Tybee Island, Georgia

This restored Tybee Island, Georgia, rental promises 100 percent relaxation.

99 Steps to the Beach

Richard Leo Johnson

Don’t worry about shaking off the sand. This weather-beaten 1920s cottage—once considered a teardown—has been spruced up just enough to make shabby look chic. When local preservationist Jane Coslick breathed life into the Georgia house she’d named “99 Steps to the Beach,” she managed to enhance its character instead of erasing it. Today, arriving guests discover a structure so original that even its flaws seem inviting.

Local art fills white walls, and the decor features a sea-and-sky palette. Rooms don’t feel dressed up. Instead, Jane let her building blocks—pine floors, plank walls, pocket windows, and exposed ceiling rafters—speak for themselves. Junkyard finds add to the cottage character. Seating ranges from wooden porch chairs painted Caribbean hues to a comfortable sofa and chairs dressed in soothing solids and bold stripes.

A Savannah native, Jane has an intuitive feel for what makes a great beach experience. That’s clear on the screened porch, where beach-weary renters can enjoy ample shade and bug-free breezes. A wicker rocker, a table made from an old ship’s wheel, and a rope hammock drift above the deep-blue wooden floor. “You can’t beat a porch. You just can’t,” says Jane, who also works as a designer. “I had a client once who didn’t want to build a porch. I said, ‘Well, then don’t come to Tybee.’”

This dune-facing porch, along with the surf’s steady roar and the rustle of palm fronds, makes you feel like a castaway despite proximity to neighbors and civilization. And the cottage is truly just 99 steps from the beach. Either direction offers great walks. Less than a mile to the south is Tybee’s main commercial district and a broad fishing pier jutting into the ocean. The north point boasts Fort Screven and the Tybee Island Light Station, which has been guiding ships safely into the Savannah River for 270 years. It also signals a great place to settle in for a long weekend.

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(published October 2006)

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