Country Living House of the Year 2013: A Breezy Point Bungalow Makeover

Valerie Rains

When Hurricane Sandy pounded the East Coast, Country Living decided to rehab our usual approach to our annual House of the Year. Our plan: redo a real cottage damaged by flooding—Marian Lizzi's 1,000-square-foot bungalow in Breezy Point, New York. Now, it's a hopeful beacon for a community in recovery. 

Click here to see Country Living's full House of the Year coverage, including more behind-the-scenes photos, profiles of the designers, a buying guide and more.

Click here or on the page numbers below to tour the home in photos. (And if you'd prefer to see all of the photos and words on one page, just click here or on "read all" below.)

View photos

After the Storm

Although book editor Marian Lizzi (right) has only owned her bungalow in Breezy Point, New York, for six years, her ties to the tight-knit oceanfront community go way back to when her parents purchased a home in the area in 1946.

Then, last October, Hurricane Sandy surged up the East Coast, flooded almost all of Breezy's 2,800 residences, and left Lizzi's home in nearly three feet of water soaking the furniture, floors, and appliances. Because she lives in Manhattan during the week, Lizzi didn't qualify for FEMA aid. So she and her boyfriend, Guan Yang, started cleaning up the wreckage themselves. (On Click here to see pictures of the home before and immediately after the storm, as well as the makeover in progress.)

Nothing can replace the treasures Lizzi lost, but when Country Living heard of Lizzi's plight, we marshaled our resources, recruiting designer Emily Henderson (pictured at left), Brooklyn-based Deary Construction, and a number of generous advertisers who donated their products. Our goal: not just to restore the home, but to improve it.

Next: The living area.

View photos

Living Area

In the newly renovated, wide-open front room, we established four distinct zones: a kitchen, a dining nook, and the two living areas above—one traditional; the other laid-back.

1. Let ceilings soar. Once-dark wood beams and rafters got an instant lift from Benjamin Moore paint in Decorators White.

2. Add opposing colors. Shaw's recycled-hickory flooring, in a deep-brown stain, anchors the airy space and contrasts against the walls, painted Spring Mint by Benjamin Moore. Bonus: The purposefully distressed planks look as if they've been here forever.

3. Strive for balance, not boring sameness. Note how the 8-by-10-foot jute rug (from Surya's Country Living line) is echoed by the round one on the right. A vintage Aero Studios floor lamp and a fig tree bring height, but in different ways.

4. Keep it simple. Multiple windows call for minimal dressing. "Fussy curtains would have overwhelmed," says Henderson. But JCPenney's tailored roman shades blend right in.

5. Be smart about furniture choices. A tufted chesterfield won't cut it on the coast. This number lends slouchy upholstered comfort, while Serena & Lily chairs reference the property's seaside setting. A West Elm pouf provides a casual perch near a Danish Modern teak bar, and a trunk (like this find from One Kings Lane) turns into a coffee table with real storage potential.

6. Introduce an element of surprise. This hammock from proves the decor doesn't take itself too seriously.

Next: The dining nook.

View photos

Dining Nook

Strategic furniture placement implies a separate room for sit-down meals.

1. Utilize seating. With its back to the wall, a slim settee by Cost Plus World Market simulates a built-in. Brightly patterned pillows liven up the neutral piece.

2. Accent practically. An iconic midcentury Saarinen table, from Canvas, softens all the right angles. Ditto this Crate & Barrel mirror framed in walnut.

3. Use unifying colors. We painted these Cost Plus World Market chairs the same deep turquoise (Oasis Blue by Benjamin Moore) as the kitchen cabinets and the bedroom's upper walls and ceiling. "I'm a big fan of sticking to one loose palette for a whole house," notes Henderson.

4. Don't overdo it. This see-through plastic pendant gets the job done, sans visual clutter.

5. Add a sense of history. "Flea-market finds give a newly decorated place soul," advises Henderson. Vintage oars and a folk-art quahaug-clams sign acknowledge Breezy's past—without going overboard.

Next: The dining nook, continued.

