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Divine design: Historic church becomes home
A landscape architect on flower power
Floorcloths: Artwork you can walk on
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A Bristol Realtor on rural home buying
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6 Who’s ready for the birds and bees? Harbingers of spring, that is. We sure are. In this issue, we embrace the floral glory of a Burlington backyard. We go indoors to peek at a cute Airbnb apartment and a Castleton home in a former church. Rachel Elizabeth Jones oohs and ahhs over a Vermont artist’s hand-painted floorcloths, and Molly Walsh profiles a next-gen Realtor in a Bristol family’s biz. Finally, an award-winning awning company offers tips on how to beat the coming heat.
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Haley Rice and MacArthur Stine make their home in a historic church
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BY RA CHE L E L IZ AB E T H J O N ES
Measured by the Yard .............11
A Burlington landscape architect creates functional, sustainable outdoor spaces BY CH A R LOT T E AL B E R S
Canvasworks Designs makes artwork you can walk on
BY RA CHE L E L IZ AB E T H J O N ES
How a Burlington homeowner turned old outbuildings into a sweet Airbnb pad
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Home Again ............................ 20
A next-generation Realtor steps up to run the family biz in Bristol BY M O LLY WAL S H
For one local company, awnings aren’t just window dressing
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11 Build your own backyard flower power
15 Floorcloths: Artwork you can walk on
18 From homeowner to Airbnb superhost
20 A Bristol Realtor on rural home buying
22 Otter Creek Awnings keeps it cool
PHOTO BY CAROLYN BATES PHOTOGRAPHY
A garden in the Hill Section of Burlington designed by landscape architect Cynthia Knauf
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Divine design: Historic church becomes home
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MacArthur Stine and Haley Rice with son Keaton in their home, a renovated church in Castleton
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Haley Rice remembers that, as a little girl, she always wanted to live in a church. Now her dream has come true: In October 2016, Rice and husband MacArthur Stine moved into the former St. Mark’s Church in Castleton. With some imagination, a lot of elbow grease and inventive décor, the couple has turned the blessed building into a quirky, cheerful home. Its other occupants: their 1-year-old son, Keaton, two cats and a dog.
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at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater. He spent that winter gutting the interior while living in the building’s minimally heated undercroft — that’s churchspeak for crypt or basement. In the renovation’s early stages, Stine says, a friend recommended that he take plenty of time to envision the home he wanted to build. He was in the right place for quiet contemplation. One serious boon for the project: Despite its age, the building has great
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Built in 1899, the vacant house of worship first caught Stine’s eye when he moved to Castleton in 2012. “I was really curious,” he says. “It kind of grabs you.” Set just off the intersection of the town’s Main Street and the entrance to Castleton University, the location couldn’t be more convenient for Stine: He’s director of technical services at the school. Stine purchased the property in 2014, the same year he met Rice, who is the operations and marketing manager
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Sacred Place « P.7 “bones.” Church documents from the local historical society explain that the building was designed with “an architectural system of proportions that derive from pure geometry.” With the help of Rice, friends and family, Stine spent the next two years transforming the space. What was originally a single, high-ceilinged, 905-square-foot room became two with the installation of a wall. The area once dedicated to the altar became the master bedroom, with the altar rail repurposed to set off a newly created loft. The bigger parcel is airy, with an open floor plan containing a kitchen, dining room and living room. At its highest, the vaulted ceiling reaches a dramatic 21 feet. Overhead are not only beautiful exposed crossbeams but an original circular stained-glass window. To make the most of the large wall space, Stine and Rice have installed a projection screen. The home’s other 10 windows are also stained glass. Stine’s father, whom he describes as a “hobbyist,” restored each of these tall peaked windows with borders of colorful glass squares. The window frames, Stine explains, are made from mirrored boards that he salvaged from the undercroft. Closer to the ground, evidence of church life lingers in the floorboards: Where the pews sat, the southern yellow pine is relatively fresh — but it’s darker and more worn where seated churchgoers once put their feet. As Stine tore down walls, removed fixtures and disposed of layers of horsehair plaster, the church offered up several relics. From the walls came a vintage glass bottle and a can of Schlitz, which Stine and Rice have since incorporated into their eclectic décor. More significant is the time capsule they found behind the building’s crumbling cornerstone. The metal container, which was inside a wooden box, was filled with newspapers and a hymnal.
