The Vermont Retreat was originally a two-car garage on a large parcel of open land in the Lake Champlain region of Vermont. Its previous owners had used it as a shop while they planned to construct their much larger permanent residence on a more prominent knoll on the site. The plan was abandoned, the property put on the market, and the land was eventually purchased by Tullio Inglese and his wife, Judith.
Seeking a modest family retreat, Mr. and Mrs. Inglese were excited at the prospect of converting a garage into a one-bedroom house. Removing cars and putting people inside seemed a very ecological thing to do.
During the six years that followed, they methodically worked on the place. They removed much of the south wall and installed windows and sliding glass doors. Mr. Inglese prefabricated a bay window in his shop, which they bolted onto the east side where one of the garage doors was previously located. They also added a small mudroom and mechanical room.
A local mason was hired to build a brick chimney for their Vermont Castings wood stove. Radiant heat was used on the first floor and radiators upstairs. The Ingleses also built a kitchenette, a modest bathroom downstairs and another on the second floor, and installed two large operable skylights providing an unimpeded view of the stars. Mr. Inglese built two slatted cedar screens for which Mrs. Inglese made a perforated clay zodiac for the horizontal top panel. The screens separated the kitchen and dining area from the living room. She also made two beautiful ceramic murals, one behind the kitchen counter and another on either side of the chimney.
As it turned out, the Inglese’s plan for a family retreat never did materialize. Their children dispersed across the country to work, to college, and in search of their own special places. Before long, Mr. Inglese was the only one going to the retreat, not to rest, read or meditate, but to work on it, which, he supposes, was therapeutic enough. With a sense of both accomplishment and disappointment, they decided to list it with a local realtor. It went on the market one day and sold the next to a couple and their daughter, who would use it as their primary residence.
Reflecting on this outcome, Tullio Inglese comments:
In retrospect, it was just as well that our getaway was not realized. At least in the process a garage was transformed into a permanent residence. I have often been critical of the idea of a second home on a planet where so many people have sub-standard first homes, or are homeless. The fact that second homes sit idle most of the year in a country with a significant homeless population is not only socially irresponsible, but is also not an ecologically sound practice.