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July Home of the Month: Urban hideaway

Lots of people dream about downsizing to make their lives simpler. Thom Knab did it.

Ten years ago, he moved into a one-bedroom home in Buffalo’s Cottage District. It measures less than 1,000 square feet and now has a mature garden with no grass in the backyard.

It also has no driveway or garage, but Knab does not consider that a huge disadvantage. One adjusts.

An open floor plan and five skylights allow much sunlight to enter. Stacked stone adds texture to the fireplace, staircase and feature wall in the dining room.

In the kitchen, everything is in reach – thanks to handy open storage. Stairs lead to the bedroom, bath and a loft office that overlooks the dining room.

The backyard is designed for entertaining with a newly covered deck that leads to the patio and garden. During warm weather, Knab has entertained as many as 40 people in his house and garden.

(The garden is once again on Garden Walk Buffalo, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 27 and 28, this year celebrating its 25th year. Here are five things to know if you plan to go.)

Knab lives a busy life. He is an elementary school art teacher for Williamsville Central Schools, boys volleyball coach at Williamsville South High School and the president of the National Art Education Association.

Before moving to this urban cottage, the Elma native had been living in a three-bedroom home with a large yard in Amherst.

“I just needed something simpler,” Knab said.

The brick patio is designed for dining, entertaining and enjoying the garden. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

At first, he decided to look for a condo. Then he discovered this house on what is known as “Little” Summer Street – a hidden strip of cottages off Richmond Avenue and a popular destination for Garden Walk Buffalo visitors who go there to see the lush cottage-style gardens.

He knew it was the place for him.

After selling items he would no longer need – lawn mower, pingpong table, snowblower (remember, there is no driveway) – he made the move in April 2009.

He has since heard some stories about the cottage, which dates back to the 1800s.

One Garden Walk Buffalo visitor told him: “This was my Dad’s workshop.” Knab said other former residents include a couple who moved after they had triplets.

In October 2018, Knab’s cottage was featured online as a Buffalo News’ Home of the Week, after he submitted photos and described the place. Earlier this month, The News visited the home for a tour, interview and photo shoot.

Knab has made updates at the West Side cottage, which he bought for $161,000. Some were DIY projects; others professionally done:

• Repainting and adding white crown molding.

• Updating the single bath, except for the tile floor.

• Installing laminate wood flooring in the upstairs office and carpeting in the bedroom.

• Purchasing new kitchen appliances and shelving but keeping the existing cabinets, which he likes. He did add new hardware, however.

• Adding air conditioning.

• Replacing skylights and some doors. The one door that slides between the dining room and kitchen had been stored upstairs. It replaced the swing door that was there before.

Outside, he added a metal roof to the 20-by-11-foot deck so he can sit out there in the rain. All-weather wicker and a colorful outdoor rug complete the space.

The covered back deck. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

He also had a brick patio installed where there was once grass, and brought in furniture for dining and entertaining. The brick path along the side was installed last year.

The cottage’s open floor plan has enabled Knab to display his own artwork – which includes five of his 27-by-40 “puzzle portraits,” including ones of John Lennon and Prince.

“I spray paint puzzle pieces and make these iconic images,” he said.

Musicals are another passion and he created a gallery wall of framed playbills in the dining room.

He also favors neckwear. He painted a striped tie on canvas and a purple bow tie on the front of a bar. There’s more: He wove together real neckties to cover the cushions on the dining chairs.

“I’m kind of a tie nut,” he said.

The house at a glance:

Layout: Entrance hall; living room; dining room; kitchen, and utility space under the upstairs bath that houses the washer, dryer, furnace and electric panel. Stacked stone accents the fireplace and staircase and covers one wall in the dining room from floor to ceiling to highlight the cathedral ceiling with exposed beams. Stairs lead to an open loft office, bedroom and bath on second floor.

Tie-themed artwork. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Backyard: A covered deck leads to dining and entertaining areas, landscaped beds – including a shade garden in the back corner – and a shed. There is no grass.

Furnishings: He’s pulled together pieces from Big Lots, Pier 1, Wayfair (including the outdoor curtains on the deck) and other retailers.

Flooring: Carpeting and hardwood on first floor. Wood laminate in office; carpet in bedroom; tile in bath.

Accessories: His own artwork, and that of artist friends; framed playbills; sculptures; plants, and elephant figurines. “I collect elephants. As a kid, they struck me as really cool animals,” he said.

Do you love your home? tell us about it.

One of the most popular features in The Buffalo News Home & Style section is the Home of the Month, which features a local home and the people who live there.

Today we feature the Buffalo home of Thom Knab.

Our Home of the Month appears online – along with a gallery of photos by a News staff photographer – as well as in a print edition of Sunday Home & Style. (Today's story will appear in print July 28.)

In fall 2017, we launched another feature that appears online only – the Home of the Week. This lets readers inside even more homes. You can see this week's featured home and a photo gallery here.

The Buffalo News continues to look for other local homes and the stories behind them and their décor. Those chosen will be displayed in the weekly feature at BuffaloNews.com.

Like Thom Knab’s home, the residence also could be chosen as a Home of the Month.

Here’s what to do if you’re interested: Tell us about your home in 150 words or less, and email 10 hi-res images (in JPEG form) to homeandstyle@buffnews.com.

It’s OK to send the images split among several emails. Please include your name, the city or town where you live and a phone number.

We will contact those chosen to be featured on BuffaloNews.com. We also will publish online some or all of the photos you submitted.

If your place is chosen for Home of the Month, we will visit your home for an interview and our own photo shoot. If you have problems submitting photos, please email smartin@buffnews.com.

Take a look at our June Home of the Month:

Home of the Month: Riverfront ranch on Grand Island

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