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Nettleton Hollow is an archetypal New England valley, well shaded, with a brook running through it.  One hundred years ago, the Hollow was industrial, dotted with small dams and mills.  Today it is characterized by a quiet, pastoral landscape with ponds, ferns and brook trout.

Our project site was a wooded plateau overlooking the brook and pond, just downstream from an 18th century sawmill we had restored 25 years earlier (Sprain Brook Sawmill).  Reduced by wetland soils and protected areas, the available footprint for building was quite small.

For a retired professional couple, the house was to sit gently and take full advantage of the rich landscape.  The aesthetic objective was a cottage with traditional character, though light and airy to mitigate the shade and closeness of the site.  The Owner’s wish list was refreshingly modest, requesting only a bedroom, living room, kitchen, guest room and porches, and one-car garage.  Character and quality outweighed size.

The small house arranges three main rooms in a row, so each enjoys the view.  Only one room deep, each sees daylight and air from both sides.  At center, a cupola breaks the ridgeline and lights the living room.  Covered porches on the garden side of the house soften the transition to the landscape.  The hipped shake roof with broad overhangs, fieldstone and shingle siding are chosen for their cottage character.  Inside, hewn oak timbers, limed reclaimed floors, tinted plaster and glazed finishes provide depth of surface and contribute to a hand-crafted feel.


Project Team

DiSalvo Engineering Group – structural
Munson Colonial Builders – construction
Eleish van Breems Ltd and Susan Z Kessler Designs – interior design
Nancy McCabe – garden design


AIA Connecticut & Connecticut Magazine – The
    Alice Washburn House Award 2016
CTC&G Innovation in Design Awards 2016
    Architecture IDA Finalist
Reflections on Swedish Interiors
    By Rhonda Eleish & Edie van Breems
  “Romance on Duck Pond”


Tim Lee Photography
Neil A Landino Jr