Challenging renovation yields cozy cottage
It definitely wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, “a pile of sticks” is how Nancy Markham describes her first impression of the Galveston Island property she now calls home.
But those sticks — actually five small, dilapidated buildings crowded haphazardly onto one lot — were gathered together and skillfully joined to create a cozy, kitchen-centric cottage that eventually, and unexpectedly, won Markham’s heart.
The project began in February last year as just another challenging renovation for Markham’s daughter, Linda Stickline, a reading specialist with the Galveston Independent School District and her husband, Greg Stickline, who works in Houston’s energy industry.
Originally from Colorado, the Sticklines discovered upon moving to Galveston that they had a special talent for rehabilitating the seaport city’s older homes.
“We did our first one and had so much fun that we decided to do another, and since then we’ve just kept going,” Linda Stickline said, adding that much of the credit for the success of their projects goes to carpenter and contractor Victor Galvez.
But despite her children’s positive track record, Markham initially remained unconvinced about their “pile of sticks” project.
“It was a mess,” she said. “In addition, I was very happy in my current home, and not even thinking of moving.”
Yet, as time and work went on, the emerging little cottage began to appeal to Markham more and more. And when an unsolicited offer came in for her much larger historic home, an alternate pathway seemed to beckon.
Recently, as she brewed tea and arranged a plate of cookies in her new “old” home, Markham, who holds a doctoral degree in museum management and education from the University of Colorado, radiated delight with her lifestyle change.
“I just love this little house,” she said. “It suits me and my interests perfectly. It also has allowed me to surround myself with those things that are truly meaningful to me, and in such a way that I can actually enjoy and use them.”
The highlight of Markham’s new residence is the adjoined kitchen, sitting and dining areas, centrally located and serving as a hub for the home’s other rooms. Aligned in an open-concept configuration along a 47-foot long expanse of original pine flooring, the multipurpose space is warm and welcoming with original antique woods burnished to a golden glow. High overhead, an intricate arrangement of supporting beams reveals the carefully engineered junctures that were required to join the various buildings together and turn a wrecked cooking corner into a modern bathroom, a sadly deteriorated bath into an up-to-date kitchen and a falling-down garage into a family room.
One long wall in the kitchen area has been left with its original shiplap construction exposed to provide a rough-hewed backdrop for an assortment of rustic items, including vintage tools, a singletree ox yoke used for hauling logs, a Texas trail map and Native American and Mexican art and memorabilia. Two baby carriers include one in the style of the Ute Mountain Utes and another decorated with colorful beads and of Navajo origin, a birthday gift to Markham from her late husband, Roger, a geologist with whom she shared a lifetime of working, volunteering and exploring throughout the great American West, Mexico, Central and South America and Canada.
Utilitarian features of the kitchen include white cabinetry with glass insets, a series of open shelves suspended on sisal ropes and a fleet of stainless steel appliances. A silver gray Silestone kitchen countertop has been tucked into a space once occupied by a bathtub. The Sticklines used slate-patterned tile to cover original flooring too damaged to reuse, and walls were resurfaced and painted a soft sunshine yellow.
Between the kitchen and the dining area, comfortable chairs upholstered in pale, sea-foam blue face an African storage chest on which are displayed Native American pottery pieces, including a small pottery bowl crafted by renowned New Mexico artisan Fannie Nampeyo, and once a prized possession of Markham’s father-in-law.
Other eye-catching highlights of the area include hand-painted blue and white Lotte china from Norway, a rug by the Ortega’s Weaving Shop in Chimayo, N.M., a framed piece of Colcha embroidery from Center, Colo., and a custom-designed double pedestal table topped with two antique brass candlesticks that once belonged to Markham’s grandfather.
“It’s a house in which everything has a story,” Markham said. “I am surrounded by those things that not only bring me happy memories, but provide a link between my family’s past and current generations, of which we now have five living on the island.”
Among those many generations is Markham’s 99-year-old mother, Karine Walter, the originator of the following recipe for orange rolls. It is from a compilation of family recipes that was put together in cookbook form by Walter, who at age 83 used the project to help her learn how to use computers.
From “Family Favorites from Karine’s Kitchen”
Yield: 2 dozen rolls
1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (110 F)
1 cup milk, scalded
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
3½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup sugar
½ cup margarine, softened
Grated rind from two medium oranges
Soften yeast in warm water. Combine milk, sugar, shortening and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add 1½ cups flour and beat well. Beat in yeast and egg. Gradually add remaining flour to form soft dough, beating well. Place dough in greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled (1½ to 2 hours).
Meanwhile, prepare filling as follows: Combine sugar, margarine and grated orange rind, and beat until smooth.
When dough has doubled in bulk, divide into two equal portions. Roll each portion to about a 16-by-8-inch rectangle on a well-floured pastry cloth.
Spread with half the orange mixture. Roll as for a jelly roll, then cut roll crosswise into 12 equal circular portions. Place cut side down in a greased 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
Bake in a preheated 400 F oven for 20 to 25 minutes.