Nest — Spring 2024

Page 1

8 Housing demand outpaces construction in Burlington 10 In Charlotte, a historic tavern gets a generational update 16 How South Burlington built a thriving city center 20 Tour a charming backyard “she shed” in Shelburne SPRING 2024
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“Before and after” photos are a hallmark of home renovations. In this issue of Nest, Seven Days’ quarterly magazine on homes, design and real estate, we set our sights on projects that are truly transformational. Initially dreamed up in the 1970s, the new SOUTH BURLINGTON CITY CENTER is finally a reality, adding hundreds of residential units and a burgeoning downtown where there once was a dirt road amid a sea of strip malls. We explore how it happened — and what other communities, such as HOUSING-CRUNCHED BURLINGTON, can learn from it. We also feast our eyes on another incredible makeover: the “1812 TAVERN” in Charlotte, painstakingly restored and renovated into a single-family home over five years. Smaller home projects can be just as rewarding: KISMET COTTAGE, a “she shed” in Shelburne — say that three times fast — adds equity and serves as both a sanctuary and shared space. It’s nice to know that sometimes what we need is right in the backyard. We can’t all live in Vermont’s plethora of MILLION-DOLLAR MANSIONS. Despite its persistent housing crisis, Vermont has more and more of those.

Last Quarter .............................. 8

Vermont housing news

Original Glory........................... 10

A five-year renovation turns Charlotte’s “1812 Tavern” into a stunning family home steeped in history

Home Is Where the Target Is .... 16

Suburban SoBu builds a downtown neighborhood

A Room of Her Own ................ 20

In Shelburne, a backyard cottage provides both a haven and a gathering place

The “1812 Tavern” in Charlotte PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN BENT SPRING 2024
10 home design real estate 8 Housing demand outpaces construction in Burlington 10 In Charlotte, a historic tavern gets generational update 16 How South Burlington built a thriving city center 20 Tour a charming backyard “she shed” in Shelburne SPRING 2024 FOLLOW US Apply online at, scan the QR Code, or call 866.805.6267. NMLS#446767 Federally Insured by NCUA Put Your Home’s Equity to Work with a Home Equity Loan small projects big projects anything in between N3v-KerrAdvertising(NEFCU)041724 1 3/14/24 4:08 PM Swift Sales, Maximum Returns Elevate Your Buying or Selling Experience with Our Trusted Expertise. Your Trusted Partner In Real Estate, Commercial and Personal Property Auctions For Over 40 Years. Licensed & Insured Across the Northeast • • 802-888-4662 N6h-hirchakbrothers011724 1 1/11/24 2:11 PM
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Last Quarter


AZillow search for a three-bedroom home in the Burlington area these days yields listings with price tags of $700,000 to $800,000. There are homes o ered for under $350,000, but they often include euphemisms such as “a great place to showcase your renovation skills!”

Several years after state government started spending millions to build apartments, housing of all types remains in very short supply in Chittenden County, according to Burlington-area real estate brokers.

“Demand exceeds supply in every segment of the market, from a ordable housing to large estatestyle, very expensive homes,” said David Parsons,

who specializes in condo sales at RE/MAX North Professionals. What the market needs most, he said, is 900- to 1,200-square-foot three-bedroom homes that are suitable and a ordable for most working people.

“That would open up many other gridlocked pieces of the market,” he said.

Only 743 houses and apartments were built last year in Burlington and the 12 communities that surround it, according to the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.

The pace of housing growth is not keeping up with demand, the commission noted, citing its estimate that the area needs 5,000 new homes in the next five years.


