Now that Seaside has matured, some homeowners are beginning to think about renovating their special place. Most will repaint, change out furniture, or add a room if possible. For others, renovation takes a massive turn. After their first vacation to Seaside with friends in 2000, Marj and Mark McClain knew there was something special about the little town on the gulf.
“We just seemed to be drawn to Seaside,” says Marj.
The water and beach were obviously an attraction, but so too were the quaint cottages with front porches, tree-lined streets and of course the restaurants. After a few more years and trips to Seaside with their children, the McClains decided it was time to buy a home. Jacky Barker, a real estate broker with Seaside Community Realty showed them a few homes that were available. They settled on a three-bedroom Florida style cottage on Pensacola Avenue, just a couple streets away from the heart of Seaside.
Once settled, the McClains named their cottage Takin It E-Sea. “We thought the name was appropriate because every time we would come to Seaside, our world just seemed to be a little less cluttered. We bought the house to not only share with our family, but friends as well, and the name was to serve as a reminder to everyone that they could come here and let everything go,” says Marj.
Over the years the little cottage near the sea became the venue for friends, college groups and family get-togethers. Whether it was for a few days or weeks, it always seemed to recharge those who stayed over.
After owning the cottage for four years the McClains found it just a little small for the gatherings they would draw. “The three kids were out on their own and we were beginning to experience the joys of being grandparents,” Mark explains.
Because the entire family had so many good memories of time spent in Seaside, they reached out to architect Ty Nunn to re-design Takin It E-Sea. With no room to spread out and a cozy stand-alone one-bedroom cottage in the back, Nunn suggested adding a second floor and moving the existing tower further back into the house.
Once the McClains signed off on the massive renovation that would take nearly 15 months to complete, they turned to local interior design firm, Urban Grace Interiors. Erika Powell, founder of the Santa Rosa Beach firm and colleague, Meagan Burks, worked tirelessly with the McClains to transform the cottage from the inside out.
“The architect had created a wonderful new floor plan by moving the master bedroom from the front to the back, adding a bedroom and bunk room on the second floor and this fabulous tower which would serve as a get-away,” says Mark. As the designers worked with the McClains, local construction firm, Artisan Builders, set about to transform the cottage into a larger space capable of creating even more memories. Due to the complexity of the expansion it was an asset having a second-generation builder, Peter Horn, III, on the project. Ironically Horn’s father had been part of the construction team that originally built the three-bedroom cottage. “It really helped having my dad as a resource when we began demolition and re-construction,” says Horn.
“Our goal as a family was to have a home that would be casual. We wanted a sophisticated look that would transcend time without feeling stuffy. Most importantly, with children once again in the house we needed durable furniture and rugs. Something that didn’t elicit a shriek when a spill would occur,” Marj says.
Powell and Burks allowed the water and sand to be their inspiration as they embarked on the design challenge. Using rich blue hues, textured fabrics and geometric patterns throughout the house, the designers were able to create a design palette that met the owners’ expectations. “We wanted the cottage to promote the casualness of the family and we did that by bringing in soft colors throughout, with the exception of the tower. There we used a darker blue as our primary fabric color to accent the 360-degree views you get from the space,” Burks says.
“We saved some items of furniture from the existing home and re-purposed them in several spaces. The artwork throughout the house was kept not only because it was very good, but a few pieces were a gift to Mrs. McClain from her sister, Andrea Schneider, who is an artist,” says Burks.
When asked about her favorite new spot in Takin It E-Sea, without hesitation, Marj McClain says it must be the tower. “I enjoy the quiet solitude when I am up there. I can watch the sun rise or set, read a book, or open the windows and doors to the Juliet balcony and just enjoy the breezes. It is definitely my happiest of places; and even more so when I can cuddle up with one or more of my grandbabies to take a nap,” she says.