Above: MacArthur Stine and Haley Rice with their son, Keaton Below: One of the home’s stained-glass windows
The couple has donated the artifact to the Castleton Historical Society. Though living in a rehabbed church might sound a little somber, Rice and Stine have warmed their nest with a colorful, humor-inflected style all their own. “We’re theater people,” Rice says, “so everything comes from a show.” She points to their orange-red couch from Town Hall Theater’s production of La Traviata. That huge gold lobster on the wall? A fixture of many a feast scene. A model of Salvador Dalí’s melting clock from “The Persistence of Memory” drips from a bookshelf, not far from a framed “Cheap Art Manifesto,” a Bread and Puppet Theater broadside. In the future, as their son gets older, the parents say they might like to update the 750-square-foot undercroft for more space. For now, though, they’re just enjoying themselves and their quarters. “I come home,” says Rice, “and I’m, like, I love living here.” m
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COURTESY OF CYNTHIA KNAUF
Cynthia Knauf wants to help her clients live outdoors. No, not in tents or teepees. Rather, as the sketches in her office illustrate, the Burlington-based landscape architect designs extensions of their homes — in front yards, driveway perimeters, back patios, and often-overlooked nooks and crannies.
Measured by the
Top to bottom: Landscape architect Cynthia Knauf in her office; sketch for Hill Section landscaping; and the completed Burlington Hill Section project
MEASURED BY THE YARD
COURTESY OF CAROLYN BATES PHOTOGRAPHY
BY C H AR L O T TE AL BE R S
A Burlington landscape architect creates functional, sustainable outdoor spaces
“You have to be creative and see the potential in any given space,” she says. Knauf’s clients typically are looking for privacy, places to unwind and entertain, or room for kids to play. Others want to create backyard habitats or grow vegetables organically. Depending on their budget, wish lists can be simple or complex; desired features might include fireplaces or grills, stone patios, pathways, or water features. In any functional outdoor space, it’s the details that count. This is especially true for city lots of limited size, according to Knauf. One case in point: her landscape design for a traditional urban home in Burlington that was part of last summer’s Flynn Garden Tour. That project — a complete redesign of outdoor areas on a lot that measures less than a quarter acre — followed an extensive renovation of an 1894 home by Maclay Architects of Waitsfield and Burlington-based Redmond Interior Design. Knauf’s goal was to create a private and peaceful sanctuary out of the steep, overgrown property in a densely developed neighborhood. “How much can you make of an urban lot?” Knauf asks rhetorically, looking over the master plan. Quite a bit, apparently; her design won a 2016 industry award from Green Works, the Vermont Nursery & Landscape Association. “It’s rewarding when a small backyard design transforms an unusable and/or unsightly place into a sanctuary that ignites all of the senses,” she says. “I think that the change can be more dramatic with a small space versus a large one, because the scale of a small backyard is more similar to a room inside — so the yard truly feels like an extension of the indoors.” Typical of hilly Burlington, slope issues and drainage were significant factors in the overall design. A two-track brick driveway, pervious joints in the stone floors and paths, and substantial drainage behind stone walls help mitigate stormwater runoff. “The key to making this usable was to terrace on two levels,” Knauf explains. “Each of these is broken into different areas of unique character.” Retaining walls and stairs built with Champlain fieldstone create a series of outdoor rooms. Stones from the home’s original foundation — excavated during the renovation and likely quarried less than a mile away — were incorporated into the hardscape by Church Hill Landscapes. “The challenge of small spaces is that everything has to integrate well,” says Nate Carr, owner of the Charlotte-based company. “We worked around a large black-walnut tree when building the fence and elevated the foundation of the shed to protect the tree roots.” Other mature trees — red cedar, pear and magnolia — were identified and protected throughout the construction process. Yews and boxwood were planted to help define spaces. Hydrangeas give the front-porch entry an oldfashioned look.
