Colleen & Brian: One big family

Greenwood Avenue Cottages

Colleen and Brian moved to the Greenwood Avenue Cottages in Shoreline, Washington in 2002, several years after their two grown children moved out of their home in Seattle's Green Lake neighborhood. "I had been talking to Brian about downsizing for years," says Colleen, age 60, who works for the Seattle Parks Department. "I was tired of cleaning a big house, and he was tired of the yard work. One day, he saw a newspaper article about the Greenwood Cottages in Shoreline and we both knew this is exactly what we were looking for: Simplicity without giving up comfort or style."

"We went to look at a cottage that afternoon, drove home and turned right back around to put a payment down," adds Brian, age 55, who works for an insurance company. "We didn't even look at a single other house."

"The first thing that sold me was the front porch," recalls Colleen, who grew up in a craftsman home in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. "It's so warm and inviting, and took me back to the way I grew up. Everyone knew their neighbors, and we'd all sit on our front porches at night and chat. It's the same way here."

Brian and Colleen both say that the eight home owners in their close-knit community have become like an extended family. But they did have their concerns before moving in. "We really didn't know how it would be living so close to our neighbors," Brian admits. "But everyone who lives here has a similar philosophy — we all want to be a community, even if we don't see eye-to-eye on everything. We learn to get along — we choose to care about each other and accept each other's little quirks. Just like a family does."

Not every Cottage Company community is as close as the Greenwood Avenue Cottages. While the eight Greenwood households get together for a potluck every Saturday night, the Danielson Grove community in Kirkland — which has twice as many homes — only has four planned potlucks per year. Each community decides what works best for them, and it seems to come about organically without setting any heavily structured rules and expectations.

"We have a saying here: you either get it or you don't," Brian explains. "This type of simple, sustainable living in a pocket community isn't for everyone. You have to have a certain set of values."

Brian and Colleen's two-bedroom plus loft 1,000 square-foot cottage is less than half the room of their previous home was 2,300 square-feet, but they don't miss the extra space a bit. They both say it was liberating to downsize, and get rid of all the unnecessary stuff that had been cluttering their home — and their lives.

"At first, it was difficult to figure out what to throw out or give away," admits Colleen, who rented a portable storage shed for all of their belongings they weren't certain they'd transfer to the cottage. "It took several months to decide what fit into our home and what didn't. But each year we just seem to be getting rid of more and more stuff. The longer we live here, the simpler our lives become. You become truly aware of what matters most."

Brian and Colleen recently welcomed their first grandchild into the world, and they can't wait to show little Chloe the loft bedroom they've set aside for her. They even have a miniature Adirondack chair on the front porch. "I can just picture Chloe gardening with me, and showing her all of the birds and butterflies," Colleen says with a smile. "This is like a perfect safe and magical environment for children to explore in."




Colleen & Brian