In the Burlington area, construction can’t keep up with demand


Vermont housing news BY ANNE WALLACE ALLEN Municipality Affordable Market Total BURLINGTON 5 114 119 CHARLOTTE 0 10 10 COLCHESTER 38 22 60 ESSEX 0 25 25 ESSEX JUNCTION 1 102 103 HINESBURG 0 19 19 HUNTINGTON 0 6 6 MILTON 2 28 30 SHELBURNE 2 61 63 SO. BURLINGTON 80 208 288 WESTFORD 0 8 8 WILLISTON 0 15 15 WINOOSKI 0 -3 -3 Grand Total 128 615 743 SOURCE: CHITTTENDEN COUNTY REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION
Homes at the Hillside at O’Brien Farm development in South Burlington
BURLINGTON ESSEX JUNCTION Underhill, Jericho, Bolton, St. George and Richmond are not included in this data.


54 Westmount View in Stowe sold for $2.3 million in September 2023. e median sale price for a newly built home in Lamoille County rose to $1 million last year — a 13 percent increase over the year before. New-home values in other resort areas are rising steeply, too, reflecting Vermont’s continued appeal to vacation-home buyers from other states.

In Lamoille County, most of the new second-home construction is happening in Stowe, where several developments include million-dollar condos and houses. One four-bedroom Stowe condo sold last year for $2.9 million, about $1,000 per square foot, according to Brian Racine, a regional manager at Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty.

While the market for multimilliondollar properties is booming, the growth of affordable or market-rate housing is happening more slowly. Prices for new homes all over Vermont are rising, a consequence of increasing land, labor and construction materials costs. High demand is driving up costs, too.

“ ere is precious little money to go around to build affordable units,” said Lucy Leriche, interim executive director of Lamoille Housing Partnership, an affordable-housing agency that owns about 350 homes, apartments and mobile home lots. e nonprofit has added about 50 homes in the past few years, she said — and has a waiting list of about 600 households. She said land prices typically make it too expensive for the housing partnership to build homes in Stowe.

Stowe Town Manager Charles Safford said buildable land is scarce in Stowe, where about 50 percent of all property is conserved from development.

Affordability isn’t a new issue in the town: Seventeen years ago, when Safford was appointed, he shopped for a home

in Stowe but couldn’t find one that fit his budget. He and his family ended up in living in Elmore.

Safford said Stowe has about 1,000 short-term rentals and about twothirds of its homes are second homes. He noted that Stowe residents have asked lawmakers to address the rising education costs that lead to higher property taxes.

Real Estate is advertising four-bedroom town houses, not yet built, for $3 million. e county with the highest median price for a newly built home last year, $1.5 million, was Windham, home to the Stratton and Mount Snow ski areas, according to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency.

Real estate agent Adam Palmiter, who works for Mount Snow Real Estate at Berkley and Veller in the southern Vermont town of Dover, said developers in several towns there are building homes without specific clients in mind and selling them for $3 million and $4 million — speculation that is unusual in Vermont. ey know there are buyers for these expensive homes.

“I don’t mean to alarm people, but the reappraisal is coming out this year, and it’s going to likely double housing values in Stowe,” Safford said. He added that many people who live in town full time can’t afford to stay there.

“People look at Stowe and say, ‘You’re all set,’ but what a lot of people don’t understand is that the [full-time residents] are Vermonters trying to hang on to their homes and farms just like everybody else,” he said.

Woodstock, located a half-hour drive from the Killington ski area, also has new condos selling for more than $1 million. At Killington, a company called Prestige

“Some developers are very in tune with the market,” Palmiter said, adding that buyers tend to come from urban areas such as Boston and New York City. e median price for newly built homes is much lower in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. In Caledonia County, home to Burke Mountain Resort, the median new-home price last year was just $337,000, VHFA said. It was $309,000 in Orleans County. VHFA didn’t have data for Essex County.

VHFA draws its data from MLS, or multiple listing service, a database used by real estate brokers. at means the median price for new homes doesn’t include the apartments and town homes built by affordable housing agencies, which don’t list homes with real estate agencies. High-end homes might not appear on MLS, either. Increasingly, developers sell the homes themselves.