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fresco dining — with freshly picked Measured by the Yard « P.11 al veggies — in the middle of the city. Carr also likes the sculptural stone “For me, a sustainable landscape is that was added to a circular garden. a gentle and comfortable coexistence That detail came about when his masons of humans and nature,” says Knauf. found a boulder with unique character “However, the American Society of during the construction process. Church Landscape Architects has a clear and Hill installed it as a stand-alone vertical comprehensive description for it: accent. ‘Sustainable landscapes are responsive to Those who took the Flynn Garden the environment, regenerative and can Tour last July were likely impressed by actively contribute to the development the vegetable garden that runs along of healthy communities. Sustainable the west side of the property, as well landscapes sequester carbon, clean the as its lovely white-painted gate. With air and water, increase energy efficiency, a stepping-stone path set in gravel and restore habitats, and create value raised beds for good drainage, this area through significant economic, social and supports homegrown edibles such environmental benefits.’” as salad greens and cherry tomatoes. That may seem like a tall order in a Blueberry shrubs were planted nearby, single residential backyard. But in cities, and grapes now grow on the perimeter those lots are part of a larger ecosystem, fence. and it’s critical to follow sustainable An outdoor breakfast nook near practices that help protect the surroundthe rear of the lot offers early-morning ing environment. shade and just enough room for a table Knauf recommends that homeowners and four chairs. Surrounded by drifts make space for a compost pile, so that of feathery astilbe, ferns, bugbane and soil can be renewed and enriched every Japanese forest year from garden grass, the area is cuttings and biocool and calming. degradable kitchen Soft Irish moss scraps. (Besides, grows in between Vermont’s Act 148 the fieldstone requires recycling pavers. or composting food Other noscraps and lawn table details in or garden debris Untitled-59 this landscape to be phased in CYN THIA KNAU F include a garden through the year shed with a pink 2020.) For clients door; Adirondack chairs in a back corner who maintain gardens, she advises going of the lawn; and drifts of flowers, such organic, with zero pesticides. as white daisy, blue agastache, heliopsis, To Knauf, creating sustainable landdelphinium, purple monkshood, scapes also means supporting biodiverpersicaria and shrub roses. Katherine sity. Those blueberry shrubs or tomato Lee of Waterville-based Sisters of Nature plants her clients want to grow need designed the flower beds. pollinators; using plants that support “Flow is important,” Knauf observes. bees is increasingly important. Bee“One of the big goals during the design friendly favorites that work for sunny, process is to create good circulation and small-scale lots include native false gentle transitions.” sunflower, gayfeather, purple coneflower She notes that Japanese landscape and late-blooming dwarf aster. design principles can be employed on Some landscaping tactics are as easy just about any property. “The composias they are rewarding. On her latest tion of balance, contrast, scale, pattern, sketch, Knauf recommends planting a texture and perspective, which overlap diversity of thyme around the pavers on and intertwine, is key to creating movea pathway. “Thyme is a wonderful low ment and sense of enticement through ground cover that tolerates foot traffic, so the landscape,” Knauf says. “Also, it’s it can be easily integrated into your patio, important to keep the palette simple terrace or walkway paver system for and subtle so that flow is almost added texture, color and even fragrance,” Zen-like, gentle and unimpeded, as in she says. nature.” Bonus: Thyme is a pollinator, These days, residential landscaping entices butterflies and is an edible, is as concerned with sustainability as healthful herb. Multipurpose and aesthetics and functionality. On a sketch multisensory, the plant is but one of she’s made for a proposed backyard proj- Knauf’s sustainable solutions for the ect, Knauf points out the raised garden city she calls home. m bed near the kitchen, a bistro seating space and a lounge area surrounded by INFO fragrant greenery. The design allows for Learn more at cynthiaknauf.com.
