs an option for more homeowners. The most significant changes are the elimination of the former parking requirement and an increase in allowable size to 800 square feet. The new rules also increased allowable impervious lot coverage — 650 square feet of lot area are exempted if stormwater impacts are mitigated — and streamlined the permitting process so that an application no longer triggers automatic review by the Development Review Board. Stenberg said the parking change was “my reason for doing it.” The architect

The completed ADU will provide Stenberg with a range of options. “I wanted to be able to stay in my home and have a separate unit for a caregiver, or rent the house out for retirement income,” she explained. The city allows homeowners to rent either the ADU or the main house as long as they live in the other space. Long-term rentals are allowed if the rental unit is registered as such with the department of permitting and inspections. Short-term rentals such as Airbnb require a bed-and-breakfast zoning permit. Stenberg’s ADU goes far beyond most houses in energy efficiency. A certified PassivHaus designer, she built it to passive house standards, superinsulating the 20-inch-thick ceiling and 12-inch walls with mineral wool and installing

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European-grade vents that provide Make sure you are continuous ventilation. The windows are triple-paned, including an operable educated/pre-approved skylight whose ceiling cavity is splayed and ready to go. Call me! to admit maximum light. A sliding glass door leads to an extensively planted Check me out on Macebook@ backyard; Stenberg is an avid gardener Kelly Deforge, Mortgage Guide and cook. The small woodstove sitting in the corner of the main room has “a New Top VHFA England comfort factor if we lose Lender! power,” Stenberg said, adding that heated floors or an electric heat pump would have been too much for the space. She needed to use only half of her half cord of wood over the past winter. Senior Mortgage The room also contains her bed, Loan Originator two armchairs and a small table where NMLS: she has entertained dinner guests. The 103643 all-electric kitchen along one wall is missing the planned IKEA cabinets — unavailable due to the pandemic — but she found a used dresser that works just as well. Her Wolf countertop oven is big enough to roast a chicken, Stenberg said. The other “room,” a hallway with storage and a full bathroom, has a 30 Kimball Avenue, Suite 200, pretty design in river rocks on the floor South Burlington, VT beneath the showerhead. A separate ublocal.com • 802-318-7395 bathtub has a view of the backyard kdeforge@unionbankvt.com through a square window. There’s no entry to the main house because there was no logical place to put one, Stenberg said. 8v-unionbankkellyd050521.indd 1 4/29/21 She budgeted $25,000 for her ADU, nearly half of which was for licensed electrical and plumbing work. Stenberg saved money by doing most of the other labor herself, including reinstalling the original northwest red cedar siding that she discovered under the vinyl siding. “I haven’t tallied all my receipts, but I think I came in for less,” she wrote in an email. It helped that, as an architect, Stenberg was already familiar with Burlington’s zoning requirements and building code. She learned all the rules for ADUs: For example, though her driveway had room for two cars parked end to end, as required for the house, she had to prove that it had enough additional length to meet the zoning requirement for space in front of the ADU. Some of her calculations were esoteric, and Stenberg is considering offering her knowledge as a service to other homeowners pondering an ADU. One piece of advice she would most likely offer: Plan for the tax increase. “I wish I’d thought of that,” Stenberg said. She’ll be taxed for what is now a twofamily unit, even though an American family is unlikely to live in 290 square feet. “I think there should be a minimum size to be considered [that],” she said. Stenberg also recommends designing


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Amy Magyar’s ADU on Howard Street in Burlington

Accessorizing Your Home « P.21 one’s ADU before pulling a permit. “The key to a small space is having it designed so that it works,” she said.