“Buyer demand is so high that builders can have their own in-house sales team and take care of the transaction themselves,” said Racine, the Four Seasons Sotheby’s manager.

➆ 4-year increase: 33 percent 4-year increase: 59 percent 4-year increase: 57 percent
VERMONT CHITTENDEN COUNTY VERMONT CHITTENDEN COUNTY 4-year increase: 29 percent 0 50,000 100,000 150,000 200,000 250,000 300,000 350,000 2020 2022 2023 2021 $245K $270K $309K $315K 0 100,000 200,000 300,000 400,000 500,000 2020 2022 2023 2021 $339K $385K $435K $450K 0 100,000 200,000 300,000 400,000 500,000 600,000 700,000 800,000 2020 2022 2023 2021 $388K $457K $555K $617K 0 100,000 200,000 300,000 400,000 500,000 600,000 700,000 800,000 2020 2022 2023 2021 $446K $515K $596K $701K SOURCE: VERMONT HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY IN LAMOILLE COUNTY, MOST OF THE NEW SECOND-HOME CONSTRUCTION IS HAPPENING IN STOWE, WHERE SEVERAL DEVELOPMENTS INCLUDE MILLION-DOLLAR CONDOS AND HOUSES. MOUNTAIN MANSIONS $1 Million-Plus Homes and Condos Are Proliferating in Resort Areas NEW-HOME SALES ALL HOME SALES median prices median prices median prices median prices

Original Glory

A five-year renovation turns Charlotte’s “1812 Tavern” into a stunning family home steeped in history

In 1810, Charlotte was the largest town in Chittenden County, a stop on the stagecoach route between southern New England and Montréal and an access point to Lake Champlain’s main ferry. With that in mind, in 1813 entrepreneur Nathaniel Newell, Charlotte’s wealthiest resident (according to the 1817 town tax list), built a tavern and home for his family on Church Hill Road, known as the Tavern on Mutton Hill.


Today, the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is known by the misnomer “the 1812 Tavern.” The difference of a year can be forgiven, however, considering that the brick structure looks essentially the same from the road as it probably looked the day it was built: a two-and-a-half story building in the Federal style anchored by two chimneys on each end of its gable roof, with a parapet wall connecting each pair. It was the tavern’s interior that required the most work when owners Lauren and Dmitriy Akselrod purchased the place in 2018. Dmitriy, a radiologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, and Lauren, a former physical therapist with a gift for arts and crafts

— she keeps a kiln in the basement — had three young children at the time. They envisioned turning what had been a collection of rented offices under the previous owner into a spacious family home.

The project took two major stages of renovation and restoration over a five-year span, led by Burlington architect Gabriel Stadecker. During the first stage, the family and their Bernese mountain dog, Stella, lived upstairs in a ballroom that spans the length of the house while a downstairs kitchen was created from scratch and the adjacent dining room was restored. The second stage involved inserting three kids’ bedrooms and a bathroom into the ballroom and

The dining room The kitchen
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turning the upstairs 1980s kitchen into the parents’ bed and bath.

Despite the magnitude of the work, the result cleaves remarkably closely to the structure’s original plans — framed blueprints of which hang in the foyer. Certain elements have been erased over the years; for example, only three of the original eight fireplaces remain. But wherever the Akselrods and Stadecker could preserve the look, feel and original elements of the historic structure, they did.

“We were not going to do anything that wasn’t feeling right for the house,” Stadecker told a reporter during a recent tour. The architect earned his master’s degree at Harvard Graduate School of Design; among his Vermont projects are five historic houses in Burlington, including a 1948 one designed by Vermont’s first registered female architect, Ruth Freeman. For the 1812 Tavern, he worked with Sutherland Construction of Charlotte.

Starting in the kitchen, Stadecker and Lauren Akselrod pointed out details that contribute to the space’s authenticity. The original fireplace and cooking hearth has original molding with only a narrow mantle added. The ample white-oak cabinetry was developed around it and the windows, which extend below the level of the modern countertops.