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For more than 20 years, the Massachusetts transplant has cultivated a successful niche designing and painting floorcloths through her company, Canvasworks Designs. Floorcloths are both decorative artworks and functional objects. Though they date back to 15th-century France, in America they reached peak popularity in the mid-19th century. Used in place of a rug, floorcloths were highly durable paintings on thick canvas that could be found in middle-class and upscale homes of the era. With the invention of linoleum in 1869, floorcloths eventually went the way of the horse-drawn carriage. In the 21st century, however, they’re again in hot demand. As one of only 12 or so American artists producing floorcloths, 56-year-old Mair is busy; currently, her painting schedule is booked through November. POSITIVELY FLOORED
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canvas by the 100-yard bolt, which weighs 600 pounds. A standard floorcloth is eight by 10 feet. Most of Mair’s clients “want to “Everything I do is done on canvas,” represent their house in a previous Mair said. “That’s one of my signatures.” time,” she explained. Often, the early This includes her murals. Though stages of a commission will involve a interior wall paintings don’t require the trip or two to the historical society in same canvas or exterior-grade acrylic as a client’s hometown, where Mair will a painting made for the floor, Mair has glean era-appropriate details to include in her scenes — such as town landmarks found she prefers using those materials. “It’s weird, I know,” she admitted. and architectural detail. As an avid fan In addition to custom designs for of history and historical research, she residences, Mair has collaborated with finds seeking out this kind of detail a many museums and historical institupleasure. tions. In 2010, she completed a floor“I think I was meant to be in 1850, cloth for the Boston Museum of Fine not 2018,” she said. Arts’ Art of the Americas wing, which Mair’s style is distinctly folk, and featured Carwitham’s she uses a warm, dimensional geosubdued palette. metric “Tumbling Some of her stronBlocks” design. gest influences “I like doing are 18th-century [museum work],” painters John Mair said, “because I Carwitham, Rufus feel like I’m preservPorter and George ing history a little Stubbs, as well as bit.” 19th-century painter Her love for the Alfred Munnings. past extends beyond On her floorher artistry. The home cloths, Mair often she shares with her paints pastoral husband is more than landscapes, both real 200 years old and and invented, as well formerly belonged to as the traditionally landscape painter H. elite pastime of fox Thomas Clark. Mair hunting. “I love doing LISA CU RRY MAIR keeps Clark close to the hunt scenes,” she heart and, she said, said. “My mother was has worked to “put an avid fox hunter. [the house] back to the way Tom would It’s beautiful.” have had it.” Former owners had turned Riding and dressage are among Clark’s original studio space into an Mair’s lifelong passions, and horses apartment; Mair has converted it back figure prominently in her work. Her into a workspace. own horse, Kate, is a favorite model. These days, Mair is working to build Two of the artist’s staircases — one in her reputation beyond floorcloths. To her studio, the other in her adjacent keep creatively nimble, she has begun home — are adorned with portraits on a weekly practice of producing smaller canvas of the dozen horses she’s had in paintings. Online buyers have quickly her life so far. snatched these up. In fact, Mair said she In college, Mair majored in math worries about having enough of them and minored in art. She initially set for her first-ever solo exhibition — in out to be a children’s book illustrator September at the Arundel Farm Gallery but was discouraged by how grueling in Kennebunkport, Maine. and competitive it is. Though Mair Vermonters can find samples had always painted, it wasn’t until she of Mair’s paintings at the Inn at attended a craft show in 1993 that she Weathersfield, where they contribute stumbled upon her specialty. to the farm-to-table restaurant’s rustic Mair’s very first floorcloth was a charm. In addition to six small-scale, 30-by-45-inch piece featuring a swirl wall-hung works, the inn also has a of artichokes, eggplants and asparagus. custom floorcloth featuring a mariner’s When friends saw the work in her compass at its entrance — and, yes, home, they began to request floorcloths you’re supposed to walk on it. m of their own. And so her career began. Recently, Mair completed floorcloth Contact: email@example.com No. 1,182. The majority of her clients have been in the U.S., particularly from the South. She has also shipped work to France, England and South America. INFO Learn more at canvasworksdesigns.com. Today, Mair orders her heavyweight
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SEVENDAYSVT.COM SPRING 2018
How a Burlington homeowner turned old outbuildings into a sweet Airbnb pad
BY KEN PICARD
Eva Sollberger didn’t set out to become an innkeeper. But shortly after construction began last year on an addition to her Burlington home, the idea of renting out her tiny backyard house as an Airbnb property started to make dollars and sense.
