Rethinking The Beach House

An Architect's Vision Transforms A Tired Rosemary Beach Cottage Into A True Coastal Treasure
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Rosemary Beach, an Urbanist community on the northwest coast of Florida, sends no mixed messages about its architectural ideals. Homes here are authentic beach cottages that, inspired by the West Indies, are constructed with traditional materials and techniques, and conducive to indoor/outdoor living.

But one cottage that didn't make use of its potential caught the eye of architect Darrell Russell. With no bathroom on the main living level, small porches and tiny rooms, this beach house was in need of a complete renovation. "It was a visually inadequate piece of architecture on a very important street in Rosemary Beach," Russell says. "And so, a friend, Jon Laplante, and I bought the house and brought it up to par with the entire block."

"It isn't a huge house, but every space has a purpose," designer Kay Douglass says of the layout of the home. "It's a study in simple elegance."

Russell's million-dollar renovation included a re-space-planning of the entire interior, and turned the original square footage of 2,610 square feet with porch space to a total of 4,039 square feet. The architect then enclosed the original porches, making them part of the indoor living space; reconfigured the third floor as a master suite; enlarged windows and doors to open up the views; and added wraparound porches to face the Gulf of Mexico. "The renovation was extensive," he says. "The only thing left of the original house is its antique pine floors."

On the main level, located on the second floor, Russell added a powder room where the kitchen was once located. Moving the kitchen to the south, he created a breakfast area within the newly enclosed porch adjacent to the living area. He also opened up the originally confined staircase to make the room appear more spacious.

For the third level, Russell reworked the space to encompass an extensive master suite with a separate sitting area and study. On the ground floor, Russell enclosed the porch to create an additional guest room. On the rear side, he added a shuttered porch — a light and bright space for indoor/outdoor living.

To complement Russell's vision, designer Kay Douglass kept the decor as light and airy as the architecture. Inspired by the contrast between the home's bright white walls and dark wood flooring, as well as the abundance of natural light, Douglass kept the color palette simple with cool whites and punches of blue. Natural materials including wicker, wood and rattan hint at the West Indies and Floridian roots of the architecture while providing a rich counterpoint to the slipcovered sofas and chairs that speak to elegant beachside living. "The views are so special that you don't want the interiors to distract you," Douglass says. "It's as much about the outside as the inside.

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Interior Design
Kay Douglass, South of Market, Atlanta, GA

Jack Gardner, Valparaiso, FL

Text by
Peter Lioubin