Before & After: A Summer Cottage Reborn on the Connecticut Coast by

Issue 86 · The Summer Kitchen · August 23, 2013

Before & After: A Summer Cottage Reborn on the Connecticut Coast

Issue 86 · The Summer Kitchen · August 23, 2013

The classic adage when house hunting is to never fall in love with something before it’s yours. Last summer, our San Francisco-based friend Charlotte Tracy fell in love with one room, the front hallway, in a rambling seaside cottage in a summer community on the Long Island Sound, where her family had been coming for years. “Much of the house had been winterized with generic double glazed windows and was musty, moldy, and dark,” she says. “I kept coming back to the front hallway with its exposed framing, original windows, and wood floors thinking, ‘If I can get the rest of the house to look like the hallway, I’m in!’”

Tracy sought professional expertise and advice from her high school friend, architect John Allee, and another longtime friend from the community, designer Hannah Childs, both of whom assured her that they could retrieve the spirit and integrity of the original cottage and have her family of five in by the beginning of this summer. With both of her design consultants based in Connecticut, Tracy returned to San Francisco for the winter to manage from afar. A few setbacks later (including one major hurricane and the decision to raise the house six feet to pour in a reinforced concrete foundation), P.J. Cullina Contractors were on their way to removing false ceilings and walls to expose the structure, replacing all the double glazed windows with single glazed ones, installing new bathrooms, new floors (reclaimed Antique White Pine), and a new kitchen.

Tracy and her two design consultants collaborated simultaneously on two coasts to furnish and accessorize the house. "Pinterest was critical for communicating our ideas to each other," Childs says. "Charlotte's palette of whites, blues, and neutrals has opened my eyes to new challenges and solutions, while renewing my appreciation for simplicity."

Tracy’s final challenge to her consultants? She didn’t want any of it to feel "new." Allee, a self-proclaimed modernist, says, “I would have made the interiors more modern, but now I see she was right. She tricked me.”

Photography by Elizabeth Watsky

Entry hall of summer cottage, wood floors, grandfather clock and blue bench | Remodelista

Above: The entry hall was built when the two cottages were joined together in the late 19th century. It was this room that inspired Tracy's decision to restore the cottage to its original state.

OBP Cottage Restoration Remodelista Blue Bench

Above: Tracy's first purchase for the cottage was this blue bench, sourced at Curate Interiors in San Francisco.  

Neutral palette in living room of summer cottage | Remodelista

Above: A mix of rustic and modern is achieved with a Belgian Classic Roll Arm Slipcovered Sofa from Restoration Hardware, which Childs covered with Perennials Classic Linen Weave (an indoor/outdoor fabric) and a Square Parquet-Top Coffee Table with a metal base from Wisteria. A custom sisal rug sits on top of the reclaimed wood floor. 

Jennifer Ebner painting in summer cottage in Connecticut | Remodelista

Above: "This painting by Jennifer Ebner (an artist from Litchfield, Connecticut) represents everything I wanted the house to be," Tracy says.  "Abstract and modern, but totally organic and natural."

exposed structure in summer cottage used as bar storage | Remodelista

Above: The new bar with chestnut top (repurposed from original floors) in the corner of the dining room uses the exposed structure of the summer cottage to its advantage.

Dining room of seaside cottage, Mandala rug by Madeline Weinrib | Remodelista

Above: The Mandala rug in Platinum from Madeline Weinrib anchors the antique white oak dining room table, custom designed by Allee and built by Alfred Brown Cabinetry in Warren, CT, while a pair of Birds Nest Hanging Lamps from Serena & Lily adds texture.  

Rustic modern kitchen in seaside cottage | Remodelista  

Above: The airy kitchen features open shelving. See Rope Pendant Lights in a Summer Cottage to see how Tracy sleuthed the green pendants. 

Vintage Tolix chairs, Farm Table, Basket-weave pendant lamp | Remodelista

Above: Vintage Tolix chairs add an industrial air to the Basket-Weave Pendant Lamp from Serena & Lily and the farm table, which was found at Kindred Interiors by San Francisco-based designer Leah O'Connell, another friend of Tracy's. 

chestnut shelves and stair treads | Remodelista  

Above L: Childs repurposed the wood from the original chestnut floors as kitchen shelves. Above R: The original chestnut floors remain intact in the staircase. 

Three blue stripes in middle of painted white stairs in seaside cottage, copper pipe as handrail | Remodelista

Above: The back stair has been painted white with a set of blue nautical stripes in the middle, with a copper pipe serving as a handrail.  

Built in white bunk bed with ladder | Remodelista

Above: In the bedrooms, color is added through the textiles. A custom-built bunk bed with storage drawers maximizes the space. In other guest bedrooms, custom-built trundle beds provide additional sleeping options (the house sleeps 16).

Blue and white chevron indoor/outdoor rug on wooden bathroom floor | Remodelista

Above: A Chevron Denim Indoor/Outdoor Rug from Dash & Albert keeps the wood floor in the bathroom dry while traditional fixtures mix with the industrial aesthetic of the Backbay Wall Mount lights from Urban Archaeology.

Whitewashed ladder as towel storage and wall mounted Kaye fan | Remodelista

Above L: There can never be enough places to hang towels or clothes in a summer cottage, especially one with small bathrooms. Childs solved the problem with a Whitewashed Teak Ladder from Serena & Lily. Above R: Childs installed a Kaye 3-Speed Wall Fan in every room to aid the sea breezes during the height of summer.

Wooden blackout blinds with sheer curtains | Remodelista  

Above: All the blinds in the house are woven wood blackout shades, which is helpful in minimizing the sun and heat on hot and humid days.

Hallway of seaside cottage, Benjamin Moore White Dove | Remodelista

Above: All the walls throughout the house were painted Benjamin Moore Dove White. For other favorite whites, see 10 Easy Pieces: Architects White Paint Picks

Gwendoline English Pine Spindle Bed | Remodelista  

Above: The master bedroom has a Bradshaw Kirchofer Gwendoline Spindle Bed with an English Pine satin finish. 

White bathroom with exposed copper pipes in seaside cottage | Remodelista

Above: A custom built vanity in the master bathroom includes open shelving under a farm sink.

New white cedar shingles on seaside cottage | Remodelista

Above: The house was reshingled in White Cedar; when it weathers, it will turn the familiar silver gray of New England coastal architecture.

Seaside cottage in Connecticut | Remodelista

Above: The back of the house before it was raised in its restoration.

New white cedar shingles on seaside cottage | Remodelista

Above: The front of the house after its restoration.

Seaside cottage in Connecticut | Remodelista

Above: The entry hall that joins the two cottages is under the sloped roof. 

Original kitchen in seaside cottage | Remodelista

Above: The kitchen before work commenced.

Original entry hall in seaside cottage in Connecticut | Remodelista

Above: The entry hall that inspired the entire project in its original condition. 

Above: Typical of late 19th century seaside cottage construction, the house was built without a foundation and was simply sitting in the dirt and rotting away. The team decided to raise the house by six feet in order to pour a reinforced concrete foundation (crawl space) underneath. Local naysayers suggested that knocking the house down and starting again would have been more cost effective, but Tracy was committed to the house and its history. View the great feat of raising of the house in this video by P.J. Cullina Contractors.

We use our heads to buy a house and our hearts to buy a home. See Minimal Moves for Maximum Impact in Christine's Connecticut House and read about why I used my heart to buy a home.

Have an opinion? Care to comment? We'd love to hear what you have to say.