This Cozy Irvington Cottage Keeps the Environment in Mind

Originally a 1950s split-level ranch, the new owner transformed the property into a charming cottage.

By Becky Harris, Houzz

The beautiful acre around this 1950s split-level ranch was what caught interior designer Susan Anthony’s eye. Looking to downsize, she had a vision of transforming the Westchester County, New York, home into a charming cottage. “The former owner was a teacher, and she loved to garden. I think most of her energy went into the gardens, not the interiors,” Anthony says. “The setting was so beautiful that I decided to recycle the old house rather than build a new one.”

Being green took on more than one meaning. In addition to recycling as much as possible, using recycled materials and making the home energy efficient, Anthony was inspired by all of the beautiful greens she saw in the landscape and brought the colors she saw outside to the interiors. “I looked around outside and chose colors like wheats, creams and shades of green to use indoors,” she says.

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Before Photo, original photo on Houzz


Houzz at a Glance

Who lives here: Interior designer Susan Anthony

Location: Irvington-on-Hudson, New York

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Size: 2,200 square feet (204 square meters); 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms


BEFORE: Although this is a photo of the back of the house, it gives you an idea of the style of the facade before. It was a simple 1950s split-level ranch.

Ellen McDermott, original photo on Houzz


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AFTER: Before, one had to cross the property to reach the front door. Anthony extended the garage by 4 feet and excavated to create this entry into what used to be the basement of the split-level home.

Anthony’s move was a transition into a new phase of her life as she downsized from a large family home into this home. She brought with her the things she loved most, including many antiques. When she downsized, she thought carefully about which pieces were her favorites and would work in the cottage, and then figured out where she needed to fill in the blanks.


Ellen McDermott, original photo on Houzz


Anthony took out a wall between the living room and the dining room. This allowed her to extend her dining table to accommodate up to 22 people. As a Thanksgiving and Christmas host, she has an open-door policy. Guests may include her three grown children, her ex-husband and his girlfriend, her former in-laws and any of her children’s friends who aren’t able to make it home for the holidays.

She replaced the home’s doors and windows with energy-efficient ones, with the exception of two new Andersen windows that had been installed recently. One of them is the diamond-paned window you see here. She had her contractor add panes from an antique window. They are attached with molding and can be removed easily for cleaning and painting.

The large hutch was another score from a Ralph Lauren sale. The designer stained the existing floors and the pine hutch to match, and she backed the shelves in mirror to reflect her collection and the light. The pottery is her collection of French mustard and confit jars.

The window treatments are wool challis, which the designer recommends because the fabric breaks and hangs so beautifully. Just be sure to keep the moths away.


Ellen McDermott, original photo on Houzz


Across the space is the living room. The designer added two matching French chandeliers, one over the dining table and one in here, to create a connection between the two spaces. This one hangs over an old Chinese bed-turned-coffee table. “I like to anchor a room with two large pieces,” she says. In here the hutch and the coffee table are those two large pieces.

The side table in the foreground is a Biedermeier, and the one on the other side of the sofa is an antique French wine table that tilts. You can see the wheat and green hues inspired by the garden throughout the rooms.

Anthony can thank an odd smell for her new 10-foot ceilings. After ripping up the carpet that she suspected was the culprit, Anthony realized the smell was still lingering. Upon further investigation, she discovered that a second roof had been installed directly atop the old roof, and black mold had formed between the two. She had to redo the whole roof, and while doing so, decided to raise the ceilings in the main living spaces. The new roof is made from recycled tires, and the insulation is also made from recycled materials. She installed new energy-efficient systems, ductwork and fans.


Ellen McDermott, original photo on Houzz


New French doors in the living room and dining room let in more natural light and lead to this patio in the side yard. “I had just been to a wedding in Capri and fell in love with the patios there,” she says. She shared her Capri photos with her mason, who re-created the look. She then added a butterfly garden and a mix of comfortable furnishings.

Anthony had the trees pruned to allow more natural light into the house, then had the branches put through a wood chipper to use in the yard. Any concrete and bathroom tile removed was crunched up to be reused in aggregate. Shrubs that were in the way of the new construction were transplanted, and drains were added to provide water for a future rain garden.


Before Photo, original photo on Houzz


BEFORE: Because one big renovation the former owner had completed recently was the kitchen, Anthony decided to keep the cabinets and granite countertops, while making cosmetic changes.

Related: 5 Types of Granite Countertops

Ellen McDermott, original photo on Houzz


AFTER: The designer took down a wall that used to divide the kitchen from the dining room, where you see the bar here. She replaced old appliances with more energy-efficient ones and donated the old ones to Green Demolitions.

The wooden bar top came from an antique French shop counter, a piece she’d used for a former client. When the client decided to replace the top with granite, she gave it to Anthony, who then gave it to her carpenter to hang on to and then promptly forgot about it. When it came time to address the counter, he told the designer he had a surprise for her, and pulled out the old French wood top. They added iron brackets to fasten it to the wall.

The bay window was existing but didn’t have a cushion on the seat. Anthony turned the area into an eat-in nook by adding a mattress cushion upholstered in a checked fabric in the bay, and pulling up an antique table and new French chairs.

“I had wanted a Dutch door my whole life,” Anthony says of the new door to the backyard. It makes it easy to pass things out to guests on the patio without letting the dog out.

Related: More Creative Ideas for the Patio

Ellen McDermott, original photo on Houzz


The wallpaper in the master bedroom is a sweet polka dot pattern that recalls an English cottage. The big basket under the Biedermeier side table adds a French touch. The bed upholstery is a pale Wedgwood blue mohair velvet.

“Everybody thought I was crazy to leave a big, beautiful house for this one when I bought it,” Anthony says. “Now they wish they were in a cottage like mine.”

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