A Beach Cottage Conversion
By Valerie Ryan
Published: 12/08/2009  Updated: 08/14/2019
The original fireplace was rebuilt and refaced with river rock to retain its vintage cottage style, then topped with a thick, rough, hand-hewn slab of hardwood.
The original fireplace was rebuilt and refaced with river rock to retain its vintage cottage style, then topped with a thick, rough, hand-hewn slab of hardwood.  Photo by Gary Hayes

Vintage character is retained in this dramatic renovation converting a classic Cannon Beach cottage into a comfortable home for Phil and Kathi Rees, where grandchildren have their own custom designed bedrooms.

When you enter the Rees home, the first thing you notice is that you can look all the way through the house into the beautiful back yard. This style is known as a "shotgun house," said to come from the saying that one could fire a shotgun through the front door and the pellets would fly cleanly through the house and out the back door. While this activity is not what Phil and Kathi Rees had in mind, they both liked the open and light feeling offered by the entry. So much so, that when their architect wanted to place stairs in the middle of the back hallway, they said, "No, that's a deal breaker." That decision set the tone for the rest of the house: clear and uncluttered.

Phil and Kathi had been visiting Cannon Beach for years, starting with their one-night honeymoon in 1965 and continuing through several visits to a friend's home. Whenever they were in town they made the rounds of all available homes and became more and more unpleasantly surprised at how costly they were becoming. Finally, in 2004, they made an offer on a cottage close to the ocean and downtown. Since it was Valentine's Day, Phil remarked that it would make a great Valentine's Day gift. It certainly did, because their offer was accepted and so the adventure began!

At first, they decided to do a few things to make the old, charming cottage more livable. Those "few things" turned into an 18-month remodeling project that had Phil, a handy guy to have around, doing much of the work. After the inevitable cleaning and hauling, they put in a new kitchen: cabinets, appliances, fixtures and all. When the spruce-up was finished, they were placed on the Cannon Beach Historical Society and Museum's Cottage Tour in 2006, happily showcasing their own (mostly Phil's) handiwork and the quaint simplicity of the cottage as they had found it. At that time, they had torn up the carpet and exposed and refinished the original fir floors. Now, after another - and major - remodel, those same floors have the rich buttery patina that only age and care can bring.

"I think we have made too many changes now to be on the Cottage Tour again!" says Kathi, without regret. Those changes started with a consultation with architect Rick Walton, resulting in a major addition, presided over by Coaster Construction based in Cannon Beach. Their lead man on the project was Sander Romanski, who, says Kathi, "listened to everything we said. He took in every word and then would make suggestions. He was so easy to work with." Romanski said that Coaster tried to save whatever they could, "such as the fir floors, but in rewiring and bringing everything up to code, ceilings had to be redone." They were able to reclaim some of the original tongue and groove, according to Romanski. "The beginning of the project was raising the house to put in a foundation to support a second story. Kim Logan and Eddie Beers rebuilt the fire box and did all the stone work for a real wood-burning fireplace which the Rees' insisted on."

Kathi believed that saving the fireplace, even though it had to be rebuilt, was important because she wanted to keep that cozy cottage feeling. She's right: we were there on a blustery day and found ourselves in comfy chairs looking at that river rock facade, rough-hewn mantel (by Jim Morin at Silvercrest Hardwoods NW) and the crackling wood fire thinking that it's a fine way to spend the day.

When you look at the house from outside, it looks like a typically rectangular structure, made of wood and stone. Once inside, all the nooks and crannies become visible. The interior has a meandering pattern, both upstairs and down, that makes it absolutely unique. On the main floor, there are two bedrooms for grandchildren Alex, 11, and Olivia, 8. Each one is tailored to suit their tastes: OSU orange for Alex and Pretty in Pink for Olivia. Both rooms have bunk beds so sleepovers are frequent, and each room has trundle bed storage drawers and big inviting chairs. There is also a guest room done in pale yellow, a TV room and all the requisite plumbing. Kathi has kept a white palette throughout the home, with the exception of these three rooms. She has used that background to showcase pieces she finds here and there: a red table, a butterscotch yellow table and a black table are three recent acquisitions.

The piéce de resistance, however, is the master suite, which occupies the entire second story. There is a built-in bar complete with beautifully finished cabinets by Canyon Creek, a wine cooler, a sink and a fridge, a seating area opposite with leather club chairs and large screen television, a master bath that you could dance in -and maybe they do!- and a laundry room that anyone would appreciate. This is one shotgun house, greatly enhanced by the creativity of two people who know what they want plus the craftsmen able to make it happen, that has turned into a Valentine the Rees' will enjoy for years to come.

Adding several feet to the back of the home and a dramatic second story master suite, Coaster Construction in Cannon Beach created comfortable living spaces while retaining vintage details including bead board walls, fir floors and cottage-style cabinetry.

The upper floor addition features a spacious master suite with bedroom, bathroom and laundry, plus a comfortable seating area with fireplace, big-screen television and built-in lighted cabinetry for a fully stocked wet bar. A deck overlooks the backyard.
A Beach Cottage Conversion