Sollberger, 44, lives in an 1890s-era home overlooking the Winooski River that likely once housed workers from the nearby woolen mills. When she purchased the property in 2007, it included a standalone garage and tool shed, which she knew would one day need to be renovated or removed. Initially, she planned to demolish the outbuildings and erect an “accessory dwelling unit,” aka a mother-in-law apartment, for her mom. But due to some legal snafus, the construction and permitting costs ran much higher than Sollberger had anticipated — about $150,000. Then some friends who operate a traditional bed-and-breakfast nearby suggested that she’d get a better return on her investment by renting out the space to short-term visitors through Airbnb. (Sollberger’s mother now lives with her in the main house.) Today, Sollberger is one of 3,700 Airbnb hosts in Vermont. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the online booking service connects travelers to short-term rental lodgings in people’s homes, apartments, vacation cottages and other properties. Though at least 10 other online hospitality sites provide similar services, Airbnb is the world’s largest. In 2017 alone, Airbnb properties hosted 232,500 visitors to Vermont — for an average stay of 2.6 days — and paid $3.5 million in state room and board taxes, according to company-provided data.
Top to bottom: Kitchen with dining nook; a fully stocked bathroom; the exterior of the tiny home addition; and the bedroom loft
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Sollberger’s rental house is small and Airport, which is less than 10 minutes cozy — just 270 square feet, including away. the loft bedroom — but uses its space Finally, Sollberger insisted on doing efficiently. It features beautiful cherry everything by the book, including getting hardwood floors, Douglas fir beams short-term renters’ insurance and ensursupporting the loft, and a bathroom with a ing that all construction was up to code. The ground is covered in full shower. Ample windows let in plenty “I personally would do all the permitsnow, but not for long. of light, making the place feel spacious ting,” she advised. “I know that’s not to City Lights Now is the time to create and airy. everyone’s taste, but it makes me feel Flex Lamps your landscape plan. A downstairs couch converts into a better that I’ve dotted my i’s and crossed bed, so the house can sleep as many as my t’s.” four. The kitchen is small but includes It’s anyone’s guess how many other a fridge, microwave, sink, four-burner Vermonters are currently building stove, oven, coffee maker and quartzite additions or converting old barns and countertop, all of which exceed the ofcarriage houses into short-term rental ferings found in most hotel kitchenettes. properties. Neither the state nor national Sollberger said she decorated her home-builder associations, nor Airbnb, rental unit “with a nod could provide data on to the historic” and to this trend. highlight its proximity That said, the City to Winooski, which of Burlington’s code ... Buy American & Local is visible through the enforcement office is back windows. Her well aware that many eclectic décor includes such rental properties large prints of historic are out there, some E VA SOLLB E RGER black-and-white photos flying under the radar. of female workers from David White, the nearby Chace Mill, a historic map of director of Burlington’s Department of the city of Winooski, and an aerial photo Planning and Zoning, had no hard data, LANDSCAPE DESIGN 490 Shelburne Rd., Burlington of the neighborhood taken shortly after either, on how many local homes are being firstname.lastname@example.org the Great Flood of 1927. used to host guests of Airbnb and other 802.658.5444 • www.city-lights.com 802-279-5462 • didibrush.com Sollberger, who is the senior multimeonline booking sites. “But I think what dia producer for Seven Days, also stocked we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg,” the house with plenty of books and work he surmised. N8v-citylight0617.indd 1 5/17/17N8V-DidiBrush031417.indd 4:50 PM 1 2/21/18 11:59 AM by local artists — including at least half According to White, enforcement a dozen she has featured in her video actions and fines against unpermitted series “Stuck in Vermont.” She’s even put bed-and-breakfasts have become “a together a binder about all the people pretty common occurrence.” Oftentimes, who’ve lived in her house, as