Rob Littlefield discovered the Meadowbrook Acres addition about a dozen years ago and bought a “ridiculously cheap” 1923 cottage that had once been a summer cabin for Belle Isle Park.
Around the same time, Chesapeake Energy Corp. also discovered in Meadowbrook Acres street after street of tempting, underdeveloped residential property adjacent to its expanding corporate campus.
Evidence of how the residents of Meadowbrook Acres have become good neighbors with the big energy company will be on display Sunday as Littlefield's home and four other homes and gardens will be open to visitors in the Meadowbrook Acres Home Tour.
The Meadowbrook Acres home tour is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, with tickets available for $10 from Savory Spice Shop at 4400 N Western Ave., or for $12 at any of the tour stops.
Littlefield, a carpenter, said he knew he was looking at an “ongoing project” when he bought his property at 1148 NW 56.
“The yard was half an acre of trash, toilets, tires and more trash. I couldn't even get a mower through it,” he said.
Littlefield lived in a tent as he tackled the challenge of making the 800-square-foot house livable, removing debris and carving an urban jungle into what is now a whimsical garden retreat.
As his home came to life and he became invested in the neighborhood, Littlefield noticed that properties around him were being snatched up by Chesapeake Energy.
Concerned about being swallowed up or surrounded, Littlefield invited both his neighbors and Chesapeake representatives to meet in his postage-stamp-size living room.
“Forty of us showed up to that first meeting,” Littlefield said, “and the Meadowbrook Acres Neighborhood Association was born.”
The association's request to be involved in Chesapeake's acquisition and development plans for streets south of NW 58 led to a contract with the energy giant.
“They agreed to a 15-year moratorium on property purchases south of NW 58 and we agreed not to protest current Chesapeake development” adjacent to Meadowbrook Acres, Littlefield said.
In renovating his cottage, Littlefield has achieved what he calls a “1920s industrial loft look” with an emphasis on efficiency and a reliance on repurposed materials.
Demolishing walls, Littlefield opened up the shoebox home, creating a “simple, open and bright” space that flows from living room to dining area to kitchen. The home's narrow hardwood floor planks are painted gleaming white, as are the walls.
“At night, it's an awesome look,” Littlefield said.
A super-efficient bedroom and bathroom round out the interior, but in Littlefield's vision the interior is only a fraction of the property's living space.
Outside he has created his “rain deck,” open on three sides to a lush garden, with a translucent roof overhang that diffuses light and “sounds incredible” in the rain.
Down a flagstone path is the converted garage — a guest house Littlefield has christened “The Bamboo Inn.” Inspired by his love for RV camping, the cozy quarters feature a living room, kitchen, bath and full bedroom in just a few hundred square feet.
An avid gardener, Littlefield has made sure that not an inch is wasted in the land surrounding his house. “Dollywood” is the name of one gathering spot beyond a bamboo canopy. Down a different path lies the “Party Deck.”
An organic vegetable garden supplies him with fresh produce.
Other gardens are to be featured on the tour, including the organic garden of Barry and Anni Bragg at 1129 NW 56 and the garden/pool retreat built by Robert and Susie Reid at 1143 NW 57.
Homes open for the tour include the home of John and Trig Sturgis, at 1143 NW 56, built in 2011 with ICF concrete exterior walls and designed for maximum energy efficiency throughout.
Architect David Wanzer and his wife, Dara, designed and built four remarkable homes at 1133 NW 56, an example of high-density residential living that fits seamlessly into the neighborhood.
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