Never mind that at 6,500 square feet, the Long Grove home seems large for an English cottage. After all the most famous cottage of all, the birthplace of William Shakespeare's Anne Hathaway, is 12 rooms.
The suburban cottage came about because a decade ago Patricia Rockett said the only thing that would entice her to move from the Tudor in Arlington Heights' Stonegate neighborhood was an English cottage.
So her husband, Kenneth Rockett, bought the narrow, rambling home that an artist built over several years from about 1946 to 1954, and promised his wife he would turn it into an English cottage.
The couple was already about 70 at the time, past the age many people would take on a project like this. But Kenneth was from a farm background and wanted more land, and they would be close to one of their daughters, so the three acres appealed to him.
To keep his promise to Patricia, Kenneth had the middle section of the house demolished, keeping the very cottagey rooms at one end and, at the other, an attached two-car garage made into a family room with an apartment above it, and a large indoor swimming pool.
In between is an up-to-date house with a living room where beams decorate the soaring coved ceiling, a dining room, a large modern kitchen and three bedrooms.
Patricia Rockett, who fell in love with English cottages when the couple lived south of London for 14 years, is very happy with the stuccoed and half-timbered home, which even has a roof with eyebrow windows that was painstakingly built to resemble thatching. But the couple plans to sell it soon to downsize.
Artist Orville Held started the house on his 40-acre farm as a summer home, and eventually it became his family home. The most impressive things about the original house are the fireplaces and the swimming pool.
Huge stones make up the fireplaces, and Held apparently set them himself.
"Sometimes he spent a whole day placing one rock," said Kenneth. "He rolled them up a ramp with his wife helping by driving a tractor."
It's the stonework that amazes the Rocketts' daughter, Kathryn.
"He got larger rocks up so high," she said. "Think what those must weigh."
The swimming pool room has one of the stone fireplaces, and this is all under a glass roof, with the glass doors and windows found abundantly in the home. Another of the home's surprises is an attached greenhouse where papaya, bird of paradise and plumeria are among the plants thriving.
When the Rocketts showed a visitor through the home, one of the first stops was the original 1940s living room. Besides that stone fireplace set in a wall of stone, it shows handhewn beams harvested from an old barn.
"I think he traded a pig for them," Kenneth said.
The Rocketts collect almost everything, especially English antiques. One treasure in this room is a Lancashire lambing chair that resembles a small wooden wingback rocker. The story is a shepherd sat in it in the barn to care for baby lambs. It even has a drawer in the base for baby bottles.
Spots of sparkling turquoise in the brown granite tiles on the countertop in the large kitchen is another of Patricia's delights.
Besides collecting antiques, the Rocketts delight in saving and reusing things such as a couch in the great room that a builder gave them years ago because his grandmother was throwing it out. He recently stopped in and said he wouldn't mind having it back. Examples of buttons collected by Kenneth's mother hang framed in a nearby hall.
Of course Patricia has pictures and models of English cottages everywhere. And how about a walnut bed made for a Vanderbilt home in England? Apparently the family had 11 made and only needed 10, so the extra went on the market.
The landscaping that Kathryn Rockett created and cares for includes a pond and stone waterfall in front of the house overseen by a Scarlet Curls willow. Rose bushes bloom around the house, and in the rear there's a cottage garden by the back door, not to mention blueberries, weeping larch and Norway spruce and Japanese white pine.
Original trees here include a 100-year-old oak where half still lives despite the fact that the remainder fell in a storm. Near the back of the house is a tall tree where horned owls nest year after year, even during times of construction. For a few years Rocketts rescued owlets that fell or were pushed by siblings from the nest about 40 feet up. Then a woman who cared for these abandoned birds had a laundry basket hung up there. The owls were pleased with the new, larger home, and no more babies have fallen.
Kenneth estimates the Rocketts, who are only the third owners of the home, planted 100 trees, including pine, willow and pear. They purchased the property from the Kuzuhara family, who had lived there many years.