When the homeowners, a young couple who keep their main residence in Boston, bought this one-and-a-half story cottage on Nauset Beach, the realtor remarked that it was ‘a lot like going camping’. And indeed, like camping, the open-concept property which wasn’t well winterized and included only one bedroom, offered very little privacy. At the time, it was the perfect retreat for the couple and their two babies who didn’t need much but a quiet seasonal getaway.
Careful planning; choosing carefully
As both the children and the demand for overnight guests grew, however, so did the owners’ needs. They called on Kurzhaus Designs Inc. of Orleans to help them solve the puzzle of how to create more bedrooms in the limited space without compromising the existing feel or look of the house. “We had been in town for about a year and we would drive by these projects [Kurzhaus] had done and admire the exteriors. When it came time to do the project, we liked that they were local,” says the homeowner. “We weren’t a little project that was going to get lost with them, so they were a good fit.”
The specific nature of the owners’ wishes to keep the house looking much like it did originally and in keeping with the look of the rest of the neighborhood took planning. A garage-turned-guesthouse was briefly considered, but abandoned when the city of Orleans would not permit it. So Trevor Kurz, president of Kurzhaus, returned to the drawing board and came back with the plan that would transform the cottage into a four bedroom, two bath home with an office and many modern upgrades.
The main solution to the problem of adding more space came in the form of taking the original support beams out from under the house, and creating a basement. “It was important to [the homeowner] that it didn’t look like a basement,” says Trevor who was able to avoid that scenario by giving the new space 10-foot ceilings and plenty of windows to let in natural light.
“The house was essentially sitting on four tree-trunks,” says the homeowner. “Kurzhaus brought in a structural engineer to evaluate it and they said it was ‘just okay,’ and it could be improved by a more solid footing. So the new foundation is very beneficial.”
The new lower level added two bedrooms, a bathroom and an office, while the original floor was slightly expanded to accommodate the new foundation. Another bedroom was added within that newly created footprint which rounded out the extra-bedroom component of the remodel.
Radiant heat and reclaimed materials
When adding the basement, Kurzhaus needed to keep in mind the overall goal of the project, which was to make improvements while maintaining the integrity of the nearly one hundred-year-old structure. Seamlessly fitting into the home, the newest level was made to match perfectly.
Even the flooring, for example, was hand-selected because of its history. Found in Oregon, the fir tree wood was reclaimed and used because it was circle-sawed like the rest of the historic flooring in the house. As an improvement, Kurzhaus installed radiant heat underneath that custom floor, which is now a cozy place to relax in any season.
The reclaimed materials didn’t stop at the flooring. The old support beams that once held the house up were made into bunk beds for the kids; a window that was removed during the renovation, is now an interior window that lets one look out onto the ocean from a bedroom that otherwise wouldn’t have a view; and the custom-made vanity in the bathroom is topped with reclaimed heart of pine (the vanity also features two beautiful farm sinks and Waterworks faucets that are reminiscent of old-fashioned pumps).
The remodel rendered the old heating system, and an old chimney, obsolete. But even that was used to improve the design. Cabinets were built around the exposed brick on the first floor and a new stove and hood were installed to update the kitchen area while keeping its rustic look.
They’ll never know
“We are very pleased with it,” says the owner. “We started out with a goal that we didn’t want to change anything; we just wanted more of it. I can’t tell you how many people have commented that it looks like it has always been this way. There were times when someone on Trevor’s team did something too perfect and we’d have them go back and rough it up or deconstruct it a little.” But don’t let it fool you, the vintage look of the house also comes with a nifty Insteon control system that allows the owners to turn up the radiant heat, turn on the lights, and get the place all ready for them from their iPhone while they drive down from Boston. The end result of the renovation is the perfect blend of the best of both worlds.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Dan Cutrona
Design & Build: Kurzhaus Designs Inc.
**As seen in Southern New England Home magazine’s 2012-2013 print edition.