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A Downsized Dwelling


For her unit, Amy Magyar had more room to play with. The detached garage in back of her 1883 house on Howard N8v-hirchakbrothers061621 1 6/11/21N8h-rossi&riina-cady0619.indd 1:30 PM 1 5/30/19 2:29 PM Street is now her 420-square-foot home. Formerly, the garage “was where we stored our crap,” said Magyar, 49, a career coach with her own business, FromWithin Coaching. But when she separated from her partner, she was faced with full mortgage payments. An ADU would allow her to rent out the house while living and working in a space she already owned. When Magyar applied for an ADU permit in 2018, she didn’t have the requisite parking space, so she applied for a studio permit instead. In September Fine Home Building • Expert Renovations • Custom Woodworking 2019, when the planning commission 802.989.7677 • silvermapleconstruction.com and city council ordinance committee began meeting jointly on ADUs, Magyar N8H-silvermaple0621.indd 1 6/9/21 12:03 PM started attending every meeting. “I was one of the loudest voices” for change, she said. The day after the new ADU ordinances were adopted, she resubmitted her permit. Like Stenberg, Magyar did much of the work on the ADU herself. Before moving to Burlington in 2006 for a job at Burton, she’d gained building experience renovating a Victorian house in Indiana.  Her current gable-roofed structure retains its original driveway-facing, single-paned windows. A sliding glass door inserted on the side is now the entry, and Magyar added four windows that developer James Unsworth gave her from 187 Main Street, Colchester, VT • OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK • www.claussens.com • 802-878-2361 M P his demolished duplex a block away. 





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She insulated the ceiling in spray foam and used rock wool for the walls. The old cement floor was due to be torn up, so Magyar had a heated floor installed, powered by propane. Nikkita, her 20-year-old cat, “thinks I built [the heated floor] for him,” Magyar joked. Early on, she ran into a problem that many homeowners may experience: Her garage was more than 50 feet from the street and detached from the house. That meant the Burlington fire marshal required her to install a sprinkler system. Because the city had only approved commercial-grade sprinkler systems at that time, installers knew of no alternatives. Magyar spent $10,000 on the system, including a 300-gallon water tank stored in the basement of the main house and an underground pipe to the garage. Her advice to future ADU builders: Use the Uponor residential system, which can be connected to the residential water line with a plastic pipe and needs no tank. It would have cost her half as much. In part because of the sprinkler cost, Magyar’s final expenses ran to $50,000 — well beyond her budget of $30,000. But the project has allowed her to rent her house long-term to a COVID-19 refugee from Maryland. Magyar’s black-and-white-themed space has a loft for her bed, accessed via a built-in set of metal-pipe steps. The loft is too short to stand up in but needed railings, according to code; she constructed built-in shelves in the gabled space.  Such space savers are everywhere: a sliding barn door covering the closet




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doubles as the bathroom door; a day bed that opens to a full bed allows her to have overnight guests. She chose two small wall-mounted fans instead of a ceiling fan, which would have taken up too much room. “ADUs are so amazing because they teach you what you need to live with and what you can do without,” Magyar said. She and Stenberg both have stories about conflicts with various inspectors over building and electrical codes. Vermont’s Department of Housing and Community Development included a frank statement in its June 2020 ADU “How-to Checklist”: “The to-do list … identifies items you may need for creating an ADU. The permits and steps all have important functions but, taken as a whole, can make the process difficult, expensive or even impossible.” That difficulty may explain why the Burlington Department of Public

3/22/21 10:41 AM

obsessed? Find, fix and feather with Nest Notes — an e-newsletter filled with home design, Vermont real estate tips and DIY decorating inspirations.

Works has not been flooded with ADU permit requests since the city changed its regulations. Scott Gustin, principal planner and assistant administrative officer in the department of permitting and inspections, wrote in an email, “Zoning permits issued for accessory dwelling units since 2004 have ranged from one per year to eight. Since the regs changed about a year ago, we saw six permitted in 2020. Two have been permitted thus far in 2021, with two more in the queue.” Magyar hopes that future ADU creators won’t have to go through what she did. “A lot of us have battle scars, but I think the city’s in a place that they see how to make it more user-friendly,” she said. “And they are [doing that], for sure.” m

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The Backyard Issue: Burlington's Hidden '1/2' Homes; Good Grocery's Guide to Grilling; Putting the 'Chic' in Chicken Coops; An Ode to Backya...

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