Outward Bound

Architect Paul Geary transforms a modest Gulf-front cottage into an inviting family retreat while making the most of the splendid setting.

Although the property’s irregular pie shape and setbacks limited the scope of the expansion, the goal was always to maximize views and get as close as possible to the water. “Our initial thinking revolved around the fact that no design, no matter how well thought out, would be able to compete with the natural beauty of the scrub, the dunes, and the breathtaking Gulf,” says Paul. The expanded covered porch accommodates a generous conversation area. Furniture was selected for practicality and positioned for flexibility and views. Two daybeds are low and can easily be moved to take advantage of sun or shade without obstructing sight lines. Photos by Jean Allsopp

No strangers to the 30A scene, this Birmingham couple had previously owned houses in Rosemary Beach, WaterColor, and WaterSound. But none of these homes had been located right on the Gulf.  As soon as they saw this oceanfront home in Old Florida Beach, they knew they had discovered a hidden gem. The location was ideal, and the floor plan lent itself to expansion. The owners knew exactly what they wanted in the renovation and wasted no time getting to work. “Within six hours of walking the property, we had drawn up a plan,” says the wife. Next, they met with 30A architect Paul Geary of T. S. Adams Studio. “We know there’s nothing worse than a client showing up at the first design meeting with plans they’ve already drawn,” the wife laughs. “Luckily, Paul didn’t kick us out of his office.”

The first order of business was taking the original house down to the foundation and two walls. Then Paul set out to integrate livable, gracious rooms within a new footprint, while instilling exteriors and interiors with a fresh take on the traditional Florida Cracker aesthetic.

Rip Thompson of Rip’s Professional Lawn Care designed a landscape plan with mature oaks, palms, and a myriad of native plantings, allowing the renovated house to fit into the established neighborhood.

The original house had main living spaces and a master bedroom on the upper level, resulting in a series of small cut-up rooms. “We quickly realized that if we relocated the master bedroom to the first floor, it would vastly open up the view in the second-level living areas, which is where it really counts,” says Paul. The owners also decided that the original two-car garage could be better utilized as finished space for guest bedrooms. These two concessions created a world of opportunity and served as the game-changers in terms of enhancing and increasing the liveable square footage.

To connect the interiors to the outdoors, five sets of French doors swing out to welcome in sunlight and ocean breezes. In keeping with the classic Old Florida feel, reclaimed cypress in natural tones enlivens the ceiling and pairs with random-width, tongue-and-groove wood on the walls. The generous kitchen anchors a corner of the main space without being front and center. “I like to be part of the action, but I’d rather not feel like I am cooking in the living room,” says the wife. It’s just one more aspect of the home that the couple loves. Adds the husband, “We’ve come full circle along 30A, but this is where we were supposed to end up.”

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With an eye towards the Gulf for inspiration, the architect crafted a vacation retreat to meet the needs of family gatherings and modern-day living. Interior furnishings and finishes offer a neutral palette, allowing the emerald greens and blues of the water to be the main source of color. A textured fireplace crafted of antique bricks anchors the gracious sitting area.
Relocating the interior staircase away from the center of the house allowed the architects to maintain an open-concept kitchen while creating a greater, uninterrupted flow between the living and dining areas. This seamless connection brings water views into focus in every space. The new kitchen offers counter seating for casual dining—a must for grab-and-go lunches at the beach.
As a bonus, the relocated stair made room for a breakfast nook with built-in banquette seating tucked behind the stair railing.
Rearranging and adding space on the upper level carved out a sunny spot nicknamed “The Mom Cave.” When the husband and two sons are engrossed in football, the wife has her own escape. “It was imperative that this room not be relegated to the street side away from the view,” says Paul. “We carved it out at the end of the great room overlooking the porch.” Two sets of French doors allow privacy when closed or a welcoming flow when open. With its layers of implied age, the space feels like an old porch that was “taken in” for more interior space.
Relocating the master suite downstairs was necessary to devote more square footage to living areas, but the new space needed something wonderful to make up for the asset it lost. “We had only a sliver of land left at our disposal,“ says Paul. “While the owners initially didn’t want a pool, the more we refined the floor plan, the more we felt the pool would create an unanticipated private outdoor space and something to overlook.”
French doors swing open from the bedroom to a new shady enclave and terrace. The pool level was built up, allowing the porch edges to became the pool’s coping. Scrub oak along the outside of the porch creates a sense of privacy.
Facing the street, a front screened porch runs the length of the house. Flowing curtains offer privacy for an oversized, swinging daybed.
The new “sunset porch” allows ample space for family and friends to take in panoramic vistas.

Before & After: A Little Bigger, A Lot Better

The original floor plan was basically a box of a house with wrap-around porches. The goal was to follow the setbacks and bump out the structure, adding outdoor rooms as close as possible to the water. Accommodating the pool was a major concern. After exploring various options, the owners and architect came up with a garden arbor trellis that angles out and over the pool. Large screen panels fill in the void areas to maintain the Florida vernacular theme of the architecture. Two guest bedrooms with private baths on the first floor now occupy the prime space previously devoted to the garage. The rest of the first floor accommodates the master suite with sweeping views of the Gulf. A third guest bedroom, conveniently located on the second floor, allows even more space for overnight visitors.

Architect Paul Geary, T.S. Adams Studio Architects, 404.262.3499, tsadamsstudio.com Landscape Designer Rip’s Professional Lawn Care, 850.233.6396

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