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Maria-Stella Fountoulakis

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Mentioned in this Article:
Wall Street Journal

Cottage With T's Crossed


Doug and Barbara Brian have been so meticulous over nearly four decades maintaining their historic English-style cottage in Yonkers that even new screws used in the home have been aged to look original.

The attention to detail has bordered on compulsion for the couple. "We've touched every surface," said Ms. Brian of the roughly 2,350-square-foot stucco home. "I've spent a lot of my life polishing and restoring."

Their thoroughness may seem a bit overboard to some. Those new screws, for instance, were aged to match old hardware using a concoction of boric acid and black tea—a preparation Ms. Brian said she came up with on her own.

But focusing on the details is just normal, the couple said. "We're not sick," Mr. Brian joked.

The home was built in 1905 by architect and Yonkers civic leader, Arno Kolbe, according to the Park Hill Residents' Association.

The Brians purchased the property in 1974 for $48,000, according to property records, and said they are the third family to own the cottage.

Many of the original features of the home are still in place, from the antique wavy glass throughout much of the house to the brass door knobs and push-button light switches—all of which have been polished to perfection.

There have been a few changes over the decades: The Brians kept the solid-wood cabinets in the kitchen that were added during the early 1930s, when previous owners expanded the home to six bedrooms from three bedrooms.

In 2006, the couple commemorated the 100th anniversary of the cottage by inviting descendents of the original builder to the house.

It was during that celebration that the Brians discovered that they hadn't noticed some scratches in the wall near the pantry—the descendents pointed out height marks for children dating to the 1930s.

"It's surrounded by historic charm in every corner," Mr. Brian said.

The couple, who are moving to Rhode Island to be closer to family, put the cottage up for sale in April for $550,000 with Halstead Property.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011