Are We In England? No – This Charming English Cottage Is In Greensboro – The Classic Vision Of A Local Architect

Posted on | May 7, 2015 | No Comments

Who hasn’t dreamed at one time or another of living out their days in a charming English cottage? These iconic homes bring to mind a simpler time, and a cozy existence in a tranquil pastoral setting. Noted Greensboro architect Jim Collins of the firm James S. Collins Architect doesn’t just dream of English cottages – he creates them. Jim has a passion for historic buildings, and he is well-known for creating some of today’s finest traditional homes. Recently, he was gracious enough to chat with North Carolina Design about a delightful project that would live up to anyone’s vision of a charmed life in the English countryside.

Images Courtesy of James S. Collins Architect ©

“The homeowners wanted to downsize after their children went to live in other cities,” says Jim. “They wanted to build their dream home – a very simple, classic English cottage, inspired by the works of English architect Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens is widely known as one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, and being asked to create something that reflected his work was both an honor and a wonderful opportunity.”

Jim explains that classic English cottages have a truly special and distinctive type of architecture. “The roof doesn’t loom above you,” he notes. “It’s so low and close that it gives you a visceral connection to the house. The steep roof pitch creates smaller walls, which gives the home a really intimate feel. Low eaves and smaller walls also make the house seem as though it’s nestled right into the ground, which makes it cozy and inviting.”

The level of detail that Jim used to make this “simple” home come to life is truly remarkable. He used real wood shingles on the roof to create an undulating effect and a natural texture that calls to mind the organic look of thatch. He gave the ceiling and roof vents the charming look of traditional dovecotes, and added the slender, twisted diagonal chimneys that English cottages are known for. He also added a beautiful and distinctive eyebrow window to the back wall.

The interior of the home was created to complement the homeowners’ simple and casual lifestyle. “They eat most of their meals in the kitchen, so we gave them a combination living and dining area, with a panoramic view of the lake,” he says. “The kitchen is adjacent to an informal family room, where they can entertain or spend time relaxing together. The second floor has a game room and four bedrooms, so that their grown children can come to visit comfortably. And the master bedroom features its own private balcony.”

To Jim, the feel of the home was as important as its look and its function. “It’s very warm and welcoming,” he reflects. “The rooms are smaller, and they don’t have that cavernous feel that rooms in great houses can sometimes have. The first-floor ceilings are only 9 feet high, which keeps maintains the intimate feel. The historical proportions of the rooms provide balance, and are peaceful and soothing to the eye. It just feels comfortable, from the very moment you walk in.”

The home’s interior is as wonderfully detailed as its exterior, featuring beautiful and thoughtfully chosen interior window casings, cornices and custom mouldings. “I think these elements make a huge difference in the feel of a house,” he notes. “Traditional accents are larger and more detailed. When you use similar accents throughout the house, your eye picks up on it. It adds much more depth, and unifies the space.”

This project speaks to Jim’s passion for recreating historic homes. “We’re taking the past into the future,” he says. “Every generation has reinvented classic architecture, and added another nuance. It’s tremendous to be a part of that, and I feel very lucky. When you create a house like this, there is a sense that you are continuing history. And that is very, very exciting.”

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