This Caribbean colonial was rescued from ruin by renovation guru Trish Becker. Step inside and get her top tips for giving a neglected beach house a new lease on life.
By Marisa Spyker
1 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Pretty in Pink
There's nothing like a pink, down-on-its-luck cottage to turn Trish Becker's head. The New York–based jewelry designer and house rescuer (this was her first renovation of three) has a soft spot for old Bahamian colonials with a story, and this one—nicknamed Chatterbox—had plenty to say.
Pictured: Becker stands in the breezy Dutch doorway of her rooftop deck. The siding is painted Powdered Petals, and the shutters are painted Minerva, both by Pittsburgh Paints.
2 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
House with History
It was built by Earl Johnson, who is said to have been a ship builder and also the first home builder on the island. It changed hands in the mid-1970s, sold to a family whose daughter gave it its name, apparently because of all the parties they hosted. And Becker has kept that tradition alive, creating a lively landing pad for all of her guests. (She hosted 30 people in the little cottage on New Year's Eve!) Here, she dishes on bringing the old girl back to the glory of her heyday.
Pictured: A widow's walk offers a bird's-eye view of the bay side of the island.
3 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Dreamy Dining Room
Pictured: New cypress shiplap planks were rabbeted onsite to mimic the look of the original walls. Becker painted them Cumberland Fog by Pittsburgh Paints and hung a pair of paintings by Bahamian artist Amos Ferguson.
Q&A with Designer and Homeowner Trish Becker
CL: First things first: This cottage looks like it could certainly draw a crowd—can it fit one?
Trish Becker: The funny thing is, when I first saw it from the street, I was a little discouraged by its size. It seemed so small! But the moment I opened the front door, I was blown away by how open and airy and wonderful it felt. It was a very thoughtfully planned house that was built to get the maximum out of a small amount of space. Each room flows into another, so nothing stops you when you move through it. And there is this great porch off the second-floor bath, plus a widow's walk where you can see 360-degree views of the island and the ocean. So, yes, the more the merrier!
4 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Pictured: A chic game table and chairs earn a prominent spot just inside the front door. The hoop-back chairs (in Cooled Blue finish) are from Red Egg, and the hall rack is a French antique.
CL: What kind of shape was the house in?
TB: Not good, a bit ramshackle. A renovation in the 1950s had removed some of the original architectural elements and replaced them with some really unattractive modern details, like jalousie [louvered] windows, a glass-paneled front door, and drywall ceilings, which covered up these gorgeous little beams and took away nearly five inches of ceiling height.
5 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Refreshed Living Room
Pictured: Rattan reigns in the living room, where a vintage hexagonal table and shapely armchairs harmonize with island maps framed in rattan hoops. The lamps are vintage demijohns wired for electricity.
CL: You had no renovation experience. So where did you start?
TB: With good architects! It was their suggestion to stick with the purest forms of materials—like hardwood and unlacquered brass—because of the way things age down here. It made sense not only for the visual aspects, but also for the practical benefits, because the materials will last longer. Historically, these are materials they would have used in the original construction.
6 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Pictured: The kitchen countertops are crafted of ipe from the Dominican Republic.
CL: Every renovation comes with the unexpected, right? What was your biggest surprise?
TB: When we went to take down the drywall in the kitchen, it basically disintegrated, much to the shock of those who were working on it at the time. They had to do an emergency propping of the roof over the kitchen while they removed the rest of the wall and put it back up. We fancied this as being a quick little fun project, but of course it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.
7 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Island Charm Guest Room
Pictured: The simple white guest bed is one of a pair from West Elm. The dresser is limed oak from Design Workshop.
CL: So naturally you decided to do it again and again! What's the most important thing you learned from Chatterbox that helped you in later renovations?
TB: That there are three rules when renovating in the Bahamas. One: shit happens. Two: if it isn't perfect, it's called "island charm." And three: believe in happy accidents. We had many accidents during the renovation—and most of them would fall into the first category! But we did have an instance where a pair of original built-in drawers were accidentally removed during demolition. It felt like a loss at the time, but then we realized how much it opened the room up. Now, that bedroom sports two double beds with plenty of room for hanging out.
8 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Pretty Pink Porch
Pictured: The tile inlay on the front porch is a reproduction of the original, which led visitors to the front door.
CL: Entertaining seems to be second nature to this cottage. These days, what's on the menu?
TB: My absolute favorite meal to serve, when we can get it, is fresh stone crab from the neighboring island of Eleuthera. It feels incredibly luxurious and it's local.
9 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Pink and Blue Back Porch
Pictured: The back porch is framed in a cultivar of hibiscus brought to the island in the 1970s for a wedding. The sofas are whitewashed teak.
CL: More importantly, though, what's everyone drinking at your house?
TB: The Goombay Smash! It's a traditional Bahamian cocktail made with equal parts white rum, dark rum, coconut rum, and pineapple juice. It'll kill you, but it's really yummy!
10 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Bright Master Bedroom
Pictured: The headboard in the master bedroom is by Suzanne Kasler for Ballard Designs.
11 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong
Pictured: A rattan console Becker found on eBay anchors the porch bar. The table umbrella is Balinese, and the greenery is from a local papaya tree.
12 of 12Photo: Annie Schlechter; styling: Liz Strong