AFTER FINDING THE COTTAGE OF THEIR DREAMS IN FERNANDINA BEACH, TODD AND MARLEE KROHN WAITED NINE MONTHS FOR IT TO GO ON THE MARKET AND THEN SPENT NEARLY A YEAR PERFECTING IT
Written By: Blake Miller Vossekuil
As Marlee Krohn sits on her back porch looking out over the Atlantic Ocean just yards away, she realized it wasn’t just luck that she and her husband, Todd, finally nabbed their cozy, intimate beach cottage. It was serious persistence.
For much of 1998, the Krohns searced for their perfect second home on the coast of Northern Florida. Fernandina Beach, an eclectic counterpart to the traditional look and feel of nearby Amelia Island where Marlee had grown up, seemed the best location to start their hunt. For weeks the couple made trips to the area with their realtor, looking at various oceanfront properties only to pass them over, knowing that they simply couldn’t settle.
After a few months the couple finally found their home, though it was certainly not picture-perfect.
The circa-1929 home, though, was not for sale. So the Krohns waited. And waited. Nine months later, their persistence paid off. The homeowners had decided to sell and the Krohns were ready to buy.
But along with the purchase came challenges. The home was in need of serious repair. Excessive water exposure had damaged the hardwood floors, which lay beneath out-moded vinyl covering. The 1,600-square-foot home had three bedrooms, one bathroom, but no kitchen. And the home desperately needed to be lifted almost a foot and a half off the ground as it was literally sinking into the sand. To start renovating the home, the Krohns enlisted the help of local architect Tom Norman to restore the home to its original splendor and preserve the architectural details to which the Krohns were drawn.
First the home was raised off the ground 16 inches. Then the team tackled the interior, peeling away the vinyl flooring exposing gorgeous tongue-and-groove curly pine hardwoods. The bathroom was transformed into a miniature spa complete with custom dual vanities and cottage cabinetry. Weathered paint was chipped off the 1-by-4 wooden beams found on the ceilings throughout the house and then painted a subtle white.
While the footprint and bones were given much-needed attention, the interior aesthetics and decor also needed a boost. The couple and much of Marlee’s family had worked with Atlanta-based design firm Pineapple House Interior Design on previous residences. For this space, the Krohns looked to Pineapple House again and asked interior designer Stephen Pararo to help create an elegant yet comfortable beach retreat.
In order to take advantage of the home’s traditional “shot bed” footprint (i.e. a floor plan where the hallway entrance leads straight through to the back entrance of the home and, in this case, reveals a spacious view of the ocean) and limited space, Pararo kept the accessories and furniture minimal.
The minimal yet seamless flow, though, was accented by a cache of personal and heirloom treasures scattered throughout the house. Pararo spread out pieces from Marlee’s childhood bedroom suite such as the living room chest, which was her dresser as a child, while her grandparents’ round gateleg dining set was painted white, then distressed, and placed in the cozy breakfast nook near the back porch. And seashells Todd and Marlee collected while strolling the beach add a whimsical touch to ledges and shelves in each room.
In spite of the long wait, the structural obstacles, and the major renovations and additions, the project was well worth it.