View photos

Dining Nook

6. Put your decor to work. This antique icebox, scored at the Brimfield Antique Show and retrofitted with glass panels, acts as a transparent boundary between the dining and traditional living areas, while also displaying outsize vases from Cost Plus World Market.

Next: The kitchen.

View photos


Since the cooking corner is visible from the front door, we lavished the space with personality.

1. Don't settle for a blah backsplash. Faux-bois tiles from 14Ora Italiana create a functional focal point.

2. Ask a lot from little appliances. This 2½-foot-wide Maytag stove manages to pack in an impressive two ovens and five burners.

3. Utilize every inch. More than mere prep surface, an island also serves as a social hub come happy hour. And Cost Plus World Market's rubberwood version helps delineate the kitchen from the rest of the room.

4. Don't be afraid to mix metals. Instead of matching the stainless steel Maytag stove, fridge, and dishwasher, we opted for contrast via matte black hardware: a Moen faucet, Schoolhouse Electric sconces, and drawer pulls by Cliffside Industries. Wayfair donated the Porcher sink; the quartz countertops are by Marble Mantles.

5. Find delight in the details. Accessories provide an easy, low-key way to inject color—a cheery red mixer, mugs, and vintage stools pop against the ocean-inspired backdrop. We draped Atelier 688's nautical rope pendant fixture over the ceiling beams, while a table lamp (far left) offers a homey alternative to kitchen task lighting.

Next: The kitchen, continued.

View photos


6. Bring storage down. The key to a real-room feel: keeping all the cabinets below counter height. We customized these Ikea units with doors and drawer fronts by Semihandmade, which specializes in upgrades for the Swedish superstore's basic systems.

Next: The bedroom.

View photos


For a cozier effect, Henderson reversed the front room's color scheme. Here, the green-blue, in a much deeper shade, covers the ceiling and upper walls. The white Nantucket BeadBoard strikes a crisp note below.

1. Insist that furniture work twice as hard. Henderson stationed this dresser from Cost Plus World Market next to the Charles P. Rogers bed and mattress, where it doubles as a nightstand. The coverlet is by John Robshaw; the 1960s folding bench came from One Kings Lane.

2. Keep units hidden. A custom cover, painted to mimic the trim, conceals the air conditioner when it's not in use. Another smart decorating move: Free up a side table with a clip-on lamp, like this Land of Nod cutie.

Next: The bedroom, continued.

View photos


3. Don't waste space. The most worth-it splurge in the house? "Pocket doors!" declares Henderson; the hinged kind consume a shocking amount of space.

4. Add high storage. Lizzi requested elevated storage to protect cherished belongings from flooding. So we carved out a mini-attic above the bathroom ceiling, then rendered it accessible via Rockler's wheel-and-rail kit that turned this wooden cast-off into a rolling library ladder.

Next: The bathroom.

View photos


What a difference 18 inches makes! Enlarging the lavatory let us reconfigure the layout so that the toilet isn't the first thing folks see.

1. Give a tiny space a bold pattern. A mosaic of Granada Tile transformed this room into a jewel box and helps the floor stand out against walls painted Decorators White by Benjamin Moore.

2. Streamline the his-and-hers setup. An extra-wide Lacava trough sink accommodates two Moen faucets. Deary Construction built the console out of reclaimed wood from The Hudson Company. Schoolhouse Electric's sconces and pendant bring an industrial vibe to the spa-like bath.

3. Hang creatively. Plumbing lines dictated one spot for the sink—under the window. To hang a mirror without obstructing the natural light, we positioned this oblong model horizontally.

4. Use smart storage. "Tucking towels in baskets, rather than cupboards, is more casual," Henderson says. The bins obscure pipes, too.

Next: The bathroom, continued.

View photos


5. Be efficient. Proof that practical decisions result in luxury: Stall showers are well suited to sandy beaches. They also allow for double Moen rain showerheads.

Also from Country Living:

40 more before-and-after home makeovers
9 makeovers you can finish in a day (or less!)
20+ amazing kitchen before-and-afters