When Victoria and Steve Cochran bought their mountainside home in the New River Valley in 2001, it had at least 10 gables, but no shelties or fairies. Along with a classy, renovated kitchen, incredibly beautiful and functional master suite (or in-law quarters), multiple decks and gardens that will boggle the mind and delight your eye, the Cochrans added the shelties and fairies. Pippin, 11, and Merry, 7, both very attractive, rescued Shetland sheep dogs, cheerfully wander through the house or along garden paths with their owners.
The resident fairies in the Fairy Garden include a fiddler on a roof and assorted gnomes and elves who reside in little patches of woodland created especially for them. It’s like an outdoor dollhouse, everything in miniature. When you look closer, you can ascertain some of the materials. “Broken pot and dish pieces, a lid whose base broke, a tiny log cabin, bits of sea glass,” says Victoria pointing here and there in the magical, small space around a big tree trunk. “This is what I call my stupid art projects, or at least parts of them.” I’m here to tell you, it is not at all stupid. It’s the most charming little outdoor gathering of assorted fairies and things that I’ve ever seen.
The couple have fun with their jokes, like the fiddler on the roof. After walking down the main outdoor stair steps, you arrive in a delightful spot with cushioned furniture and a fire pit. Next to this is a garden structure created with dead cedar branches from the property. “It serves no purpose,” Victoria laughs, “so we call it Stephen’s Folly.” It will serve as a support network when the wisteria grows. There are little waterfalls, Adirondack chairs, a small barnyard section, and thousands of flowers, flowering trees, shrubs, rocks and places to relax. When asked how they choose where to sit, Steve says it depends on the time of day.
Meanwhile, back at the house, decks of multiple levels stretch across the back, ending at the hot tub outside what is now the master suite. “This was built for my father in 2006,” Steve explains, “and he moved from Hillsville and spent the last two years of his life with us.” The very large room now sports a king bed and serves as their master bedroom, but it was perfect for the older gentleman. Designed and built by Shelter Alternatives, the space has a small kitchenette, private deck, full private bath with handicapped accessible shower (the whole area is handicapped accessible), table and chairs, an oversized easy chair, television, closet ~ everything for comfort, small scale dining, entertaining friends.
“We put in pocket doors, so when he wanted to be left alone, he’d close his end, and if we were entertaining, we’d close off our end [of the small walkway between in-law suite and house],” Victoria relates. In fact, she adds, “if I could change something about the house, I’d have more pocket doors or sliding glass because patio doors need so much clearance space.” That addition created a few more gables on the house, and speaking of gables, here’s something Steve would have done differently. “I would have designed overhangs on the gables, so there were not flush with the exterior. It would have provided a little more protection to the siding.”
The renovated kitchen sports a much larger window than before facing the view, decks and sloping gardens, and the center island has an upper level to the counter, perfect for chatting or eating on bar height stools. Contemporary pendant lights have counter weights for easy lowering or raising, and they simply look really cool. The old cabinets moved to the laundry room in favor of medium wood ones with brushed nickel hardware from Ewing Cabinets.
The Cochrans have quite a collection of art, much of it from local artists like Joni Pienkowski, Carol Hoge, Zeng Fung, Walt Hughes and others. The deeply sunken living is about four steps down with one entire wall of brick fireplace with John Lennon’s face on canvas. It matches up, as does all the main floor, with its own deck. The open living room sports a soft lime-ish green (Sherwood green paint) while the dining and leisure areas are warmly orange (adobe dust paint).
There is an enchanting variety of interesting pieces in their eclectic collection ~ a primitive cabinet built by Steve’s great-great-grandfather in Carroll County; a wood buffet style piece handcrafted by Victoria’s grandmother’s cousin after many of her ancestors migrated to New York City from Russia in the early 1920s; modern orange-white hurricane lamps found locally; an oak Hoosier cabinet serving as a computer desk in an open pantry with wine racks.
Steve and Victoria Cochran both hold high-level, demanding jobs that consume their minds every working moment. Coming home to this secluded environment with gables, shelties and fairies is a huge respite from the fast-paced world of their day jobs.
By Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Shanen Photography