For years, Harbour Island homeowner Trish Becker had watched as the historic house across the street from her underwent halfhearted attempts at restoration. It was among a small handful of character-laden cottages from the island's original British colonization that remained standing. Finally, when a 2008 gutting of the house left it sitting empty again, Becker and her husband, Richard Chinitz, decided to do something about it. "We could see it falling apart before our eyes, and it was driving us crazy," says Becker, a jewelry designer. "We wanted to see if we could bring it back to its original form and restore its beauty."
When they bought the tiny shack, it had no floors, interior walls, or windows and "looked like a haunted house," Becker says. The couple set out to reconstruct the home in a way that would ensure it fit in with the other colonial cottages on the street, but doing so was no simple task. What remained of the exterior wood siding was dilapidated, and the limestone foundation and wood framing were both beyond repair, as well.
So with architect Kiko Sanchez of FGS Design, as well as a team of dedicated local builders, Becker and Chinitz embraced the challenge of rebuilding the home as authentically as possible. "We hired people who were as invested in staying true to this house's history as we were," says Becker. New siding boards were cut on site to replicate the originals, and now "you really can't tell that they aren't 150 years old and just in great condition," she says. Instead of throwing away old materials, the team repurposed them to build a picket fence and walkway leading to the house.
Left: The exterior of this once-dilapidated cottage was rebuilt with new siding painted Summer Haze and pine shutters painted Mayflower Blue (both by Devoe), and mahogany windows.
Bright blue painted shutters crafted of pressure-treated pine closely mirror the previous versions. Together with a coat of pale yellow paint on the siding and a newly stuccoed garden wall, they brighten the home's facade. "The wall is a combination of lime, white cement, and Harbour Island sand," says Becker, noting that the latter has pink hues in it, giving the wall a hint of color. "We think it looks like a sand castle."
Left: Becker outfitted the side of the house, now enclosed by a privacy fence, with an outdoor shower. The foundation wall and shower floor were crafted using stones collected from a neighboring island.
The living room was in disrepair, so the Becker and her team put in new cedar walls and reclaimed heart pine floors (see on next slide).
Inside, cypress walls and reclaimed heart pine floors anchor the rooms, and new doors were constructed in the exact shape and design of the sole door that remained when Becker and Chinitz bought the house. "So much research went into making sure we were using elements that existed back then," says Becker, who rubbed lacquer finishes off brass knobs and hardware so that they would appear old. "It was a worthwhile labor of love."
The owners also made the most of the relatively small rooms with clever design choices. In the kitchen, where Becker preserved the existing layout, she installed smaller than standard appliances to conserve space. For example, a scaled-down, 27-inch refrigerator made way for more prep surfaces. "It fits plenty of groceries for a vacation, and leaves ample countertop space for chopping and serving," she says.
Left: Wall and ceiling paneling throughout is painted Touch of Grey by Devoe Paint for a lighter, brighter interior. The kitchen counters are ipe.
And in the upstairs bedroom, built-in shelving provides storage, maximizing the available space under the low, pitched roof.
Left: The platform bed in the master bedroom was made from the home's original siding.
Without room for an indoor dining room, Becker designed an open-air entertaining area just off of the kitchen. A pass-through shelf and window connects the two rooms, facilitating easy serving and cleanup. Louvered walls here and alongside a nearby outdoor living room can be opened to filter in cool breezes and make the areas seem more like interior rooms when they're closed.
Left: The chairs are eBay finds, and the lighting pendants are by Jamie Young.
"The backyard feels very private and secluded, in spite of being in the center of the village," Becker says.
Left: The kitchen now opens to a lofty outdoor living room furnished with a vintage teak daybed by Columbus and Cook, a rattan side table from Palm Beach Regency, and ceramic planters Becker found in a thrift store.
Added square footage also comes by way of an adjoining guest cottage that houses a third bedroom, a bath, and a laundry room. "We gave the new space a more modern look to draw a distinction between it and the original house," Becker says, citing the contemporary siding, higher ceilings, and a Parsons-style bed.
The house's furnishings reflect a mix of styles and eras. In the Bahamas, Becker explains, furniture often stays with a house from owner to owner, so the homes typically have eclectic interiors. To replicate that collected-over-time look, she scoured flea markets, eBay, and Etsy; the result is an assortment of antique teak, bamboo, and rattan mixed with modern textiles and materials.
Left: The painting is Two Conch Shells by Bahamian artist Amos Ferguson. The plantation teak desk is vintage.
The clear acrylic coffee table in the living room, for example, references the island's 1960s heyday and helps to make the space feel larger. Meanwhile, small accessories dot the rooms with a whimsical sense of place. Becker's island mementos include Nassau Royale rum policeman-figure souvenir bottles from the 1950s and "60s, and pieces of bleached coral. "I love it when friends and visitors bring back their beach finds and leave them behind," Becker says.
Left: The bar cabinetry and shelving are painted Graphite by Annie Sloan, and the pulls are unlacquered brass.
The once-ramshackle colonial house is now lived-in and loved. "People don't even believe it when we show them what the house used to look like," she says. "We just wanted to honor and respect what was there before."
Left: The claw-footed tub in the master bath is by Restoria Marquis. Becker found the decorative privacy screens on eBay.