Seven years ago, on a whim, Leslie Feldman and Jeff Feuer booked a trip to coastal New Hampshire and fell in love with its easygoing ways. When they happened by a cottage colony Feldman thought, “Oh, this is for us; this is where I want to live.” In 2017, the couple, who live in Westchester County, New York, purchased one of the 340-square-foot duplex units right on the ocean.
To make the 1950 shingled getaway more functional and bring it up to code, the couple called on Shannon Alther, principal at TMS Architects. “We said, ‘It’s tiny, we know, but we can work with what we have,” Feuer recalls. “He didn’t bat an eye.”
In conjunction with the owners of the attached unit, the team raised the building three feet so that it would comply with environmental regulations. The lift also proffered a better view, and storage for paddleboards and such underneath the cottage. While they were at it, the couple invested in engineered decking with a modern, wood-topped rail, and spruced up the partition between their side of the deck and that of their neighbor. They also installed a foot-rinsing station, bluestone pavers, and native grasses.
The interior went from dark and confined to bright and breezy. Not only did the architect take down the wall that divided the front living and kitchen area from the back bedroom and bath, but he also broke through the ceiling. The move created a cathedral ceiling just over 11-feet high at the ridge, and mid-afternoon sunlight pours down through the skylights.
The team opened up the front of the cottage with a 12-foot-long LaCantina folding door that seamlessly connects the interior living space with the deck. “When I saw the door, everything fell into place for me,” Feldman says, noting how the layout is completely forward-facing and opens up to the ocean. They can pull a screen across the wide opening, too. “We often sleep with the glass open and the screen pulled across so we can feel the breeze and hear the waves.”
The materials palette is simple. An espresso-colored engineered wood floor grounds the light, airy interior and holds up to the sand and salt. Inspired by the remodel of her yoga studio in Westchester, Feldman requested whitewashed pine shiplap boards to line the walls. The treatment—a far cry from the prior, heavy brown wood paneling—makes the space feel cozy and adds softness. It also smells great. “When we open the door and breathe in, the scent welcomes us, and I think, ‘We’re here!’” Feldman says.
The pair were also inspired by the vibe of boutique hotels in New York City. For instance, the mint green Smeg fridge is an homage to the Ace Hotel. “We wanted a really clean, modern look,” Feldman says. “No mermaids or starfish!”
The nine-foot-long kitchen wall is replete with all sorts of function. In addition to the fridge, there’s a four-burner Avanti range with an old-timey feel, a restaurant-style utility sink with a butcher-block countertop, and a two-in-one washer/dryer. “We packed 1,500-square-feet of stuff into less than 350-square feet, especially in the kitchen area,” Alther marvels. The architect even slotted a sleeping loft above it, though nobody has yet spent the night on the organic wool futon up there.
Sunset cocktails and dinner parties, however, are a common occurrence. The modern coffee table pops up easily to become a dining table, and expands to seat twelve. Since the base is on rollers, the couple can roll it out to the deck. Old camp chairs gathered over the years from flea markets also work indoors and out. “We love that the chairs don’t match,” Feuer says.
The back of the cottage is fitted with a king-sized Murphy bed that becomes a sofa by day. “We planned that feature from the start,” Alther says. “It’s installed right around the window.” There’s an adorable mini butane fireplace, and a television is mounted on a triangular coat closet where the old library ladder for the loft hangs when not in use.
A rippled glass transom window and frosted glass door let light into the new 38-square-foot bath that feels plenty roomy. Here, glass mosaic tile on the shower walls looks like sea glass, the butcher block countertop repeats from the kitchen, and the hotel towel shelf over the window is the same model used as a guard rail for the loft.
Beach life is good for Feldman and Feuer, who spend their days exploring Odiorne State Park, swimming, and schmoozing with neighbors over s’mores. That said, they don’t plan trips in advance. “We just pick up and go,” Feuer says. And, Feldman adds, “When the spirit moves us, it’s there for us.”
TMS Architects, tms-architects.com
Etro Construction, 603-234-1217