well as links immediate neighbors will file complaints to her videos. with the city about excessive traffic or “For me, the history and the neighborcars taking up parking spaces reserved for hood is why I love it here,” Sollberger said. permanent residents. She’s admittedly still an Airbnb White recommended that homeown“newbie” — she just hosted her first guest ers who are considering following in last month. But Sollberger has clearly Sollberger’s footsteps start the permitting done her homework on what will attract process early, as it can take weeks, if not guests and eventually get her rated as a months, to complete. Failure to do so can “superhost,” an elite rating for hosts who be costly, he cautioned. A single zoning orgo above and beyond for their visitors. dinance violation can result in a fine of up To that end, she provides her guests to $200 per offense. Violations of building with a continental-type breakfast of and life-safety codes — such as missing fire granola, coffee and juice the first day. extinguishers or nonfunctional smoke and She also stocks the kitchen with other carbon monoxide detectors — are even basic necessities and the bathroom with more serious and can result in criminal toiletries. penalties. “It’s like a home. What would I like if I To head off such problems, Vermont were traveling?” she said. “Hopefully, this lawmakers are now considering a bill that has everything you would need.” would require all Airbnb hosts, as well as What advice does Sollberger have for those of other short-term lodging services, other homeowners who are thinking of to register with the state. converting spaces into Airbnb rentals? Despite her big up-front expenses, First, be prepared to make an investSollberger sounded cautiously optimistic ment in the little things that add up to that charging $120 per night with a twomaking travelers feel at home. Sollberger night minimum will give her a solid return said she didn’t skimp on the quality of on her investment. her sheets, towels, glasses and flatware, “God, I hope so!” she said with a because all will need to be washed often. laugh. m She noted that she’ll even pick up travelContact: email@example.com ers at nearby Burlington International
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With the couple clearly at odds, the moment called for diplomacy on the part of their real estate agent. That’s a quality Kelly Laliberte has in spades. “You guys talk amongst yourselves,” she politely told the two after showing the house, and then returned to the downtown Bristol headquarters of Wallace Realty. Located at 7 Main Street in the historic village — population 3,900 — the business her parents founded is entering a new phase. The trademark green and yellow sign depicting the sun rising over Camel’s Hump will stay, but the management structure is changing: Laliberte is gradually taking over the company that Claire and Tom Wallace have run since 1994. “We’re kind of slowly moving into retirement,” explained Tom. Laliberte didn’t always want to go into real estate, but about 15 years ago she succumbed to the lure of self-employment — and to her parents’ entreaties to join the family business. It still consists of just the three of them. “I was in the restaurant business,” Laliberte explained. “My parents actually tried [to persuade me] for quite a while. I finally said OK.” Since she entered the profession, things have changed for real estate companies. Wallace Realty has a storefront with pictures of properties posted in the windows, but it doesn’t really need them. So much house shopping happens online now, and communication is often conducted by cellphone — especially via text for clients younger than 40, Laliberte said. The mobile phone is really her office, as is her minivan, she joked. But in other ways, the industry remains much the same as ever. The ideal disposition for a real estate agent is still thickskinned and outgoing, according to Claire Wallace. That pretty much describes Laliberte. “She could talk to anybody,” says her mom. And in an age when corporate real estate firms and online companies such as Zillow have captured a big piece of the market, it helps for a small firm such as
A couple in their early eighties looked carefully around a tidy ranch-style home at the edge of Bristol. The wife liked the house and the two-acre lot; the husband, not so much. He eyed the spacious backyard and said glumly: “Lots of lawn to mow.”
