Tucked quietly in the bucolic woodlands of Exeter, Beth Voso’s serene property is a peaceful oasis. When she first nested there 27 years ago, she intrinsically felt a duty to the property: generations of family members who called the circa-1800 house a home make their final resting place in a historic cemetery just down the lane.
“Most of the family members that lived here at some point are buried there,” she says, but instead of perhaps being daunted, Beth honored those who came before her by learning a bit of their genealogy – even if by default. Through the years, Beth has found strangers innocently poking around the cemetery and surrounding property. She warmly indulges their curiosity and in most cases, their search for family history. “I have acquired a packet of historic information I didn’t go looking for but ended up with in my possession,” she explains. In addition to the oral history Beth shares, she has a photograph she understands dates back to the early 1900s.
Part of the history Beth has learned is that the property exceeded 100 acres at one point. “I’m on ten acres now, so the cottage was original, as was the corn crib,” she says. The latter was once a granary used to dry and store corn, in all likelihood, for animal feed. It’s that tiny building that has always intrigued Beth.
An artist at heart, Beth was motivated to turn the corn crib into a humble studio. The space, though basic, offered a simplicity and solitude that invited her to paint and create. Being surrounded by the lush landscape, there was never any shortage of inspiration.
But as so often happens, life gets in the way. The studio took a backseat and the creative space was largely ignored (except by some local wildlife). “It morphed into a ‘what do we do with this’ space… and the mice reclaimed it.”
Years later, Beth’s elderly mother, Lucie, moved into the main cottage with her and she was not shy about telling her daughter exactly what she would do with the nearly dilapidated studio. “Mom lived with me the last three years of her life. She always said, ‘If I lived here, I would fix up that place,’ referring to the studio.”
Last year, Beth decided it was time for the corn-crib-turned-studio-turned-critter-cottage to start a new chapter. She worked with contractors to transform the barely-there screened in porch into a little kitchen and bath. The main room, which doubles as a bedroom and living space, was completely transformed and restored. The original beams, now exposed, add an authentic country charm.
“It took a long time to do it, but we made it into a livable cottage,” she says. As the mini abode was coming together, Beth sourced furnishings and décor from myriad places. “As an artist, I had lots of things I collected through the years – yard sale or dump finds, and things I had recovered with new fabrics,” she says. She also found objects in her own personal treasure trove, including a small shelf for the kitchen Beth’s father handmade more than 65 years ago. “Pieces came from my mother’s family in Brooklyn; some of them were things I grew up with, like the desk that was in my bedroom as a kid,” she adds. The perfect rustic bed she bought off Craigslist from a family just a few miles down the road and the five-point deer antlers that were found in her own woods now add a decidedly rustic aesthetic. She also shopped locally to complete the tiny cottage, including making a stained glass window found at Lafayette Antiques in North Kingstown the inspiration for the home’s color palette. “Things were salvaged from a million places.” This phase, says Beth, made for an enjoyable art project within itself. “I really had a lot of fun with it,” she says.
Once completed, Beth was ready to try something entirely new: list the tiny cottage on Airbnb. Admittedly, she says she wasn’t sure if there would be much demand by travelers for a tiny cottage in rural Exeter. As it turns out, Lucie’s Hideaway was booked every weekend from May through the rest of the summer, including weeknights, and has won rave reviews. Though the cottage is a standalone structure and private, guests need to know there are some locals they’ll likely cross paths with: Vinny the Chihuahua, a trio of friendly, quiet goats and your standard barn cat or two.