From Gross to Great: An Island Home Makeover

By stripping away the dowdy and going all in with color, beach lovers showed HGTV Magazine how they turned a ramshackle coastal cottage into a summer destination.

Photo By: Kim Cornelison

Photo By: Kim Cornelison

Photo By: Kim Cornelison

Photo By: Kim Cornelison

Photo By: Kim Cornelison

Photo By: Kim Cornelison

Photo By: Kim Cornelison

Photo By: Kim Cornelison

Seeing Potential

There wasn’t much to love about the run-down beach cottage Vicky Patton and her husband, Henry, spotted while house-hunting on Tybee Island, GA, in 2012. The past-its-prime ’50s bungalow had concrete block walls, cracked cement floors, and zero personality. But Vicky, a former home economics teacher, saw potential in the two-bedroom, one-bath eyesore. “The layout was great,” she says. “Despite the size, I knew it could live large.”

Exterior Before

Before the redo, a scraggly lawn and faded yellow exterior hid the home’s charm. Tropical-blue turquoise paint and facade-improving tweaks, like chartreuse shutters and a coral-color screen door, instantly boosted the curb appeal. With lush plants, including a shady 20-foot-tall palmetto palm, the bungalow transformed from teardown candidate to midcentury gem.

Exterior After

Vicky hired Jane Coslick, a Savannah-based designer and local preservationist. Jane’s advice: Embrace the smallness, and do barefoot-casual on the cheap with laid-back furnishings and retro colors. Now the easygoing home—a popular getaway for Vicky and Henry’s four children and eight grandchildren—fits right in with Tybee’s no-hurries, no-worries vibe. “It’s humble, but it’s so much fun,” says Vicky.

Sunroom Before

Flooded with light, the print-splashed sunroom runs almost the entire length of the house. Like the rest of the cottage, it was overhauled from top to bottom, with new wiring, drywall, vinyl “oak” flooring, and sea-glass-blue paint on the walls. “All the rooms have the same wall color, which helps the house seem bigger and less choppy,” Vicky says.

Sunroom After

White furniture—an IKEA sofa and two $20 rattan chairs from a flea market—sets an island-y tone, and graphic pillows and a striped grayish-blue and ivory Dash & Albert rug give it pops of pattern. To rehab the decades-old dresser, which came with the house, Vicky painted it off-white with aqua chevrons. “I was worried about a white sofa, but I read that HGTV’s Genevieve Gorder said you can just machine-wash the slipcover, and that gave me courage,” says Vicky.

Dining Area

With no architectural details, the dining space needed pizzazz—like a trellis-print Shades of Light dhurrie rug and a coral-inspired chandelier with seagrass shades from Ballard Designs. A persimmon ceramic garden stool and a decrepit dresser that Vicky refurbished with orange paint—Coral Reef by Sherwin-Williams, also used on the screen door—bring zing. The HomeGoods settee lets lots of grandkids squeeze in during mealtime.


The 1950s Westinghouse electric range still ran like clockwork—and evoked the stove from Vicky’s childhood. She decided to turn it into the kitchen’s focal point and had an auto detailer spray-paint it a Caribbean blue. “It preserves the cottage’s history,” she says. Also old-school: metal trim on the new gray Formica counters that mimics the look of a malt shop.

Guest Bedroom Before

Since she was working with such a tiny space, Vicky deployed eye-fooling tricks to visually enlarge the 11-foot-by-12-foot guest bedroom. Once drab and claustrophobic, it’s now breezy and beachy, with painted furniture, billowy IKEA curtains, and yellow chevron throws.

Guest Bedroom After

Beds without footboards are easy to maneuver around, and ceilings painted brilliant white don’t seem as low. The one-of-a-kind artwork—painted on an original window replaced during the cottage’s renovation—is by Savannah-based artist Leonard Miller.

Master Bedroom

Knowing a king-size bed would dominate the master bedroom—the bed takes up most of the 11-foot-by-12-foot space—Jane encouraged Vicky to emphasize it further with an attention-grabbing floral coverlet from HomeGoods. The distressed bench, a prop from a movie shot on the island, is a handy perch for sun hats and tote bags.

Backyard Before

Thanks to an assist from Vicky’s brother, a landscape architect, the neglected sand trap of a backyard became a let’s-linger hangout—fast. “One week it was a wasteland, the next it was beautiful,” she says.

Backyard After

The home is a constant gathering place for family, including, from left, daughter Kristen Sagar; her husband, James; and their daughters, Ella, 4, and Charlotte, 2. Retro metal chairs and a vintage porch set with striped Sunbrella cushions provide comfy seating. After a day at the beach—a four-minute walk away—the patio is everyone’s favorite spot for sipping sweet tea and catching up. “It’s all about making memories and rekindling family ties,” says Vicky.

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