Dilapidated and down-and-out, a house on the Georgia coast regains its soul after an ambitious redo reveals timeless seaside style.
By Elizabeth Raines Beeler
1 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
For most, bringing a beach house back to its original state qualifies as hard work. For others, it’s a way of life. Preservationist and designer Jane Coslick has spent two decades rescuing dozens of overlooked homes, and in the process has made it possible for an island to hold onto an identity and a way of life it otherwise might have lost.
So when Erica and Tad Wilson stumbled upon a dilapidated 1904 cottage with a slight lean to the right and a view over the sound to Little Tybee Island, their first phone call was to Jane. After a quick walk-through, Jane gave the young couple two words of advice: Buy it. “If I can’t see it when I walk in the door, I don’t do it,” she says. “With this house, I saw it finished before construction ever began.”
2 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
Over the years, the home’s character had been compromised by aluminum windows, cheap paneling, wall-to-wall carpet, and acoustical-tile ceilings.
3 of 13
Screened Porch Before
Underneath, however, the original structure remained intact. “This house was an aged beauty in need of a face-lift,” Tad says. “There were times when I wondered if we should have just torn the thing down.” Instead, they brought it up to code, added insulation, and installed heating and air-conditioning.
4 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
“But it was never about having the most up-to-date kitchen or the fanciest appliances,” Jane says. “You won’t find any crown molding in this house. We wanted it to feel just as it did when it was built.”
5 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
This once bare-bones porch is 12 feet deep and close to 50 feet long. Now the screened space boasts dining, seating, and outdoor sleeping areas. Daughters Emma and Grace hang out with their dad on beds suspended from the ceiling.
6 of 13
Dark cabinets and outdated appliances cramped this kitchen’s beachy vibe.
7 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
The pretty detailing, pop of blue color, and conch shell knob add a casual, beach cottage style to the space.
8 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
The homeowners purchased the house furnished and kept the original pieces with just a little painting and refreshing. An oyster shell chandelier crowns the dining space.
9 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
For the open kitchen/dining/living spaces, the answer was white—on the furniture, lamp shades, appliances, and every inch of the walls and ceilings.
10 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
The master bedroom was created by enclosing a portion of the wraparound porch. Instead of covering the surfaces with new construction, the homeowners incorporated the sloped ceiling and abundant windows to embrace the feel. Fans and doorways, crawlspaces, and windows are all painted the same color so that the rooms feel open and cool.
11 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
Jane refinished the original freestanding claw-foot tub and made it the room’s focal point.
12 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
Unpainted boards in the original house were repurposed in the dressing room area of the new home, covering walls adjacent to the outdoor shower. The pretty, peeling paint is a natural look that only the salt air and bleaching sun can create.
13 of 13Photo: Richard Leo Johnson
When Erica and Tad bought the home, the ceiling in the detached guest suite had caved in, but the original windows were salvageable. Jane used an old door panel in lieu of a traditional headboard.