Honoring the house’s locally made brick, locally felled timber and locally quarried redstone foundation, Akselrod chose Vermont Danby marble kitchen countertops and a backsplash of her own oblong tiles, installed in a herringbone pattern by a professional. The kitchen tile, with its pleasingly uneven texture, took her four months to make while on full-time mom duty; the primary bath wall tile, a quantity at least twice as large, took another four months of 40-hour weeks, she estimated.

The kitchen’s added stovetop hood and doorways replicate the profile of the remaining historic doorways’ trim. Only one new opening, for the stove vent, had to be punched through the exterior masonry walls. Venting and plumbing are hidden in the ninefoot-high ceilings.

In the dining room, Akselrod restored the existing 1813 chair rail, which runs around every room in the house, with Sutherland fabricating replicas for the missing portions. Stadecker created a large cased opening between the kitchen and dining room that frames a symmetrical view of the two kitchen windows, with new built-in cabinets rising to the ceiling on either side.

Akselrod sourced the period lighting from Authentic Designs in West Rupert; designed the kitchen globe lights and had them fabricated by an Etsy artist; and found elements such as a brass footrail for the kitchen island at Mason Brothers architectural salvage warehouse in Essex Junction. She sourced the dining room’s vintage Preway midcentury electric cone fireplace on Craigslist and restored its orangey-red finish; the accent piece sits at the end of a massive dining table, providing no heat — as designed — but lots of ambience when turned on.

Akselrod also painted the entire interior of the house, whose masonry walls are faced with plaster. So meticulous is her handiwork that Stadecker joked during the tour about hiring her for every house he works on.

Original Glory « P.11
» P.14
Clockwise from above: Vintage Preway midcentury electric cone fireplace and cabinetry in the dining room; the foyer; the primary bedroom; the kids’ bathroom; and a bedroom built in the former ballroom

While the architect has many clients who “want me to select all the finishes,” Stadecker said, “with Lauren, it was really a wonderful discussion about finishes and interior fixtures. Her tile work is pretty exceptional, and it drove in many ways the look and feel of the project.”

In the upstairs bathrooms, for example, Akselrod’s 4-by-4-inch tiles determined the rooms’ modules, including shelf height and shower openings. Her textured tile work “fit in” with the historic aspects of the house, Stadecker added: “Everything in that house has a texture to it. It’s all very rich.”

Akselrod credited the previous owner, Harriet “Happy” Stone Patrick, with much of the house’s historic preservation. Patrick bought the place in 1979, researched the bejesus out of it, restored major elements such as the parapets and landed the Historic Register listing in 1982.

“She saved every receipt, every paper she learned about. She would drop them off in totes,” Akselrod recalled of the former owner’s many visits.

Akselrod also consulted with Devin Colman, the state architectural historian, who provided names of specialists in historic masonry and window restoration. Most of the upstairs windows are original.

“Window restoration was a giant thing,” Akselrod discovered. She learned, too, that “you can’t actually add new materials to a place like this. We couldn’t add insulation to the plaster because the brick wouldn’t then breathe.”

Akselrod repainted the 1813 staircase after repairing only some of its hoof dents and gouged spindles. On particularly rowdy nights, the owner explained, guests used to herd cows up to the ballroom.

As for that grand ballroom, Stadecker said, “We lamented cutting it up, but it was necessary,” given that the children were growing up. (Nathaneal is now 14; Lilah, 12; and Amelia, 10.) The architect managed to save a sweeping, north-to-south view of the room’s original, nearly 46-foot span by creating a long hallway fronting the rooms that preserves the windows on either end. The ballroom’s original chair rail and flooring were restored.

“I get incredibly excited about retrofitting our modern ways of living into these historic places,” Stadecker said. “They have constraints, but really lovely constraints.”

