Each year our Southern Home Awards judging presents us with the challenge of determining the best. Sometimes it’s easy. Great at first glance, this Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, cottage was the obvious choice for the cleverest conversion of sagging style. Architect Ankie Barnes took a light-handed approach to incorporating coastal cues resulting in the Cherner family’s ideal getaway and the pinnacle of seaside sophistication.
When Andy and Abby Cherner discovered their retreat, it was a rather forlorn neo-Williamsburg cottage with about as much curb appeal as the curb itself. However, situated among mature trees in a quiet neighborhood within walking distance of the beach, its potential was evident. They called on Ankie, a family friend, to craft a shingle-style cottage from the existing structure. “This is a private yet generous family,” Ankie muses, “so my idea was to create a home that was both sheltering and welcoming.” He achieved this balance with the addition of a wide, hospitable front porch. French doors replace the small windows across the front of the house, admitting light to the interior and imparting a more Southern effect. “I shuttered the doors as a sort of Tidewater gesture,” Ankie adds. He broke the heaviness of the double-pitched roof with four dormers. They visually lighten the large expanse of roof, giving the house a greater sense of height and presence.
Come On In
The original foyer set the tone for the rest of the house: small, dark, and cramped. Ankie removed the wall that separated the foyer from the living room, replacing it with a wide arch that mimics a second arch leading to the dining room beyond. The arches leave the dimensions of the rooms intact, still allow for crown molding, and help keep the eye moving up and over, disguising the low 8-foot ceilings.
The last 10 treads of the stairway were widened to create a splayed effect that draws interest up into the stairwell, where a dormer window floods the space with light. The newel post is the first of many visual cues that establish a nautical theme throughout the house, reflecting the family’s love of sailing. “The newel post was designed to refer to a lighthouse but not be a model of one,” Ankie explains. “The rest of the house displays a number of referential and actual nautical gestures.” These come in the form of features such as porthole windows salvaged from decommissioned ships. These perfectly unexpected touches mention the theme without screaming it.
"Coastal Cottage Reinvented" is from the October 2008 issue of Southern Living.