A Hillsdale Cottage Makeover

This is a great makeover story from a couple who have been long-time Hammertown customers.  Joseph Shirk, who is a realtor at Gary DiMauro Real Estate and his life partner, designer Joseph Stafiniak (“The Josephs”) both have exquisite taste, so when they told me about a cottage renovation they were working on I knew it would make a wonderful makeover story for our blog.  Happily, the Josephs agreed to share their progress with us.  Thank you guys!! – Joan


Hillsdale Cottage


My partner and I have discussed buying a fixer-upper for years. I liked the idea of finding a small house in Hudson that we could update and decorate and then rent or sell; he liked the idea of something closer to our home in Hillsdale.

We have often admired the neighbor’s cottage from our garden; even reached out to them to see if they were interested in selling, but they weren’t.  So when I heard the property was for sale, I immediately called the listing realtor.  I explained to her that I was a realtor and that my partner might be interested in buying the cottage.  She told me the asking price and I was pleased: it was a reasonable amount and the location was ideal.  She met me at the cottage within the hour.


I made a mental note of the things I wanted to find there; also, a list of things I didn’t want to find.  I wanted there to be a solid foundation, a good roof, windows that functioned and updated electric and heating. (The house was built in 1905…I wanted to know the house had been well-maintained.)  I didn’t want to find any signs of rot or moisture, any cracks in the foundation or a sagging roof.

I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the cottage for the first time. The main level was one large room with a stone fireplace and wonderful casement windows and it was flooded with natural light. I had to remind myself not to get emotionally involved with this house, at least not yet. What would I find on the other levels. Upstairs, there was a small hall area, two light-filled bedrooms and what appeared to be the original bath…with carpeting.  Downstairs, there was a kitchen with an eating area with good windows and a wood-burning stove and another bath. This little house was a gem.


I worried that my partner might not share my excitement for this dwelling.  I called him immediately after my preview and tried to be as businesslike as possible.  Yes, he should see the house as soon as possible.  Yes, the asking price was reasonable.  Yes, the house appeared to be in good shape…better than I had imagined.  Luckily, when he saw the cottage, he shared my excitement.  Still, we wouldn’t let ourselves get too attached. We needed to agree on a price and then there needed to be inspections. What about the well and septic? Just how much work were we willing to do?


The inspections went well. We had a signed contract and the house would be ours soon.  So we sat down and made a list of what needed to be done.  We decided to have the floors redone and paint everything white.  We ripped out the old kitchen and downstairs bath; and we ripped out the carpeting in the upstairs bath to expose the original wood floors there.  The two upper levels are nearly finished. We had to purchase beds and a few things, but most of the furniture we had.  “Keep it simple, remember it’s a cottage” we’ve  said repeatedly.

The lower level (kitchen, eating area and bath) have been gutted.  Ideally, we’ll be finished with that phase in 4 – 6 weeks.  Then in the Spring, we’ll replace the roof with a metal one and we’ll work at blending the gardens.  We are thrilled to have the cottage re-connected to our property.

Joseph & Joseph



1 Comment

  • Dina says:

    I Love it!!! Looking forward to seeing the completed cottage. I commend you on your sensibility upon entering your project, glad it worked out for you!

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