These families updated their beloved cottages by injecting luxuries of modern living while still honoring its past.
Writer: Elizabeth Beeler and Brice Gaillard
1 of 15Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
Stay True to Architectural Roots
The renovation process of this Whitemarsh, Island, Georgia, focused on updating while still retaining the old soul feel.
When adding new elements to an older home's exterior, designer Jane Coslick advises choosing pieces that adhere to its period look. The new operable shutters, blue window boxes, and a picket fence are in line with the house's original cottage character.
2 of 15Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
Freshen Up with Color
Although Jane is a believer in preserving and reusing historic architectural elements, her approach to color is anything but old-fashioned. On the porch, a red-and-white palette takes a modern turn with graphic prints such as the pendant lamp shade and the bold striped cushions with contrasting welts.
3 of 15Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
Integrate Salvaged Materials
In the kitchen/dining area, Jane clad the breakfast bar with reclaimed wood that had been discarded from the original interior walls. "The old wood gives the remodeled kitchen instant history," she says. Salvaged heart-pine floors add age underfoot and echo the bar's warm wood tones.
The owners took down a wall separating the living and dining area from the kitchen to bring in additional natural light and make the tiny cooking space feel larger. "You don't have to add on to get more space. Sometimes all it takes is removing a wall," says Jane. Slender, apartment-size appliances and white-painted cabinetry rebuilt to look like the originals reinforce the airy feel.
Countertops made from stain-free Corian ensure this kitchen is practical and stylish.
5 of 15Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
Mix New With Old
When it came time to decorate the house, Jane blended the owner's collection of vintage furniture and accessories with new items to prevent the interiors from looking like a period museum. "The more eras represented, the more interesting the room," says Jane. In the living room, the yellow vintage typewriter table, antique lamps, and old ship's lantern pay homage to the past, while a white retro chair, graphic pillows, and simple, colorful artwork give the space a contemporary edge.
An oyster shell painting over the sofa by local artist Bellamy Murphy ties the living area's range of hues together.
6 of 15Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
Clad (Almost) Every Surface with Wood
"Natural wood offers character that can't be matched by flat paint on a smooth surface," says Jane. Although most of the existing planks were too damaged to keep, the Martins had new V-groove paneling installed on the interior walls and ceilings, in keeping with the style of the original house.
The bedroom's oyster shell chandelier is by local artist Anna Speir. The blanket is from Anthropologie.
7 of 15Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
Choose the Right Lights
"Lighting sets the mood and can make or break an entire project," says Jane. In the bath, nautical pendants maintain a period look and add a touch of seaworthy style.
Boat cleat cabinet pulls and ship-shape pendants underscore the bath's nautical flair.
8 of 15Photo: Tria Giovan
Reimagine an Old Favorite
The architect, Joe Paul, took all of the features the family loved from their old home's exterior—white cedar-shingled siding, a red cedar roof, and white-painted trim—to create a cottage that is as charming as the one it replaced, but with some much-needed updates. For a fresh twist, the new design also called for two banks of dormer windows to let in extra light upstairs, and a balcony just off the master bedroom, which was tacked on to the simple gable of the roofline.
9 of 15Photo: Tria Giovan
Make It Work
A subway-tile backsplash, farmhouse-style sink, durable Corian countertops, and open shelving ensure that the kitchen can handle any supper request that comes its way, while staying true to the previous home's sweet cottage look. "It was intended to be functional and charming, not a showpiece," says the architect.
10 of 15Photo: Tria Giovan
Rather than having a family room centered around a TV, the focal point is a grand stone fireplace added on during the rebuild that extends from floor to ceiling—a labor of love for the family, who gathered some of the rocks from the beach nearby. Its uneven facade allows for makeshift crests that hold tea candles, creating a romantic feel. Shiplap boards on the walls and a painted plaster ceiling add architectural interest.
11 of 15Photo: Tria Giovan
Nod to Nautical
The home's maritime location is subtly referenced in the architectural and decor details throughout, starting at the front entrance, with its ship-like lantern sconce, navy blue starry carpeted stair runner, and lighthouse-shaped banister post.
12 of 15Photo: Tria Giovan
Bring on the Breeze
A Dutch door in the dining room invites cool air in from the outside, while making sure Rocky, the family dog, can't make a getaway. Slight variations in the brass hues of the hand-forged porthole, hooks, and doorknob suggest that they've been well-worn and weathered by strong salt breezes over time.
13 of 15Photo: Tria Giovan
Let the Sunshine In
To increase the home's year-round living space without changing its footprint, Joe enclosed a portion of what was once the open-air porch and converted it into a cozy dining area. "We kept the interior light by adding lots of windows [six total in the compact room], so it feels like a sunroom," Joe says. White on walls and ceilings, light-stained pecan floors, and woven furnishings brighten the space.
The table is actually an antique desk from East End Gallery. The chandelier belonged to the owner's mother.
14 of 15Photo: Tria Giovan
Using a new structural system that keeps floors and ceilings as thin as possible, Joe was able to increase the ceiling height on the second floor by two feet without changing the vertical measurements of the house. Before, guests could only stand up straight in the very center of the second-floor bedrooms. "We maximized as many inches as we could," he explains.
The bed is from The Lion's Paw. The pillows on the window seat are from Sunbrella.
15 of 15Photo: Tria Giovan
Turn Tiny Rooms Into Functional Nooks
The daughters often share a bedroom in the vacation home, so Joe redesigned the space to work for them as they get older. Side-by-side built-in double beds with a thick privacy wall in between allow each girl to lounge comfortably without disturbing the other. Drawers beneath the beds and carved-out shelving provide plenty of storage space.