Something Old Something New

BY Abby Cavenaugh

When a friend visited LeeAnn Brawley’s Schloss Street home for the first time he said “You renovated this old cottage right?”

“I knew then when he asked me that I had done what I wanted to do ” LeeAnn says.

With its pine-paneled walls cypress floors and even pine ceilings the Brawley home feels like an old beach cottage even though construction finished less than a year ago.

“It’s a brand new house … and it could pass as a remodeled old cottage and that’s what I like about it ” says builder Dan Southerland of Southland Building Company. “That was the purpose — to have the old look the day we finished.”

The Brawleys’ journey to their new home began about five years ago LeeAnn recalls. “My husband [Bruce] said ‘Oh I found a cute little beach cottage ’” LeeAnn says adding with a laugh “I was like ‘Really?’ Because we had renovated our home in Forest Hills extensive renovations and I thought that was the home we would be in forever.” Son Westin 15 and daughter Alex 18 grew up there.

Reluctantly LeeAnn agreed to take a look at the cottage which had been built in the 1970s. She says she thought the cottage was cute and decided with her husband to purchase the home as a summer/weekend getaway. “I had just never entertained the idea of living here ” LeeAnn says. “We ended up buying the beach cottage and our intention was we’d spend our summers here and then go home. But after our first summer here we never left.”

Though she loved the beach cottage LeeAnn longed to go back to her home in town. For Bruce Westin and Alex however life at the beach versus life in town was a no-brainer. Eventually LeeAnn gave in and decided to renovate the cottage to make it more suitable for year-round living. The home had that “old beach home smell” — just one of its many drawbacks.

“We would go home to Tennessee where I’m from and we’d open up our suitcases and we’d smell that smell ” LeeAnn recalls. “It just seeped into everything.”

In addition the plumbing needed extensive repairs and the electrical wiring was just about shot. The Brawleys met with an architect who pointed out that the only thing to do was gut the interior and start all over again.

At that point the Brawleys decided to try to donate the house to a charity but they met with roadblock after roadblock. Finally with heavy hearts they decided to demolish the home donating what they could to Habitat for Humanity.

Now the family had a clean palette on which to build what would become the home of their dreams.

LeeAnn gathered ideas through magazine clippings and by walking the beach with her husband admiring the details of older beach cottages. “We would walk at night and go by all the old cottages and you could see inside the really truly old ones ” she says. “A lot of them had the old pine paneling in them. A lot of them had that old asbestos; it almost looks like wooden clapboard boards.”

The clapboard-reminiscent siding reminded LeeAnn of her relatives’ country homes in Tennessee. “I was kind of trying to get the flavor of a farmhouse at the beach ” she says. “I knew I wanted old and comfy and farmhouse-like but at the same time I wanted the flavor of a beach cottage.”

Starting with the outside and heading in LeeAnn first knew she wanted wide wooden siding. Originally she wanted a 14- to 16-inch reveal (how much of the siding is visible). Most home siding has a 4- to 5-inch reveal LeeAnn explains. Due to cost constraints she had to settle for an 8-inch reveal using cypress imported from Georgia.

Next LeeAnn and Bruce sparred over the outside deck railing. “I knew that I wanted the old-fashioned horizontal railing but then because of the view my husband didn’t really like that idea so we compromised ” she says. “He likes the X’s. That’s an original cottage look but of course because of the codes you can’t have more than a 4-inch opening so we put in the stainless steel cables. I was afraid that would lend more of a contemporary feel but I really like it now.”

As a result of the compromise most of the decking features the X-design while the stairwells incorporate LeeAnn’s horizontal railing.

On the deck ceilings LeeAnn was determined to have small beadboard. “I walked around and really looked at the old houses and all the old ones have the smaller bead and the newer ones have the wider beads ” she explains.

When it came to the interior LeeAnn says she knew all along what she wanted: wood. And lots of it. “Everything that I loved had wood walls and a wood ceiling ” she says. “It’s all pine. We did not do tongue and groove. We just stacked them up there as my builder said. We have all the gaps but that’s what I like. That’s what gives it that old cottage feel.”

The floors are cypress which is a soft wood that already has a few dings LeeAnn says. Adds Southerland “The gaps in the floors will come with that cypress and that was by design.”

Most of the furnishings and decorative pieces are LeeAnn’s family heirlooms or antiques bought from area outlets like the Ivy Cottage Acorn Attic and Uptown Market. The lighting fixtures for the most part are new but made to look like antiques.

The majority of doors in the home are also architectural salvage. The closet doors in Alex’s bedroom for instance were originally the double doors of a church in western North Carolina refurbished by local furniture and interior designer Susan Covington. Alex’s bathroom door is a glass-paned door that LeeAnn originally wanted for the home’s elevator shaft. A smaller door found at the Ivy Cottage covers Alex’s built-in medicine cabinet.

