Cottage Charisma: An Avalon summer home boasts coastal aesthetic

With an eye for detail and a coastal aesthetic, this summer home in Avalon celebrates the simple charms of Shore living.

Avalon Spiral Staircase
Details, such as this curved staircase, which was built on site, give this coastal home its timeless charm.
Photos by Jeffrey Totaro

Nostalgia is a frequent theme in designing shore homes. This sun-filled cottage in Avalon was conceived by a couple of longtime summer residents who yearned for the simpler lifestyle of their younger days. As owners of the house next door—a much larger, more traditional three-story residence—they jumped at the chance to purchase the property, knowing they’d tear down the existing house and start anew. But they were adamant that the new house have all the charm of an old-time beach cottage. “It reminds me of the old Shore,” says the wife (who asked not to be named). “My family has been coming to the Shore since the ’20s, and I wanted to return to that simpler style.”

With three grown kids and a steady stream of visitors, the couple appreciated the convenience of a separate guest cottage adjacent to the main house. To create it, they called upon Philadelphia-based architect Mark Asher, who has done significant work in the Avalon area. “They told me from the start that they wanted it to look like a garage that had been converted into a guest cottage,” he says.

They picked the right architect: Asher also appreciates the old Shore aesthetic. “This is almost a response to other houses that got too big, too cartoonish,” he says. “We tried to walk it back, make it simpler.” The result is a perfect example of less is more. “There is no pretense,” he adds.

Starting at the curb, the cottage is all charm. The accents of a coastal aesthetic, as Asher calls it, include the arched entry with woven-cedar curved shingles, the split elevation with a shingled first floor and board and batten on top, the slightly flared base, and the periwinkle shutters that are real working units.

“It’s the little highlights that say this is special,” Asher says. “It’s relatively quiet, but you want to take a second look.”

Inside, the charm continues. The layout of the first floor—kitchen, dining room and living room all in one open space—is conducive to gatherings of friends and family. The generous use of windows and doors makes the house appear larger and expands the living space to the outside.
Furnishings and finishes are simple. “Nothing is too precious—that was the goal,” says the homeowner. All of the furniture is repurposed. “It’s found objects,” she continues. “The sofa is a friend’s grandma’s couch that I re-covered. Nothing is super expensive.”

Again, it’s the simple details that stand out. The curved staircase, with a stout rope atop the bannister, is a highlight. “That was a challenge,” admits builder Michael Donahue.

Upstairs, two bedrooms sit on opposite ends. One, a cheerful bunkroom, has ample sleepover space. The master is equally simple, set off by sliding barn doors in a vibrant coral. Set between the two rooms, in what started out as a dormer, is a cozy sleeping alcove framed in vivid royal blue. “It’s fun,” says the homeowner.
“If I have any thumbprint, it’s that I have no fear of color.”

The end result is so ideal that the homeowners plan eventually to move in, swapping the main house for the cottage. “The kids can have the bigger house,” says the homeowner. “We’re thinking, down the road, this cottage is for us.

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