Renovation saves old farmhouse

November 13, 2012 

Gerry Cohn’s 2,600-square-foot green-renovated home used to be the original farmhouse for the Lloyd homestead of hundreds of acres.

Imagine living simply in a nearly century-old home that combines charm with energy-efficient green-building technology. Wide, old-growth pine floors in the upstairs bedrooms and radiant-heat polished concrete floors in the downstairs living rooms and kitchen. A wood stove and room-by-room zone heating and cooling and a tankless hot water system. Original bead-boarding and 10-foot ceilings upstairs and down, yet with and spray-foam insulation and low-E casement windows. Put that 1922 farmhouse on five acres in a bucolic rural setting with a quarter-acre garden and outbuildings for chickens and other animals. And, of course, surround it with a solar fence.

Now introduce a little reality: You want top-of-the-line public schools, and you don’t want to spend your time commuting between town and country for work and all the kids’ activities. When you’ve gone through the eggs the chickens have produced that day and you don’t feel like tromping through the garden to harvest dinner, you want a supermarket across the street.

That best-of-both-worlds home exists, in Carrboro. Now that its owner sees empty-nesterhood on the horizon, the home is for sale.

“Put the water on to boil, and walk across the street to buy the pasta to put in it,” said Gerry Cohn, who has lived this life in this house for the past five years.

Cohn’s 2,600-square-foot green-renovated three-bedroom home used to be the original farmhouse for the Lloyd homestead that consisted of hundreds of acres. When the Lloyd farm was parceled and sold, some of the land became Carrboro Plaza; another section became the Morgan Glen subdivision, a community of mainly 10-acre lots with single-family homes. Cohn’s you-can-have-it-all property occupies a front corner of Morgan Glen.

“You can’t find another place like this,” Cohn said. “You have woods and a garden and a stream. You can walk to the supermarket and bike to the Farmers’ Market and downtown Carrboro 1.1 miles away.”

Proximity to the Farmers’ Market matters to Cohn. For 12 years, he farmed in Snow Camp, where he still owns 25 acres of good soil. When a family compromise pushed him to move closer to town, he composted and collected coffee grounds from local coffee shops to use in amending the soil in his Carrboro garden. To keep out deer, he hooked up a solar collector to two hotwire strands around the perimeter and set his boundaries against wildlife scavengers. He plants year-round, harvesting summer and winter vegetables he sells to local restaurants and friends. A professional organic farmer, he works for Organic Valley dairy cooperative as well.

After raising goats and turkeys in Snow Camp, Cohn is taking a poultry break at present, though the acreage has plenty of room for raising chickens. The property’s outbuildings are versatile. One close to the house could be a tool shed or a place for animals to sleep and be fed. Farther up the driveway sits a 60-by-20-foot pole barn, part of it enclosed and the rest open on two sides, that once was a tractor shed. Cohn uses it for storing his gardening equipment and as a woodshed. What once was a tent platform is now a 20-by-40-foot deck where the family has been known to rig up a screen and project movies and televised basketball games on balmy nights. Cohn and his son also built a tidy tree house that has stood the test of time. Nearby is a spring that feeds into University Lake.

Wendy Tanson, the Re/Max Realtor in Chapel Hill marketing the property, has noticed more people moving to the Triangle from out of state.

“There’s been an uptick in hiring and in confidence for entrepreneurs who can work from anywhere and feel it’s time to make a move,” Tanson said. “This is a very intelligent, sophisticated demographic moving here. In almost every house I list or sell, buyers ask about utility costs. That wasn’t the case in years past.”

The house has a long-life metal roof, wrought-iron closures on the energy-efficient casement windows, exposed brickwork and original beadboard wainscoting. The spacious kitchen has an island prep counter and a range hood decorated with glass tiles over the gas stove.

“This property will appeal to a buyer looking for privacy and acreage and good schools, a place that exudes charm and character while offering modern conveniences.” Tanson said.

The main floor has an open floor plan, the kitchen and public living areas flowing together. The fireplace divides the living room from the dining area. A sun porch spans the back of the house. Cohn values the practical aspects of the home — the individual mini-split heating and cooling units to enable him to save energy costs by closing off rooms that aren’t being used, and he enjoys the advantages of urban life with the space for kids and dogs to run around and explore the woods, meadows and stream.

“If I had more kids,” he said, “I’d definitely stay.”

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