At Home: Cottage Industry

An intimate country abode and a city perch with room to breathe: This couple proves you can have it both ways.

Heading North
Let’s backtrack: Several years ago, artist Allison Paschke and her husband, computer engineer John Danskin, traded in their large, responsibility-laden house and garden for urban living. With the help of the Providence architecture firm 3six0, the couple transformed a Jewelry District loft into two nests: one for her, one for him (more on that later). It was a stellar move all around, except that Paschke found herself missing her connection with nature. As a remedy, she purchased some land in Foster — an area that holds happy childhood associations — and once again enlisted 3six0 for aid in designing a getaway. Back and forth Paschke and the architects went with ideas and models, simplifying each time until at last they arrived at this brilliant, modern haven that’s open to the outdoors but, at the same time, exquisitely private. “I didn’t expect the cottage to give me such a complete feeling of being away,” says Paschke, who’s happily gardening once more.

The Still Life
The blessed orderliness (we will not dwell on our own clutter) translates serenity and, no kidding, seems to free the mind. The gorgeous light doesn’t hurt either. In Providence, the owners claim a generous share of natural light but here there’s abundance. It streams in from the south, underscoring the stellar materials and craftsmanship. Shake off all the cutesy cottage connotations; there’s just enough of everything and nothing more. Douglas fir alcoves face off on either side of the central room: one holding the kitchen, the other bookshelves. The sleeping nook, like the walls and ceiling, is clad in painted pine. There’s a wood-burning stove to ward off chills. And, yes, there’s a beauty of a bath too, tucked cleverly along the north wall — accessible but unobtrusive.

A Meeting of Minds
The architects — 3six0 principals Kyna Leski and Chris Bardt, senior associate and project architect Jack Ryan along with Rachel Stopka — already knew the owner as a kindred soul. “When a client shares the same sensibilities, the outcome can be wonderful,” says Ryan (pictured above with Paschke). Together they scrutinized every detail, from the barely there palette to how visitors approach — either through the cottage’s designated entry where a shallow recess showcases some of the artist’s wonderfully translucent porcelain cups or head on across the cedar deck. Hefty stones unearthed during construction serve as steps today and dot the newly forming landscape Paschke is carefully choreographing with native plants.

Thanks for Sharing
The double loft concept — an edgier one to suit the husband’s aesthetic; a softer vibe for Paschke — is unique and compelling. Distinct spaces allow the couple to come together (there’s a shared entry, sun and utility room) but at the same time, enjoy a certain independence. The edited furnishings and bare windows on Paschke’s live/work side comply with her art. Light and reflectivity, she explains, are tools for creating a variety of experiences. The airy ambience is not unlike that of the cottage. And on this day, her paintings on mirror lining the studio shelf are in colors reminiscent of that country place. Like an alchemist, Paschke summons air and sky, green trees and pastures, but leaves us to fill it all in according to our imaginations. Hers, it’s clear — whatever the medium, whatever the setting — has no limit.