How to expand a small 1950s home on the water without sacrificing its charm? Raise the ceilings, add on in back, and create more rooms outdoors
Lots of people fantasize about having a house at the beach—and for some, the ultimate dream is to live there all year long. For the owner of this light-and-airy home in Bay Head, New Jersey, what started as a weekend getaway grew into an everyday dream come true.
Shown: The once basic 1950s cottage got a curb-appeal redo with Folk Victorian gables, an extended front landing leading to double French doors, pale blue shutters, a garden arch, a new paver driveway, and a welcoming lamp post.
When he first bought the place, the 1950s one-story cottage was pretty basic: less than 1,200 square feet, with a living room, two bedrooms, a single bath, an eat-in kitchen, and a back porch ringed with old-school louvered windows. Located a few blocks from the Atlantic, it had plenty of "let's go to the beach" appeal.
Shown: The extended front landing serves as a rocking-chair porch.
It also had a lot of moisture. The original cellulose wallboard had absorbed groundwater over the years, and the oak floors, absent an underlying vapor barrier, were warping from below.
Shown Window boxes set on white-painted wood brackets add to the cottage aesthetic, as do the aqua-painted board-and-batten shutters.
Clearly, the cottage needed work. But the owner had even bigger plans for the little place. So he called on local general contractor Pete Patterson to not only repair the structure but also add on to it—two more bedrooms, another bath, a dining room, and extra areas for entertaining were on the wish list—to better accommodate family members and friends who come to visit, especially in summer months.
Shown: Seafoam-blue paint and bleached beadboard set a beachy tone in the entry. New double French doors with sidelights channel light into the interior.
Enter architect Christopher Rice. His mandate was simple: Keep the cottage looking modest and authentic from the street—to stay true to its roots and in accordance with strict local building codes—while updating the interior and increasing its functionality. His clever solution? A C-shaped rear addition that would wrap around a private courtyard. The old porch would become a new dining room, open to the renovated kitchen on one side and a new family room on another; the two bedrooms curl off the gathering space. Says Rice, "Now the house actually rambles a little from when you step in the front door and wind your way through to the private patio in back."
Shown: Still a tidy 150 square feet, the kitchen has a loftier feel thanks to an all-white color scheme and a vaulted ceiling. Retro diner stools pull up to the table island, which is open below to keep the room feeling airy.
To get the existing house into shape, Patterson gutted the walls and pulled up the warped oak floors, insulating everywhere before laying down new narrow oak planks and adding wallboard. The work also required all-new mechanicals and HVAC throughout. Next, Patterson's team set out to renovate the old rooms and enlarge the house with an eye toward bringing the outdoors in via generous windows and three pairs of French doors. Fortunately, the sixth-of-an-acre lot had just enough space to allow for that rear wing. "What's nice is, it still feels like a small house, but a really unique one, with built-in details and decorative touches," says Patterson.
Shown: Stepped cabinetry over the range (behind the island) camouflages the vent hood and allows for a mantel shelf to display decorative objects.
Today, as you make your way to the kitchen, the midpoint of the house's public rooms, you can practically feel the cottage opening up. During the renovation, Patterson vaulted the kitchen's 7½-foot ceiling to 15 feet at its peak, a move that enabled the addition of four skylights that bathe the space with sunlight; the generous ceiling height made room for dramatically stepped kitchen cabinets, capped with deep crown molding. An old porch adjacent to the kitchen became the dining room, with six-over-six windows wrapping the outer wall. (The cut corner makes room for a pathway from the front yard to the back courtyard.) Two steps lead down into the new family room, a design decision that allowed a generous 10-foot ceiling height without having to raise the roof out front. Since the now-year-round house didn't have a fireplace, a fieldstone hearth was added, flanked by built-in bookcases that hide electronics and wiring, and window-backed lower display shelves that illuminate the owner's Wedgwood pitchers.
Shown: Farmhouse-style chicken wire replaces glass on some cabinets.
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