Another door located in the front foyer off the kids’ media room was salvaged from the original beach cottage and painted.

In addition to cutting down many of the doors and doorframes to fit LeeAnn’s finds architects Quinn Sweeney-Henderson Michael Dell and builder Southerland faced other challenges along the way.

“It was a tight lot and they wanted to try to capture as many views as possible ” Dell says. “They also wanted everything to be as open as possible in the house. … A lot of it was trying to get what furniture was important to them … aspects of how they like to live to fit within the limitations of Wrightsville Beach.”

“It’s got all the space it can have in it ” Southerland says. “It’s within a half inch of the height restrictions. It’s on the setbacks as tight as you can get it.”

Those tight space restrictions led to a master suite that occupies the entire third floor. Though he was initially worried about how the suite would turn out Dell says it’s now his favorite part of the home. “I was afraid that [it] was going to feel sort of low on your head like you’re in a cave ” he admits.

However because the room has a lower ceiling than all the other rooms in the house Dell was able to vault it to follow the roofline of the house. A covered deck on the front of the house an uncovered one on the rear gives LeeAnn and Bruce a view of Banks Channel on one side of their bed a view of the ocean on the other.

“The master bedroom was the room I was most worried about ” Dell says “but it ended up being the most interesting space.”

Many pieces in the home were also custom made for LeeAnn by the builders.

“From day one we were creating stuff ” Southerland says. “Everything was really custom on that house. Nothing was really standard.”

“They just bent over backwards to make sure we were happy with everything they did ” LeeAnn says of Southerland’s builders. “They did mock-ups of everything to make sure we liked it.”

LeeAnn designed the living room mantel herself and the carpenters turned her sketches into reality. She also designed a corner cupboard in the living room which is painted a striking turquoise color.

The kitchen LeeAnn says is probably her favorite room — and she designed it too from a combination of her magazine clippings. From the brick backsplash behind the Wolf stove to the custom-designed pantry LeeAnn’s signature is all over her kitchen. One of the things she loves most about the room is the hardware on all of her cabinetry — large black knobs. She’d seen them in a magazine and tracked down the manufacturer which turned out to be an elderly gentleman in England who was going out of business.

“They’re in centimeters when you order and I thought I had measured but I got them and I was like ‘Wow those are big knobs!’” she says laughing at the memory. “I knew they were going to be big but not that big. But I love them.”

Though Southerland told her the kitchen was too small for an island LeeAnn got the island she wanted too — a library table from the Ivy Cottage that was transformed with a slab of routed marble on top.

LeeAnn says all the work has been worth it. Though the family has just lived in their house since December she says from day one it felt like home.

On the day they moved in surrounded by boxes Bruce said to LeeAnn “You know I feel like we’ve been in this home forever.” She agreed.

“It exudes warmth. I truly feel like I’m in my grandmother’s home. It doesn’t feel like it’s all new ” she says. “We are really blessed.”

Creating a Home of Distinction

These Contractors Helped Make it Happen

Homeowners: LeeAnn and Bruce Brawley

Architects: Michael Dell Architecture P.A.; Quinn Sweeney-Henderson Architecture P.A.

Contractor: Dan Southerland Southland Building Company


Appliances: Atlantic Appliance and Hardware

Audio/visual/ Security: Property Protection Systems Inc.

Hardware: Atlantic Appliance and Hardware; Knobbs Hardware England; Restoration Hardware

Electrical Installation: Holliday Electric

Lighting: Circa Lighting; Charleston S.C.; Ferguson Enterprises; Pottery Barn

Plumbing: West Plumbing; Ferguson Enterprises (fixtures)

Flooring: Jackson Floors Inc.; Special Wood Inc. (Hardwoods)

Tile: Trevi Tile Installation

Countertops: Sellers Custom Counters

Painting: Rodney Williams Painting

Cabinetry: Coastal Cabinets; Exley Custom Woodwork Inc.; Cape Fear Custom Carpentry

HVAC: Robert H. Williams Co. Inc.

Carpentry: Southland Building Company


Landscaping: L.A.I. Landscaping

Pavement/Driveway: Pirate Concrete; Pietrucci Masonry Inc. (Pavers)


Tile Suppliers: Waterworks Charleston S.C.; Dal-Tile; Southeastern Tile Connection

Specialty Woods: Special Wood Inc.

Stairs: Exley Custom Woodwork Inc.

Indoor Brick: Lawrenceville Brick & Masonry Supply

Millwork: (Exterior Doors) Exley Custom Woodwork Inc.

Master Bath Vanities: Brandon Parrow cabinetmaker

Fireplace Mantel: Cape Fear Custom Carpentry; SAC Art by Susan Covington

Additional Furnishings and Fixtures: Acorn Attic; Doug’s Salvage; The Ivy Cottage; SAC Art by Susan Covington; Uptown Market; Louise Gaskill Company Raleigh