Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Alison’s Heroic Branford Coastal Renovation


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
14 Comments » | Published in Architecture, Customer Profiles, Fresh New Design, Green Design, Real Rooms, Small Spaces  |  14 Comments


I was so excited to be able to see my cousin Alison’s renovated 800-square foot beach house in Branford Connecticut this weekend. It’s her first house, and I’ve been following the project since she bought the house in January.

I wish she had had the time for a blog during construction; it would probably include all kinds of horror stories like a little paw stretching out through a kitchen vent; coming home and finding out the glass tile she splurged on was put on the wall backwards, with the backing side facing out; having to shower at the gym for weeks; staying on a friend’s sofa for six weeks instead of the promised one week; having to move all of the furniture from one floor to the other on a regular basis due to floor refinishing, etc.  All of the suffering and frustrations have finally paid off! Just about everything is done, right down to the purple trim. The best part was that we were able to carry her two sea kayaks across the road and explore Long Island Sound.










(still has a few boxes left to unpack tucked under the table)

The former jungle is down to one plant:




A two-story addition was built out to the edge of this porch. It only adds on about 6 feet in width, but it makes all the difference:




The counters are soapstone. Alison traveled all over creation to find soapstone that wasn’t green. She finally found the perfect slab in Jersey.  Julia Child had soapstone in her kitchen – it was a huge splurge, but it was absolutely worth it. As you can see, Alison opted to keep all the custom cabinets below the counters, thus saving the upper space for more windows. It makes the room feel much bigger. The island is chock-full of large drawer storage for glasses and silverware.

On the other side, there was this awful wall making the kitchen and the living room feel even smaller than they were:




She’s still not sure what to do about the stairs. There will be a cabinet about 1/3 of the way up, so the TV can be hidden. If you have any ideas, please share!

Although she fell in love with this door, it was too drafty for Connecticut winters and thus not energy efficient. She was able to reuse it as the door to the downstairs bathroom. The painter suggested painting it the same pumpkin color as the woodstove, and it came out beautifully!





Alison planned the bathroom colors around the painting by John “Cornbread” Anderson, and repurposed an antique table for the vanity.


The upstairs was extended out about six feet to form a guestroom/office.






Salvaged French doors separate the two bedrooms; when open, it is all one large space:


Here is the open door view:


The Main Bedroom BEFORE (I wonder if Alison’s parents are wondering what the heck she was thinking when she bought this place in this shot!):


and AFTER:



Bedroom View:


By the way, these screens are the coolest thing. Alison did not want to waste indoor space, so she had her balcony doors swing open to the outside. The screens come out of the wall from a roll, run along a track, and attach to the other side with magnetic strips.

The entire upstairs bathroom (a new addition) was planned around the colors in the salvaged mirror’s layers of peeling paint.



A clear shower curtain makes the room seem a lot bigger:


Long post, huh? Well, Alison is truly an expert in remodeling now, from plumbing systems down to faucets and knobs. She was able to implement many green elements, including a no-tank water heater, Energy Star-approved appliances including front-loading washer and dryer, using salvaged doors and antiques wherever possible, saving the bricks from the old furnace chimney for a future patio, and saving lumber scraps for the woodstove. Some of the most important lessons she learned were to live in the space before planning it out (the porch addition was almost a separate room, which would have made everything feel much smaller) and what to splurge on. Soapstone, glass tiles, and quality windows and doors are worth their weight in gold.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!



  1. Leah says:

    October 10th, 2007 at 2:56 pm (#)


  2. Jonathan says:

    October 10th, 2007 at 3:45 pm (#)

    Thumbs up! In particular for both the desk/vanity conversion (genius!) and in general for bedrooms in eaves.

    Of all the varied places I’ve lived, those that felt like they had the most ‘personality’ have been the ones where certain rooms had sloping ceilings.

    Good job!

  3. joy says:

    October 10th, 2007 at 5:17 pm (#)

    Fabulous renovation! I saw in person “the before”—now I cannot wait to visit “the after”–altho great to see it in these photos. Love small cozy places, and this house now looks like the perfect place to call home! Beautiful job!

  4. Becky says:

    October 10th, 2007 at 6:22 pm (#)

    Another thing I should have mentioned is that I can see how most of the spaces were inspired by Alison’s fabulous art collection, vintage furniture pieces,pottery, and gorgeous glass Simon Pearce lamps. Thus, the house absolutely compliments all of these things so perfectly, and vice-versa. I see her personality all over every inch of it.


  5. Martha says:

    October 10th, 2007 at 7:40 pm (#)

    Amazing Alison! If you ever tire of psych, you could have an amazing career as a designer. I love it!

  6. Mary says:

    October 11th, 2007 at 11:26 am (#)

    I love the purple trim. everything is beautiful, but the purple trim is my favorite part.

  7. Just Rory says:

    October 11th, 2007 at 10:00 pm (#)

    …… I’m speechless. That’s some magic AW cast on that house!!!! Great bathrooms!!!!!! (Can you come down to Long Beach and help me with my renovations?!?!??!!)

    How much for a 2-night stay?


  8. Elizabeth says:

    October 13th, 2007 at 5:56 am (#)

    The house looks amazing and has all the right “Alison touches.” I can’t wait to see it in person. And I was glad to see that the trunk I painted almost ten years ago passed the renovation test. Congratulations Alison! Elizabeth

  9. Marty says:

    October 13th, 2007 at 10:31 am (#)

    I LOVE the white paneling. All the white helps make small spaces seem bigger. I also love that mustard colored door – love those small but intense bursts of color.
    You asked for suggestions for under the stairs. I’ve found a gem of a site for home remodeling. There is an excellent video tutorial series for built-ins. If you don’t find good ideas there, there is a question box. The guy has personally answered my questions quite promptly. Anyway, I found his ideas helpful & realistic. The website is here and you’ll see the link to the built-in section at the top of the page.

  10. Becky says:

    October 15th, 2007 at 5:03 pm (#)

    Hey Al, it sounds like you have a future in renovating! We need to get the Calder family team together – Clark on construction, you on interiors, and me on landscape 🙂

    Love Becky

  11. Alison says:

    October 29th, 2007 at 6:30 am (#)

    Thanks everyone, for all the wonderful responses, and thanks to Becky for such a fabulous Blog!
    – Alison

  12. Hatch: The Design Public ® Blog » Blog Archive » Coastal Gardens in Branford Connecticut says:

    July 24th, 2008 at 4:11 pm (#)

    […] (on the coast right outside of New Haven), Stockbridge Massachusetts and Mid-Coast Maine. My cousin’s next door neighbor is an artist, and she puts out different paintings she’s done on […]

  13. Talley says:

    April 9th, 2013 at 4:19 pm (#)

    I love seeing renovations that are genius and successful. I also love cozy spaces that are functional and lovely! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Talley says:

    April 9th, 2013 at 4:22 pm (#)

    Also… what about a bookshelf/partial wall on one side of the stairs? It might give the stairs something to “lean against” and blend into. You could get a studio divided-room feel from it.

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