Of the final result, Akselrod said, “This is kind of a magical place. Everything was a labor of love, so it means more to us. Our hands are in all of it.”

more about architect Gabriel Stadecker at
HOME TOUR Original Glory « P.12
window; the upstairs bathroom; seating in the upstairs hallway; a walk-in shower
Clockwise from top right: An original
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Home Is Where the Target Is

Suburban SoBu builds a downtown neighborhood

Drive down Dorset Street in South Burlington, and you’ll enter a real-life version of a city planner’s nightmare. Strip malls line one side of a busy divided four-lane road. On the other side, department stores and sprawling parking lots dominate the streetscape.

It’s a far cry from the charming downtowns most people associate with Vermont. But now, just o this anywhere-in-America commercial strip, South Burlington is building what it hopes will be a thriving community of homes, public buildings and retail stores.

Planning began in the 2010s for South Burlington City Center, a neighborhood of high-density residential buildings east of Dorset Street and within walking distance of a relocated city hall and public library. Plans are in the works for parks, a senior center and a bike path that will lead

straight into Burlington — no car required.

To date, 232 residential units have been built in the development area; 551 more are under construction — a building boom that has helped make South Burlington the largest supplier of new residences in an area with a critical shortage of housing. Of the 743 homes built in the county last year, nearly 40 percent of them were in South Burlington, in the new downtown or elsewhere in the city, according to the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (see “Last Quarter,” page 8). Paul Conner,

the city’s director of planning and zoning, predicts even more housing development in the area over the next decade.

Barely visible from South Burlington’s main drag, the new “downtown” zone covers 103 acres of previously empty land sandwiched between Dorset Street and Hinesburg Road. The area is close to large employers, including the Vermont National Guard, the University of Vermont and the UVM Medical Center. Residents can walk to Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores, as well as to Target and other department stores at the

Increment Financing District e new South Burlington Public Library and City Hall on Market Street PHOTOS: LUKE AWTRY

University Mall. By the end of 2025, about 2,000 people are expected to live in the new district.

“Initially there was a dirt road, and now there’s a city center,” said Ilona Blanchard, the city’s community development director. “We’re really building a community around a downtown.”

For decades, South Burlington lacked a definable center, its civic buildings scattered along Dorset Street and almost inaccessible by foot. In fact, a 2015 survey of South Burlington residents found that more than 55 percent believed the city, which is sliced and diced by Interstate 89 and Williston and Shelburne roads, had no discernible identity.

In the 2010s, the city set out to change that image, building on discussions that date back to the 1970s. Planners started mapping a compact, walkable city center. They envisioned a downtown nucleus with private residential and commercial developments radiating outward.

The city council adopted a plan for this new zone in 2012, funded by tax increment financing that allows municipalities to invest in infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks by borrowing against the future revenue that the new development will generate. So far, city voters have approved $29 million in bonds to pay for up-front investments, including the rebuilding of

Market Street, the new neighborhood’s main drag.

“It allowed us to in some ways control what the city center looks and feels like,” said Helen Riehle, former chair of the South Burlington City Council. “It helped us form a more cohesive vision.”

While city hall and the library sit at the heart of the new neighborhood, the bulk of the new construction will be housing — much of which will be affordable. “We wanted to show that this was a place that was going to be for everybody,” said Jessie Baker, South Burlington’s city manager.

The city has partnered with nonprofit developers Champlain Housing Trust and Cathedral Square to build affordable housing units on Market Street, a number of which are specifically for seniors. A senior center will soon open nearby.

“There’s simply way more development and housing opportunities in South Burlington than in other parts of the state,” said Sarah Harrington, a real estate agent who specializes in selling single-family homes and condominiums in the greater Burlington area.

South Burlington stands out as one of the few places left in the state to purchase and rent affordable homes and apartments, she said. The newer

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Home Is Where the Target Is

downtown apartments are mostly rental units, with a handful of ownable units in the mix. With a new city center, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and well-respected school district, South Burlington is attracting more families interested in putting down roots, Harrington said.

