TEXT BY JEN DEROSE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY COURTNEY RYAN
Driving home to Boston from a 2019 trip to Bethel, Courtney and Patrick Ryan spotted a “For Sale” sign next to a tiny camp on Greenwood’s North Pond. After meeting with the Realtor that afternoon, they returned the next day and spent an hour contemplating the purchase on the property’s dock. Thinking they’d do some minor renovations, they decided to put in an offer.
It didn’t take long for their plans to snowball. The seasonal cottage, built in 1954 and just 700 square feet, had a steeply pitched attic accessible by a pull-down ladder. To create a more functional space, the couple worked with Bethel residential designer Tony Andrews and Greenwood builder Andrew Ecker to add a pond-facing shed dormer and proper stairs. They also decided to expand the living room by incorporating a former screened porch and deck. But since the home was propped up on cinderblocks, they needed to put in a foundation. On the day they hoisted up the camp 18 feet in the air, a windstorm hit. “Everyone driving by stopped to ask why the house was teetering up there,” Patrick says.
ABOVE The Greenwood camp before the Ryans’ renovation.
Shortly after the foundation went in, COVID hit and Ecker needed to step away. So they reached out to a builder friend in New Mexico, who drove up to guide Patrick, Courtney’s dad, and another friend through the rest of the renovations. The group installed pine siding, standing-seam metal roofing, new windows, drywall, “white oak” luxury vinyl flooring, shiplap ceilings, and reclaimed beams, and renovated the kitchen. “An 8-hour day turned into a 14-hour day with all the YouTube videos we watched,” Patrick says.
They wrapped last July, and Courtney decorated with neutral upholstered and natural wood furnishings that pick up the architectural finishes and the white-oak mantel on a new gas fireplace. The home’s simplicity — and a new cedar deck — keeps the focus on the outdoors, which the Ryans and their 4-year-old son now enjoy year-round, whether boating or ice skating. Though nothing went according to plan, they have a lot of pride in their DIY effort. “That was our life during the pandemic,” Courtney says. “We learned how to build a house.”