The Jerabeks planned on living small-until they fell in love with a big house by the sea.

By Anna Kasabian
June 02, 2006
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

During 39 years of marriage, Sydney and Charlie Jerabek haveraised two children, moved nine times, and lived both inland and onthe water. They now know one thing for sure: Living on the coastbrings more joy. With Charlie's job transfer to Boston's NorthShore, Sydney began hunting for a coastal home. Nothinghuge―the kids had moved out. "We were finally ready todownsize," she says.

Sydney thought a carriage house would be perfect, and imaginedthere would be plenty around Beverly, Massachusetts. The rockycoast from Beverly to Gloucester has many grand waterfronthomes―shingle-style, stone, and stucco―that once servedas summer retreats for Boston's wealthy families. Quite a fewresidences had greenhouses, carriage houses, and stables. Over theyears, some had been split from the main estates and sold.

But after weeks of searching, Sydney came up empty-handed. Thena real estate agent decided to show her a sprawling home built in1860. "He called it an architectural gem," she recalls, "and said Iwould appreciate its special features." With a wide wraparoundporch and emerald green lawn rolling down to the sea, thehouse―and the view―quickly erased Sydney's thoughtsabout downsizing. "I turned to my agent and said, 'I could justkill you for bringing me here!'" she says with a laugh.

Getting Charlie on board was another matter. Small still soundedgood to him. With seven bedrooms, six baths, and eight fireplaces,the big house represented to Charlie a move in the wrong direction.So the Jerabeks' real-estate search continued, with more propertiesand more disappointments.

After each day of fruitless hunting, they would return to thecircular drive in front of this grande dame by the sea. Finally, "Itold Charlie to give me a chance to cozy it up," Sydney says. Aftershe convinced her husband that there was cottage potential withinall that square footage, the Jerabeks signed purchase papers andstarted transforming their new property into a comfortable beachhome.

Sydney began by painting the walls and dark trim white. She leftthe wood floors alone, preferring the scuffed, lived-in look. Now,she doesn't worry when her grandchildren run around the house withsand on their feet or drive scooters across the entire first floor.Sydney also covered her furniture in white canvas slipcovers, so aquick wash cycle can erase whatever damage a full house mightbring.

Furnishings and accessories reinforce the sense of ease here.When scouring shops and flea markets, Sydney and Charlie prefersimple antiques and wicker to formal pieces. "When we first gotmarried, we had no budget for decorating, so we would go toauctions," Sydney says. "We still have furniture that we paid just$18 for." Coastal-theme accents, such as the pond yacht over themantel, stencils of sailboats and sandpipers, andblue-and-white-stripe tableware give Sydney the comforts she wantedin a small home.

Despite having added a screened porch and poolside cabana, theJerabeks feel as if they've returned to a simpler life. "It was achallenge to create cozy, beachy spaces with the rooms being sobig," Sydney says. "But the message here is that this is a place tounwind, get comfortable, and put your feet up."