Little house promotes big construction ideals

Friday, July 22, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 29
By Hollie Deese

When Jane Hardy and her husband Rod Kochtitzky purchased a 1920’s bungalow in 1992, it came with a small – 750 square-feet – garage and servant’s quarters tucked around back.

And while many people might overlook that space and focus their efforts on the main house, Hardy and Kochtitzky threw themselves into saving, restoring and transforming “The Little House” 17 years later, in 2009. By then, it had been nearly 50 years since someone had lived there.

“We didn’t know much about historic buildings,” Hardy says, so they asked a friend with the Metro Historical Commission to check out the little building to see if it was worth saving. It was. Not many buildings like it existed because, built directly on the ground, the bottoms would rot out and cause the structures to fall. “We knew it was going to take some money to stabilize it,” she says.

But since the pair had decided this is the last home they would live in, it was worthwhile not only to restore the little building out back, but think ahead to all the uses it might have over the next 50 years or so. Sustainability was important, especially since it would reduce their energy costs years down the road.

“We dreamed about turning it into something we could enjoy,” she says. “Our philosophy is that we need neighborhoods like ours to have affordable living space so that someone’s mother-in-law or child who has just finished college can live there.”

They began by gutting the whole building, which had two giant holes in the roof. They also removed the kitchen and bathroom, only to find there was a Metro ordinance that would not allow them to put them back in.

Permission was granted in 2009 by Metro Board of Zoning Appeals to transfer the duplex status from the primary residence to the servant’s quarters.

The house is now complete, a year and a-half after work began, with the help of contractor Ryan Nichols of Green Home and designer Will Hendricks.

“We didn’t want to do anything that went out of style,” Hardy says. “So we thought if you went back to how it looked in 1920, it will never go out of style. It will always look historic. So that was big part of the sustainable design. And also that it could be used a lot of ways.”

A wheelchair would have no problem maneuvering anywhere in the home, which can sleep multiple people easily.

“I have a big family and love for them to come up, so we wanted to be able to sleep a bunch of people,” she says. Beds are tucked into the wall, converting the space as needed. “It all just works really well.”

The style aesthetic is charming rather than grand, with unique touches and hidden storage all over the house. Hardy collected knotty pine to be reused, visiting the Habitat Home Store every week for four years to get as much as she could.

“It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle because each one was made by different carpenters and you could see that difference,” Hardy says.

The house, and Nichols, recently received a Green Star Award from the U.S. Green Building Council Middle Tennessee Chapter and is expected to be awarded LEED platinum certification. Hardy and Kochtitzky now use the building for committee and board meetings of the Cumberland River Compact, Nashville's co-housing community, and Eagles Nest Foundation, but expect it to house Hardy’s mom and aunt in the future.

They also use it as a short-term rental, with one of the Indigo Girls staying there for a few weeks recently while recording an album. But most of all they love using it themselves.