Again A next-generation Realtor steps up to run the family biz in Bristol BY MO L LY WAL S H
Kelly Laliberte of Wallace Realty in Bristol
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Wallace Realty to have deep community INFO roots. Tom Wallace’s family goes back Learn more at wallacere.com. generations in the mountainside town that once had a thriving coffin, furniture and flat fee. Laliberte said her agency’s fees sawmill industry and is now a bedroom are particularly flexible if it is hired for community for Middlebury, Vergennes two functions: selling a client’s house and and Burlington. finding him or her another. Tom grew up in Bristol, joined the U.S. Wallace Realty lists homes over a Navy and lived with Claire in Key West, broad area, but Addison County is home Fla., when Kelly and her sister were small. base. It’s significantly more rural than They moved back to Bristol when the girls the state’s economic engine, Chittenden were in grade school. The couple purCounty, and the market generally has chased a local gas station, which they have less inventory and lower prices. Costs since sold, and the Village Creeme Stand, a are rising in both counties, though. The Bristol institution. median sale price for a single-family home The couple’s other daughter, Piper in Addison County at the end of last year Westbrook, manages the stand, which will was $260,000 — up 7.2 percent from the celebrate 37 years in business this summer. previous year, according to the Vermont The Wallaces’ grandchildren now take Market Report published by Coldwell turns filling soft-serve cones, just as Piper, Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty. By Kelly and many of their friends did on hot comparison, the median in Chittenden afternoons when they were growing up. County was $322,000, an increase of 4.2 After college, Laliberte lived on the percent. other side of the Green Mountains — in the Price isn’t the only variance between Mad River Valley — and the real estate worked as a caterer, barmarkets. Traditional tender and waitress. She means of moving now makes her home in properties are Bristol with her husband different in a rural and their two daughters area, too. in a circa-1890 farmhouse “Open houses that they renovated don’t work” in Bristol themselves. or nearby towns, said Laliberte knows people Laliberte. “Nobody KELLY L ALIB E RTE all over central Vermont shows up. We sit there and shows houses in at by ourselves for a few least three counties. “Word of mouth goes hours.” And staging a home isn’t likely to a long way, and that’s actually how I get bring a higher offer. most of my business,” she said. What’s more important to rural home Her sister owns the bright-blue buildbuyers is a good well and septic system, ing on Main Street where Wallace Realty since municipal water and sewer service is currently located. The 19th-century is scarce. structure was moved to the site decades One thing remains constant regardless ago from elsewhere in town — and shows of geography: squabbles among couples. it. “If you look from the street, it has a little They disagree “a lot,” Laliberte reported. lean to it,” Laliberte explained. “That’s when you have to pull out your But the eccentricities and beauty of its pocket psychology degree.” old buildings are part of Bristol’s charm. She’s also learned to expect the unexLaliberte thinks the town could actually pected — including walking in on couples use more new housing stock — especially in bed who didn’t know their landlord one-story abodes designed for empty nestwas showing their apartment or house. ers, she said. But the older homes continue Laliberte’s sensible response: “Apologize, to have strong appeal, particularly to those shut the door and walk out.” who enjoy renovating. Winter in rural Vermont can present Whatever home buyers are seeking, unexpected obstacles, as well. Laliberte Laliberte offers advice and encouragement said her van does great on snowy roads, through all the twists and turns, from but more than once she’s had to navigate finding the right property to closing. snow drifts to get to a home’s front door. “Our job is to hold your hand and make That’s one reason perseverance is an the process go as smooth as possible,” she important tool of her trade. Many houses said. have quirks or drawbacks — or unplowed The standard commission on residendriveways — but none is unsellable, tial real estate is 6 percent, and 10 percent according to Laliberte. on vacant land. But those numbers can “For the right price,” she said, “somebe negotiable in an era when online body’s going to buy it.” m instruction facilitates sales by owner and Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org when some real estate agents work for a
O UT DO O R F UR NI S HI NG S COURTESY OTTER CREEK AWNINGS
