2015 Seagrove Idea Cottage
The best beach houses often come in small packages. So for our first renovation Showhouse, we wanted to celebrate one of the most classic—and compact—seaside dwellings: the beach cottage. Working with design duo Mark and Paige Schnell, along with builder Peter Horn of Artisan, Inc., we transformed a decades-old fixer-upper into a 2,500-square-foot retreat. It’s tucked into the coastal town of Seagrove, Florida.
The designers kept the footprint of the cottage nearly the same, and built an addition onto the rear of the house to accommodate an airy great room. They also dreamed up a new “wine garden” in the back. Here are 15 of our favorite ideas for updating a traditional beach cottage with smart, modern design.
1. Strengthen Siding
The team replaced the original worn wooden siding with composite cement boards designed to mimic the appearance of wood. “It lasts much longer than real wood and requires less maintenance,” says Horn, adding that it looks similar to materials used in old Seagrove houses.
2. Play up Original Details
Against the newly painted charcoal facade, the white geometric railings really pop. “The previous owner built them himself, modeled after railings he saw on a cottage in the Cayman Islands,” says Mark. “They are unique to this house, and central to its character.”
Get the Look: The Allura siding is painted Amherst Gray, and the railings are painted Cloud Cover, both by Benjamin Moore. The windows and doors are by Integrity. The curtain panel fabric is by Sunbrella. The designers added fan palms, wax myrtles, and potted elephant ears to the existing Florida foliage.
3. Protect the Porch
Horn insulated the ceilings on the veranda with rigid foam board. “It’s a less protective type of insulation than what you would use indoors, but it’s all you need to prevent the sun’s heat from transferring through the porch roof,” he says. The dining porch now connects to the family room through new French doors.
Get the Look: The porch base is painted Kendall Charcoal, the floor is painted Chelsea Gray, and the ceiling is painted Cloud Cover, all by Benjamin Moore. The furniture is by Lloyd Flanders, and the fabrics and throw are by Sunbrella. The windows and doors are by Integrity. The sunglasses are by Costa.
4. Replace Windows with Glass Doors
The deep porch overhang limits sunlight in adjacent rooms, so the team replaced windows with impact-resistant glass-front French doors by Integrity. Now, additional light brightens the rooms and provides a seamless transition from indoors to outside. Mildew-resistant draperies tied with rope block rain and sun, and add privacy.
Get the Look: The porch base is painted Kendall Charcoal, the floor is painted Chelsea Gray, and the ceiling is painted Cloud Cover, all by Benjamin Moore. The furniture is by Lloyd Flanders, and the fabrics and throw are by Sunbrella. The windows and doors are by Integrity.
5. Blend Old and New
To increase the small home’s living and entertaining space without altering the original facade, the team added a 730-square-foot great room to the rear of the house, which accommodates a larger living and dining area, and an updated kitchen. Tongue-and-groove walls and whitewashed oak floors create an appearance of age in keeping with the rest of the house, and vaulted ceilings with dormer windows ensure the space gets plenty of light. The furniture is upholstered in resilient all-weather fabrics by Sunbrella that won’t fade in the sun.
Get the Look: The blue artwork is by New Orleans artist Mallory Page. The walls are painted White Dove by Benjamin Moore. The windows and doors are by Integrity. The lighting is by Circa Lighting. The seating is by Lee Industries. The living room fabrics, window treatments, rug, and throw are by Sunbrella.
6. Add Warmth with Wood
To offset the modern surfaces of the kitchen—including Carrara marble countertops, a smoky-gray backsplash, and chrome Moen fixtures—Paige topped the island with rock maple butcher block for an organic contrast. Glazed ceramic wall tiles reflect natural light.
7. Make Walls Work Harder
Storage space in small cottage kitchens fills up fast, so Paige installed open shelving along an empty wall flanking an adjacent powder room. “Every inch of a house this size has to serve a purpose,” she notes. The shelving is 12 inches deep and crafted of river-recovered cypress.
Get the Look: The walls are painted White Dove by Benjamin Moore.
8. Utilize Every Corner
Get the Look: The dining room walls are painted White Dove by Benjamin Moore. The seating is by Lee Industries. The windows and doors are by Integrity.
With plentiful outdoor spaces for sharing meals and entertaining friends, the designers opted to keep the indoor dining area small, and tucked it into a corner of the great room. A 42-inch polished concrete table seats four; the seating is a mix of slipcovered armchairs and drum ottomans trimmed with a nailhead detail.
9. Go Monochromatic
The designers embraced the compact size of the family room—previously the living room—by painting the walls, trim, and ceiling a glossy blue (Slate Teal by Benjamin Moore). White artwork and accessories and a polished-nickel pendant from Circa Lighting brighten the marine hue.
10. Honor the Past
Using a collection of different frames in a single neutral shade, Paige created a gallery wall of old family photos in the guest bedroom. “The main rule is to use a variety of sizes,” says Paige. “I even like to mix and match styles, and do some with mats and some without.” A pair of wall lamps strikes a shiny modern contrast and make for stylish in-bed reading. The bed is a solid mahogany spool bed by Reid Classics, a fitting choice for a cottage bedroom thanks to its old-fashioned, handcrafted charm.
11. Play Up Small Spaces with Pattern
Cane-print wallpaper punches up the master bath. “In small rooms, you have to do something big to make them memorable,” says Paige, who paired the bold print with black cabinetry, marble countertops, and a chrome sconce by Circa Lighting.
Get the Look: The master bath cabinetry is painted Black by Benjamin Moore.
12. Double a Room’s Function
A room that serves dual purposes is a smart space saver in a compact cottage. The narrow built-in desk in the upstairs study leaves plenty of room for a foldaway daybed by Lee Industries (see next slide), making this space an office by day and a guest room by night. This clear acrylic chair and a trio of stools are simple and lightweight, providing seating for several without making the small room feel crowded.
13. Open up the Attic
Rather than expand the footprint of the upstairs rooms, the team decided to expand up into the attic, removing 8-foot ceilings and exposing the trusswork and vaulted roof-line. “It adds so much light,” says Paige. They then color-blocked the walls and ceiling. “The darker color grounds the room and emphasizes its height,” she adds. The daybed upholstery is a cotton-linen blend, making it comfortable and cool for dozing in warmer climates.
14. Build a Wine Garden
Yes, really! The team transformed the unused backyard space into a prime hosting hangout. Ample sofa seating by Lloyd Flanders lines waist-height paneled walls that double as planters and align with the dimensions of the adjacent back porch. “It feels like an extension of the cottage,” says Mark, who incorporated columns for stringing lights above the convivial garden. Granite-topped fire tables ensure the outdoor room is comfortable for family and friends year-round. The fire tables have resin-coated woven bases, the sofa wicker is a beachy sea green, and the string lights are crafted of galvanized iron that will not rust.
15. Add a Beachy Cabana
A striped Sunbrella cabana serves as a beachy garden focal point and a shady spot to chill bottles and refill your glass. The wine bucket inside is a vintage urn, but the all-weather shelter can accommodate bar carts, shelving for outdoor games, or even a serving table for afternoon cookouts.
Get the Look: The fire tables are by Lloyd Flanders.