“It’s not just big, open parking lots at the end of the day,” she said. “They’re creating a place where people can walk to restaurants, people can go to the library, where [they] are living.”

Worthern Estabrook, 63, lives in Allard Square, the first major residential development in the city center, built by Cathedral Square, which specializes in senior housing. One of the best parts of living there is being able to walk places, Estabrook said.

“For a guy like me who doesn’t drive, everything is accessible,” Estabrook said. “I can get everything I need right across the street.”

In 2025, work is scheduled to begin on a bike and pedestrian bridge over I-89 to connect Burlington and South Burlington, funded by a $9.7 million federal grant.

And in 2022, South Burlington voters

approved a $4 million bond to finance the construction of Garden Street, a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly corridor that will cross Market Street to connect Dorset Street and Williston Road.

Some residents, finding themselves surrounded by construction, have voiced opposition to the incursion of development, citing environmental and aesthetic concerns. City manager Baker said it’s been challenging to communicate why

there’s been so much change at such a rapid pace. “We’ve done a lot of work on managing expectations,” she said.

Expect more change, because it’s in the pipeline. The city is planning for the construction of approximately two additional buildings per year from 2027 to 2036 in the Market Street area. Combined with what’s already been built, the area should eventually accommodate roughly 3,000 additional residents. The real estate

firm Snyder-Braverman is constructing about two-thirds of the housing, which will mostly be rented at market rate.

In partnership with SnyderBraverman, the University of Vermont is constructing 295 apartments off Market Street to meet the growing housing needs of UVM graduate students, faculty and staff.

Richard Cate, UVM’s vice president for finance and administration, said employees and graduate students cite a lack of affordable housing as a major barrier to working and studying at UVM.

For now, though, it’s the small victories that are exciting city staff. Conner, the director of planning and zoning, recalled spotting a group of children drawing with chalk on a sidewalk in front of newly constructed town homes near the city center.

“Seeing that sidewalk chalk means community,” Conner said. “It means people are living there, that it’s home for them. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.” ➆

Rachel Hellman covers Vermont’s small towns for Seven Days. She is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Find out more at

« P.17
Development and building continues in South Burlington’s new downtown district. South Burlington Public Library
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A Room of Her Own

In Shelburne, a backyard cottage provides both a haven and a gathering place

Beth Peters and Adam Lougee had been together for more than six years when they decided that she should sell her Burlington condo and move into his Shelburne house. Both were eager to take the next step in their relationship, Peters recalled, but it was still a big deal to relinquish the South End home where she had lived for 14 years and raised her two kids.

MELISSA PASANEN Top: Beth Peters inside her backyard cottage in Shelburne Left: e cottage in midsummer



As the couple prepared for Peters and her teenage daughter to join Lougee’s household, Peters told him, “I’m so excited to move in and for us to make it our home, but I might need a place for myself.

“Maybe I’ll even get a ‘she shed,’” she recalled adding facetiously, referring to the woman’s version of a “man cave,” a space — often a deckedout garage, basement or media room — where guys do whatever they want without judgment.

From that lighthearted comment came Kismet Cottage, an enchanting 10-by-12-foot structure in the couple’s suburban backyard. The cozy, southfacing shed boasts a pair of French doors under three transom windows and a classic sloped roof. Flower boxes hang beneath two windows flanking the doors, and string lights dangle from the eaves like icicles. A stone path winds through garden beds to a double-hung Dutch door on one side of the shed. On the other side, a white wrought-iron bistro table waits to hold glasses of rosé.

It’s every girl’s dream playhouse — all grown up.

But girls have practical dreams, too. Peters noted that her roughly $10,000 investment adds value to the house and “was a fun way to put some of my condo equity into the property.”