We’re not out of the woods with nor’easters yet, but pretty soon it’ll be spring sunlight streaming down instead of snow. And as the temps heat up outside and in, so does business at Otter Creek Awnings. Homeowners hoping to keep cool have looked to the Williston company for decades — and not just for products such as retractable awnings, deck canopies, umbrellas and solar shades. The biz is known for its exceptional customer service; in fact, it received a 2017 award for just that from Houzz, a popular online magazine about home design and improvement. The award is “based on several factors, including the number and quality of recent client reviews,” according to the website. (Houzz names “best of” honors in design and photography, as well.) Not getting a lot of service calls for repair or redo is another reflection of good service, as it suggests Otter Creek Awning’s products are installed and working properly in the first place. Todd Warren, who grew up in Georgia, Vt., has owned the company for 10 years and also owns Vermont Custom Closets. He lives in Burlington’s New North End with his wife, Elizabeth. They have two college-age children. By email, Warren told Nest more about Otter Creek Awnings, his thoughts about service and why we need awnings in the age of global warming. Can you briefly describe your company and its history? Our company has evolved significantly over our 40-plus-year history. The founder, Max Eaton, started Otter Creek Awnings making canvas bags and small window awnings in the basement of his Middlebury home. Today we are one of the largest and most wellrespected awning companies in the country. We specialize in awnings for both residential and commercial applications and are proud that the majority of our awnings are still manufactured right here in Vermont
Learn more at ottercreekawnings.com. The Vermont Home & Garden Expo is Saturday, April 21, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, April 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. $6; free for children 12 and under.
Nobody wants to be without their awning for very long when the weather is good and the sun is hot. Have you seen an increased interest in awnings in recent years as summers in Vermont have gotten hotter? We have certainly seen an increase in our residential awning and solar shade business in recent years. Our designers think of themselves as solar-protection experts, and as the summers seem to be getting longer and hotter, people are definitely looking for more protection from the sun. I think we all also appreciate the potential health danger from overexposure to the sun. We’re all looking for a cool, shady spot to enjoy the Vermont summers.
Customers For one local company, awnings aren’t just window dressing BY S AL LY P O L L AK
Most important to our success over a long period of time is the amazing team that we have working at Otter Creek — some of them for over 35 years! That consistency and experience allow us to focus on creating a fun, friendly experience for our clients. Ultimately, it is our client who will determine how long we are in business. What does the Houzz customer service award mean to you? It validates and recognizes the time and energy we put into creating our customer experience. At Otter Creek,
we are fond of saying, “It’s not about the canvas.” That simply means to us that the experience of our client is more important than the product itself. We think impeccable service is all about how we make a client feel. After an awning is in place, what types of service calls do you typically get? Fortunately, we do not get a lot of service calls, but when we do, it’s generally for something minor that can be easily fixed. Service work takes a priority with us, especially in the summer months.
How do awnings help with energy efficiency? Awnings and solar shades can have a significant impact on energy efficiency. Most traditional window treatments are on the interior and do not prevent the sun from hitting the glass, and therefore provide little help in cooling. Awnings and solar shades are generally designed to go on the exterior of the home and prevent the sun from hitting the glass; they can reduce interior temperatures by 15 to 20 percent. That is often the difference between turning the air conditioner on or not. Do you have awnings at your home? Yes, of course, we have several awnings and solar shades on our home. My wife and I just finished remodeling a home in Burlington, and outdoor living space is very important to us. We have retractable awnings over our deck and patio, along with retractable window awnings on our sunroom. The coolest one is a motorized exterior solar shade over our large picture window. With the touch of a button, you hear the faint hum of the motor as the fabric drops vertically down over the window, keeping the hot sun out but still allowing you to see the amazing view. With several upcoming home shows — including the Vermont Home & Garden Expo — can you tell us what consumers can learn if they attend one? Spring is the time for outdoor home improvements. One of the best places to get ideas and see what’s new is a home show. Outdoor living is a very hot category right now, and at the shows you can meet folks who do landscaping, build decks and stone patios, sell outdoor furniture and, of course, awnings!
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Published on Mar 13, 2018
Published on Mar 13, 2018
Historic Church Becomes Home; A Landscape Architect on Flower Power; Artwork You Can Walk On; From Homeowner to Airbnb Host; A Bristol Realt...