Photo by Moonloop Photography
With help from Cottage Construction, a retiring couple converted their vacation getaway into a comfortable, functional space.
With retirement on the horizon, it struck them as the ideal setting for a more relaxed pace. But transforming a vacation getaway to a full-time residence required reimagining the house.
Their wish list was specific and ambitious: A new kitchen with high-end finishes. Luxurious bathrooms. An open-concept living and dining area. A den that could double as a home office. And storage. Lots of storage.
“We wanted our home to be comfortable and easy, with a lot of natural light,” Aphy recalls.
The Lennons had no shortage of ideas. Aphy browses Pinterest, Houzz and other online home design resources, but she found nothing tops touring homes in person. “On a house tour, you actually get to see the house,” she says.
For years, she explored many of Bethany’s most notable homes on the Beach and Bay Cottage Tour, an annual pilgrimage for aficionados of architecture and interior design in coastal Delaware.
“For 12 years, I had gone on the cottage tour,” she says. “I kept all my tour booklets and took notes on the various homes.”
A larger feel
To transform their wish list into reality, the Lennons turned to Scott Edmonston, an architect whose work they had admired on the tour. They commissioned Allen Curtis of Cottage Construction to build it.
Because the two-story, 2,350-square-foot house is sited on wetlands bordering a large pond they couldn’t expand the footprint. That was fine with the Lennons, who envisioned a casual, pared-back retirement enjoying their community and entertaining friends.
“Scott came up with ways to make better use of the space and make the house feel larger,” Aphy says.
The key to that is an open-concept gathering space on the second floor that encompasses the kitchen, living room and dining area.
“I was adamant about not having a formal dining room that we would never use,” she says. “Having a dining room that is open to the kitchen and the living room works so beautifully. I’m cooking at the island and a friend is tossing the salad.”
In addition to taking down walls, the Lennons removed carpeting and tile flooring, unifying the spaces with an expanse of oak flooring with four-inch planks. (The old cabinets, floors and doors were donated to Habitat for Humanity.) They also raised the roof, creating a lofty cathedral ceiling of tongue-in-groove wood and beams painted crisp white.
For years, the couple made do with an electric range. Natural gas isn’t available in their area, so they opted for propane to fuel a stainless steel range and a sleek fireplace set in stacked stone in the adjoining living area.
White kitchen cabinets are beaded in cottage style—designed in keeping with the Lennons’ clean, timeless aesthetic—by Sue Smith of Custom Cabinet Shop in Greenwood. The soaring ceiling provided room for a top bank of glass-fronted cabinets that displays colorful pieces of pottery.
“Some is from Italy, some is from Greece—and some is from Marshall’s,” Aphy says.
A large island provides prep space for multiple cooks, casual seating and specialized storage for cookbooks and small appliances. The massive slab of quartzite that tops the island was hoisted in by crane, along with the appliances. Rustic pendant lights over the island and dining table provide task lighting.
Upgrades and updates
Gutting the space gave the couple an opportunity to install other upgrades: a surround-sound entertainment system and custom window blinds that operate by remote control.
The palette is hushed and serene, blending white cabinetry, millwork and subway tiles with the silvery tones of stainless steel and gray-veined quartzite. The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Concrete Gray, which takes on the aura of driftwood in this beachy setting.
Gail Lednum, a design consultant with Creative Concepts in Bethany, helped Aphy with color and furniture choices, mixing comfy seating upholstered in soft solids with a chair in a vibrant gray-and-yellow floral print. “Gail helped me to pull everything together and has encouraged me to be a little bolder,” she says.
The gray-and-white color scheme is repeated in the bathrooms, which blend milky Carrera marble with the pewter tones of the hardware and sparkling expanses of glass. In the guest bath, a seamless shower door slides like a barn door. In the master bath, mirrors stationed above his and hers sinks roll on casters to control natural light coming through the windows.
The floorplan optimizes the home’s natural setting. When the couple first bought the house they had a view of an adjacent golf course “so close we could critique the shots.”
Over the years, large stands of pines created a verdant privacy screen. The Lennons enjoy watching egrets, herons, ospreys and an occasional bald eagle on the pond.
Edmonston’s plan enhances those vistas with larger windows in the second floor gathering space, which includes the kitchen, dining and living areas. He borrowed space from what was the second-story landing to expand a screened porch. Off the rear of the garage he created a new back door with a large glass panel, which ushers in light and a view of the pond on the first level.
“The door also gives us great access to the outdoor shower,” Aphy says. “Before, you had to go out the garage door and walk around the back of the house.”
Incorporating several feet from the back of the attached garage into the house gave the Lennons a spacious laundry room, with a gift-wrap station, pantry and storage area. Shelves hold tidy baskets, neatly labeled, so items like light bulbs, tennis balls and glue are at the ready.
Outside, vinyl siding was replaced with cement board siding that looks like cedar. Accent roofs are crafted from pulled metal. The straight blacktop driveway was torn out and supplanted with a semicircle of pavers that amps up the home’s curb appeal.
Today, the house no longer feels like a weekend home. It’s a place where the Lennons will put down roots in the next phase of their lives.
“We are both from small towns south of Pittsburgh,” Aphy says. “It will be nice to wind up in a small town again.”
Get the look
Look to homes you admire for inspiration. Aphy Lennon toured local beach houses for years and also gathered ideas from magazines and home design websites.
Choose classic infrastructure over trends in flooring, fixtures and cabinetry. The Lennons opted for oak floors instead of gray stained planks because oak is timeless and will never go out of style.
Go fashion forward in coloring walls. The neutral grays in the Bethany house are on-point style wise. Down the road, when a trendy new palette emerges, they can readily update with a fresh coat of paint.
Pump up the volume. Raising the ceiling in an open-concept kitchen, dining and living area makes the space look even larger.
Get organized. A renovation is a great opportunity to rethink options for storage. The Lennons borrowed space from their garage to expand a laundry room to accommodate a second refrigerator, a wine fridge and shelving for household items.