If you want a new house (vacation or otherwise) built with classic New England simplicity, are capable of constructing it yourself to save money, and love to work hard, contact veteran architect David Howard in Walpole, N.H.
He will sell you a basic FirstDay Cottage kit for $28,000 with five copies of an 80-page construction manual. The finished house is 16 by 30 feet, 1-1/2 stories (one-half is a common construction term meaning a smaller second floor), with small bedrooms and windows.
During the past four years, FirstDay Cottages have risen in 11 states. The name refers to the day of completion which becomes the "first day" of the rest of your life.
"In 15 weekends," Mr. Howard promises, "working with six to 10 people, you can construct it, and we'll even teach you how to carve the front-door trim. We spent five years designing a house that a young married couple, with no children and earning $30,000 a year, could build if they have plenty of energy."
You provide the foundation, electricity, plumbing, heat, kitchen counters, and paint or stain. The rest - beams, posts, sheathing, decking for floor and ceiling, insulation, doors, windows, siding, nails, roofing, and kitchen cabinets - is delivered by truck to your lot within 100 miles of Walpole. Beyond that, it's about $2 a mile anywhere in the United States.
"You have to be the kind of person who can eat sandwiches and pound nails at the same time," he says.
After spending some time in Europe, Howard says he came away with the conviction that he "would build assets for my civilization, not to try to stun people, but to build things that last."
With love and care, Howard says a FirstDay Cottage will last 300 years. "We don't use plywood or Sheetrock," he says. "Like a fine piece of practical Shaker furniture, FirstDay becomes more elegant with age."
* Contact FirstDay Cottage, Box 711, Walpole, NH, 03608, or Tel-Fax: 603-756-3435.