Refurbishing an Arts & Crafts Cottage

Refurbishing an Arts & Crafts cottage designed by William Lightfoot Price, noted architect and founder of utopian communities.

This little gem is an original cottage designed by Will Price in the Arts & Crafts enclave of Arden, Delaware. My husband, Rodney Jester, and I were so taken by it, we joined in its restoration, along with our friend Dink Pompper, who lives next door to the cottage. 

With a 16th-century country aesthetic, the stuccoed cottage has been called a fairytale Tudor. The battened front door is original, as is all the hardware.

Dan Lidon

Built ca. 1912, the cottage was basically all still there, quite neglected but un-changed. Rodney says that the best thing about the house was that it was untouched—which was also the worst thing about it! The original, main house is a mere 18′ x 18′. During the 1930s or ’40s, a 10′ extension was added at the back for a small kitchen and bath. Features that make the cottage unique include carved stucco, inlaid Moravian tiles, original Arden Forge door hardware, and leaded-glass windows made by Arden artisan Elena Darling. The fireplace has local fieldstone and handmade brick. The name of the cottage is Rest Harrow, which had been carved into wood over the front door. 

During the restoration, exterior work included stripping over-painting to expose Mercer’s Moravian tiles, painting the front door red, and gold-leafing the house name. The original gold leaf had worn away.

Dan Lidon

All of these details are mentioned in Will Price’s book Model Homes for Little Money (Curtis Publishing, 1898). 

 The interior has a casual mix of contemporary and antique furnishings: Stickley-style dining chairs, a carved oak chest. Art pottery is displayed throughout. 

Dan Lidon

We made the cottage habitable, replacing or adding mechanical, heat, and electric systems. Rodney is a retired custom-kitchen contractor who has contacts with fine craftspeople. Dink and I scrubbed nicotine-stained plaster walls, then taped, primed, and painted. The original pine flooring was long gone, so we tore up the later concrete and carpeting and laid new pine flooring that matches what remained upstairs. We had to rebuild the later rear extension—its floor had been below grade and suffered from flooding—and added modern amenities. It was in any event not original.

Read The Arts & Crafts Community at Arden, Delaware

Moravian tiles had been over-painted, and were stripped to reveal the terra-cotta finish. Leaded-glass windows are original and were rehabilitated.

Dan Lidon

The village of Arden, in Delaware, is an intentional community founded in 1900 by architect Will Price and sculptor Frank Stephens, on the philosophy of William Morris, on the 19th-century economic reform principles of Henry George, in tandem with the American Arts & Crafts movement and with the landscape designs of the Garden City movement. Arden is in North Wilmington, about 23 miles from Philadelphia.

The focus of the main room is the rustic stone fireplace. The oval sconce is from Arden Forge. Beyond is the kitchen addition at the rear.

Dan Lidon

During our work on the cottage, we all decided that we wanted a scholar to live in the cottage, our labor of love, and not treat it as a general rental. (Rodney and I live in another wonderful Arts & Crafts house.) Our first tenant was a graduate student at Winterthur, who was studying intentional communities after earning a degree in architecture. 

Read more: The Arts & Crafts Community at Arden, Delaware

Window Repair

Its leaded-glass windows are a signature feature of the Will Price cottage. They were made by Arden artisan Elena Darling; both men and women, of all backgrounds, were welcome in the community. Darling became well known as a stained-glass maker, and her work is in many of the early houses in Arden.

Windows were made by Arden artisan Elena Darling.

Dan Lidon

All of the cottage windows were saved and restored as needed. The first step was removal to allow work to proceed. Restored leaded-glass panels were fitted into new, replica sash, then primed and painted. The restored windows were then fitted into their original frames.

Restored leaded-glass panels were fitted into new, replica sash, then primed and painted.

Dan Lidon

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