Peters, who is in her fifties, named it Kismet Cottage because “so many parts of my life came together nicely in 2022,” when it was installed, she said. “It embodies many of the good things I am grateful for.”

Abundant windows flood the whitewashed interior with light. Collections of beach rocks, sea glass, driftwood and art — including a custom landscape by local artist Charlotte Dworshak — fill corners and walls. A small desk serves as a work-at-home office for Peters, who runs her own human resources consulting business.

Once the workday is done, the cottage desk makes a perfect bar for girlfriend gatherings. A cushion-filled daybed and plump settee beckon guests to settle in. “I wanted this to look like you could just crawl in between the pillows,” Peters said while chatting on the daybed.

In their house, “Adam has a rule: only two pillows per couch,” she said with a chuckle. In Kismet Cottage, by contrast, “all the rules are mine. It’s a place where I can use my creative license in any way I want.”

Although the she shed is Peters’ domain and an expression of her personal style, she welcomes all

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visitors. That includes her mate, who, she emphasized, has been nothing but supportive, including installing the snap-in faux-wood flooring.

“I love to invite him out here,” she said with a smile. “It’s really a ‘we shed’ by invitation.” The couple have used the cottage to host neighbors from their tight cul-de-sac community and as the focal point for the high school graduation party they threw for Peters’ daughter in the backyard last June.

The shed also provided a quiet, private spot for mother and daughter to connect after they moved to Shelburne. “This has been a special place for us,” Peters said. “When I put it in, she was so excited. Some of her girlfriends’ mothers were like, ‘Oh, now I’m in trouble.’”

Beth’s daughter, Maeve Collins, shared by text how much she appreciated all the time her mom “put into customizing [the shed], making sure every window would capture the most light.” She said she loves hanging out there on warm summer evenings with the doors open onto flickering garden tiki torches.

For others considering a similar shed, Peters highly recommends Livingston Farm Outdoor Products & Excavation in Bristol, where she purchased hers. Base models of the 10-by-12-foot size start at just over $7,000. The family-owned business sells about 240 sheds a year of all sizes and prices, from 4-by-8-foot firewood cottages to some that cost “well into six figures,” co-owner David Livingston Jr. said. One customer bought a 12-foot-diameter octagonal gazebo just for their

cats and attached it to their home with a feline-size tunnel.

The New England-built sheds come painted in a choice of 21 colors and fully assembled, with free delivery within a 50-mile radius of Bristol. Livingston strongly advises installing them on a crushed-gravel pad for stability and longevity. For a 10-by-12-foot shed, a pad costs around $1,000, he said.

Among her customization choices, Peters elected to have the interior of her shed painted white, an uncommon choice that the Livingstons have since recommended frequently. “It just brightens up the inside astronomically. It makes it feel so light and airy,” Livingston said.

That was exactly the look and feel Peters sought, she said. The cottage is neither insulated

nor electrified, but it gets lots of light and warmth from its southern exposure and all the glass. In the height of summer, it benefits from the shade of trees behind it and a fresh cross breeze. Peters picked double French doors to allow for good airflow and to invite both people and nature into the space.

“It’s so magical to just open these up during the day, and then these billow in the breeze,” she said, nodding to sheer white curtains.

Even in cooler weather with windows and doors closed, Kismet Cottage feels nestled in the outdoors. “One of the biggest joys I get from spending time in and around the cottage is being immersed in nature,” Peters said.

In particular, Peters said she has connected with a pair of barred owls that frequent the surrounding woods. Last June, shortly after Peters’ father died suddenly, she was hosting some friends at Kismet and they spent a long time watching and listening to one of the owls. “We were all awestruck by this amazing creature’s presence in our backyard,” she said.

A few days later, Peters found a beautiful brown-and-white-striped owl feather. She placed it carefully among the treasures arrayed on the cottage desk, a gift from nature and another sign of kismet. ➆


Learn more about Livingston Farm Outdoor Products & Excavation at

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