Old home, new lifePublished 7:06pm Thursday, August 21, 2014
It’s been done many times before: a new property owner wants the land but doesn’t want the house on it. The old house is torn down; the new replaces it. But a few years ago, one local family decided to intervene. The end result: an old home given new life.
It started its life back in 1952, a small river cottage on a parcel of land in River Acres. This house was on the back side of the lot; its larger, sister house had the riverfront spot. But the landowners passed on and the out-of-state heirs couldn’t make it down to the river so much. The property went up for sale.
Enter the Woolard family. Hal Woolard, a local builder, his wife Garleen and their girls, Lauren and Sara, spent a summer in that house years ago, as Hal Woolard had been hired to do work on the big house. When the family heard the land was for sale years later, they reached out to the real estate agent and let it be known they’d be interested in the quaint, 700-square-foot cottage. The buyers took the Woolards up on their offer: in exchange for the moving cost of the house, as well as the demolition of the other home on the property, the Woolards, literally, drove away from the deal with a cottage.
It didn’t go far: just down River Road, a little ways up N.C. Highway 32, onto Magnolia School Road. One February morning in 2009, the cottage found its new place, about 50 yards away from the Woolards’ main house.
And there it sat for a little while, empty. That is, until the day Sara Woolard decided she’d had enough of Greenville crime and the high price of student loans, and she came on home, to a home-50-yards-away from home. Now she lives close, but not too close, to Mom and Dad.
“They always kind of joked about building us a treehouse,” Sara Woolard laughed.
This treehouse sits high on cement block pillars and has two bedrooms, a bathroom, a galley kitchen, a living room and a screened-in porch from which to watch the sun go down beyond the towering trees.
Even well off the river on a rural, winding road, it somehow retains its old-style river cottage feel. Perhaps it’s the deck and the screened-in porch, perhaps it’s the heart of pine floors and pine paneling covering nearly every wall and ceiling. Maybe its walls have absorbed the very smell of the river breeze blowing through the pines, but anyone who’s ever walked into Sara Woolard’s house falls in love. The previous owners had modernized the cottage a bit, installing a wall with built-in bookshelves and entertainment center, updating the bathroom and kitchen. All the Woolards had to do was clean up the pine paneling and shellac the lot of it before it was move-in ready. Since, Sara Woolard has gotten over her fear of damaging the pine paneling, as art hangs on every available surface — color abounding on a backdrop of warm pine walls.
The house is not big, but it’s inviting. It doesn’t have high ceilings, but it does have pine ones, with beams overhead. There’s not much storage space, but its owner has learned to pare down, and in the future, the downstairs will be enclosed to add another 700 square feet of storage and laundry, and maybe even an oyster bar for her parents.
“I love living here. It’s the perfect size — it’s homey,” Sara Woolard said.
That love has spawned a running joke between Sara Woolard and her father: when and if she ever moves, she plans on, quite literally, packing up the house to take with her.
“I joke, ‘You know, we’ve moved the house once,’ but Dad’s like, ‘Nope, it’s not going anywhere,’” she laughed.
Sara Woolard’s river house (without the river) is everything that is welcoming — cozy, colorful and comfortable, which is right in keeping with its owner’s philosophy.
“I’m a fan of a home you can live in. If I can’t kick off my shoes and feel at home, then it’s just a house. And there’s a difference.”