Decor Ideas, Wanderlust

Carmel’s Hansel & Gretel Cottages

9 Jan ’08

Hansel Cottage

Carmel by the Sea, California was one of America’s first artist colonies and gathered momentum after the 1906 earthquake had many of San Francisco’s artists fleeing to the beauty and inspiration of Carmel. But it wasn’t until 1924 when Hugh Comstock built the above 280 square foot cottage for his wife’s doll collection did the town take on the fairytale feel that it’s known for today.

It’s interesting to note that Comstock had no previous building/architectural experience and used no regular tools while he hand built the cottage. He simply had vision combined with will and away he went. The results were charming and extraordinary which made the other local artists crave the romance and whimsy he had created. Afterall, artists don’t want to live in boxes – especially not in a sea side forest town. So locals began to ask Comstock to build their houses and he obliged; building dozens of charming homes around Carmel which helped create a feeling of magic that people from around the world now come to see.

Land was originally sold extremely cheaply and homes were built without great expense. Now these homes are worth millions (the average home sale here being about $4 million U.S.) but they began with simple intentions by people who wanted to live somewhere beautiful, have their home reflect their dreams and create a unique way to live and work. A lot of thought when into the design of not only the homes, but the community that lived here, the streets, the shops and the future of the town. Urban planning 1920’s style.

Cottage Living Magazine has a wonderful article on the Comstock cottages – the physical issue has a map so you can talking a walking tour which I highly recommend doing. It might just get you rethinking home design – that character, whimsy and beauty isn’t just for those with A-List architects or bazillions. People once did it with little and it can be done again (for of course a little more!). It just takes an idea, some creativity, and work. But the results? Pretty spectacular I think.

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9 Comments

  • Reply MarilynNo Gravatar 22 Jan ’08 at 1:24 pm

    Thank you for this. Although I’ve walked the residential streets of downtown Carmel many times, I’ve never explored its history. Love Cottage Living…will look for that. Great post.

  • Reply KarenNo Gravatar 2 Feb ’08 at 3:18 pm

    I saw the Cottage Living article on these Comstock fairy-tale houses last weekend, and have now just run across your blog. I’m curious about the floor plans of these houses . . . do you know of links to any?

  • Reply Suzanne KovacsNo Gravatar 27 Feb ’08 at 7:38 pm

    Concerning request for plans…
    I have a coloring book which I purchased in Carmel years ago. It has sketches of the marvelous cottages and “somewhat” the plans. It was copyrighted in 1977 by Tuck Box.

  • Reply D. L. CampbellNo Gravatar 3 Mar ’08 at 1:53 am

    The coloring book you refer to is still available at the Tuck Box Website.

  • Reply TamiNo Gravatar 27 Apr ’09 at 6:56 pm

    Does anyone know if any of Hugh Comstock’s cottage house plans are available to purchase?

  • Reply Camille LyonsNo Gravatar 13 Jul ’09 at 2:59 pm

    I am so excited! My husband and I just booked Gretel Cottage for a month next summer. We are bringing our Dalmatian Jasmine on her first trip to California. We have been vacationing in Carmel since 1969 but have never rented a cottage.

  • Reply Camille LyonsNo Gravatar 13 Jul ’09 at 3:14 pm

    By the way, we live in Austin, TX and I just noticed that you had lived there. This summer has been miserable! Every day well over 100 degrees, and this is what led us to book a month somewhere else for next summer.

  • Reply EmmaNo Gravatar 21 Jun ’10 at 7:30 pm

    This cottages look amazing, where is the map? I can’t find it anywhere

  • Reply ChristopherNo Gravatar 20 Nov ’12 at 3:13 am

    Talk about a cottage right from the pages of a fairy tale. I half expect it to be part of a movie set. The combination of its irregularly shaped windows and doors, colourful foliage in the garden, antique brick chimney, and uneven tile roof gives the house a charming, rustic feel that is impossibly matched in today’s modern homes. I especially love the blend of the period home with the countryside garden. It really brings out the fairytale feeling and the magical mood. If land were as affordable now as it was then, imagine the number of creative homes the world would be filled with?

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