Follow along as this fixer-upper cottage (that burned to the ground) comes back to life.
Author: The Alabama Housewife
A native of Heflin, Alabama, Mary Alayne has deep roots in the Deep South and thrives on all that small town life has to offer. Always one to care for others, she revels in the pleasures of motherhood and enjoys being an "Alabama Housewife" to the fullest. Mary Alayne is a freelance writer who loves to share stories about the Southern lifestyle, beautiful interior design and the importance of etiquette in everyday life. She is a devoted supporter of several non-profit organizations and often uses her voice to share their stories. She writes The Un-Solicited Opinions Of The Alabama Housewife, a recurring column at Good Grit Magazine and is a regular contributor for the Laurel Mercantile Journal. Her first book: A Mother's Prayers For Her High School Son is available at Amazon and where ever books are sold. Look for her next book: Stirring Up Trouble! Good Food, Good Friends and Good Times with The Alabama Housewife coming soon to a book shop near you.
Mary Alayne and her husband Rick have two children, Jake and Sadie Sue, and they split their time between Birmingham, Alabama and Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.
I have said it before and I will say it again: I did not want to build a house. I haven’t really changed my mind about that but having the ability to work with Chris Harp of Ryan-Harp Construction has, at the very least, helped me to enjoy this crazy roller coaster ride that I never bought a ticket for! Of course, I became super fast friends with his lovely wife and have fallen completely in love with their three precious daughters and over the last several months we have drafted them into our rag-tag, ever expanding “Beach Family” crew. I can easily say without hesitation that their addition makes me quite happy!
Chris and his crew are moving along at quite a speedy pace and he sends me constant photo updates of all the new additions. From “tear down” to “walls up” everything has moved much faster than I had anticipated and I am elated!
I have come to think of him as a younger brother of sorts and he has tolerated my weird ideas and unusual requests without ever loosing the smile on his face. So far.
We have a long way to go yet so I know that can change……but I am hoping for the best.
One huge aspect of building for the first time that I did not consider is all of the choices I would have to make. Flooring, bath tubs, moulding, porch railings, windows, doors, you name it. I have very strong opinions and I often choose things that don’t fall on what one would consider the ordinary path. Not so much the road less traveled but rather the road I have all to myself because nobody else wants to travel it….because it is rather odd. Oh sure, I like pretty things and nice things but I also like weird things. Sometimes for weird reasons. And while my husband has learned to roll with it through the years it is a whole new experience for Chris.
“Wallpaper?” He asked. “In almost every room?” That is correct.
“Your stove is being shipped from France?” That is correct.
“Lucite island legs? That is correct.
“A green front door?” That is correct.
“Downton Abbey doorknobs?” That is correct.
“No overhead lighting in the dining room?” That is correct.
The list goes on and on but he is patient and kind….for now.
In the last picture Chris sent me a few days ago I could see that the windows and doors were all in place and the siding was starting to go up. They will start on the interior soon and I can’t wait to walk through again in the next few weeks and get a real feel for this home we will soon call our own.
It’s time to start making some serious interior decisions this week and I think I may tell him I have decided to add a fireman’s pole to the den….just for fun!
After what has seemed like weeks and months on end of insurance adjusters, fire inspectors, county permits, architectural meetings and decisions, decisions, decisions we are FINALLY getting started on the rebuilding process. I am so glad to have an update on The Linger Long-er Cottage and I’m glad you’ve stopped by to read all about it. I am determined to post updates every week or so from this point on and I hope you’ll tune in. I promise you’ll be entertained and no doubt, you’ll have a few good laughs along the way.
At one point during this process, I thought I was going to loose my mind with the permitting demands. It can take absolutely for-ev-er down here and even though I was warned; I couldn’t have possibly imagined what it was really like. Of course, the folks in the court house are a delight and were so nice to work with but there is so much development going on right now they simply don’t have enough hands or eyes to move everything through as quickly as one might like. When Walton County asked me to have the fire department sign off on our address (to make sure they would be able to service our area) I laughed a little. Clearly–we’ve had the entire department there and obviously they are more than able to service our area. But I was happy to pay any fee that goes toward keeping those folks fighting fit with whatever they may need! If they hadn’t been fast on their feet the night of the fire our whole block would have gone up in smoke.
Unfortunately, the fire caused a lot more damage than we first expected–a whole lot more–and that coupled with the fact that our 1988 fish-camp-cottage was completely and totally out of compliance with the current building codes caused us to loose everything except the foundation.
The good news is, we were able to keep the original footprint and it made things much easier to build back right where we were before. As we all know, it’s the view that matters most– and thankfully there’s nothing that could damage that.
Over the last several months I have spent countless hours with my amazing architects at Fifth Dimension Architecture and Interiors. Dan and his entire team are imaginative, talented and creative (as architects tend to be) and I have had a difficult time letting them spread their wings and fly. They keep asking me if I am absolutely sure I’m not an interior designer and I have assured them I am nothing of the sort. Only a Southern girl who loves pretty things, who’s been reading Dorothy Draper books since high school, and who still has back issues of the original Southern Accents magazine that showed up in my my mother’s mailbox each month, then in my very own mailbox for years and years…..before the yankees took over and closed up shop.
We’ve battled over windows (I don’t want any on either side of the house.) and stair placement (I didn’t want to move them, Dan did.) and closet size (He thinks I need a big one and I say I’m getting rid of over half of my clothes before I move.) but overall, I think we’ve been having a great time–and I hope the 5D team all agrees! To make up for the craziness I have put them through, I regularly show up with fresh peach preserves or basil infused olive oil or cookies or whatever I’ve been cooking up that week to persuade everyone that I’m not all bad…. only semi-difficult and mildly stubborn. It drives them crazy when I snap pictures of the big screen showing works in progress (before they have put finishing touches on everything) but I can’t help myself.
The entire team there is amazing but I really can’t say enough nice things about Andy Olds, who is the lead on my project. Andy took the time to take my hodge-podge drawings and magazine clippings and countless rambling emails and cobble them all into a beautiful home that I can’t wait to call my own. Clearly the cookies helped.
In the end, the drawings we have are exactly what I have always wanted, a nice little white house with black shutters. And while I am sure I will make a few changes along the way I am more grateful than I can say to the absolutely fabulous team of folks who are helping us rise from the ashes. We still have a few months to go but we are definitely moving in the right direction…….stay tuned!
I have said it before and I’ll say it again–I am thoroughly convinced if you live at the beach your children will always come home to visit. Because of this belief, my husband and I spent about ten years (on and off ) looking for the perfect spot for our family. We looked everywhere from Fort Morgan to Cape San Blas– but nothing seemed to fit. Then, in the spring of 2012, we finally settled on a little spot near Seaside, Florida.
We quickly fell in love with all that community has to offer and after about a year in our little townhouse, we bought a great lot not far away and made plans to build a few years down the road. As time went by and we got closer to moving toward full time life at the beach; we decided to hire an architect. He was amazing (and is actually the architect we are using now) but after my second meeting with him I told Mr. Long if we had to build a house from the ground up there was no doubt in my mind that we would absolutely kill each other. Soon after, we decided building was indeed not for us– and neither was the hustle and bustle that goes along with living directly on Scenic Highway 30A. We put everything on the market and started looking for quieter place to retire. By happenstance, right around the same time, we found a house that we loved.
It was over on the bay, or the “So-Wal North Shore” as I like to call it, and the view was incredible. It was listed on my birthday so of course, to me, it seemed like a sign. I had dealt with a horrible, un-ethical real estate agent when we sold the lot so I was not at all sure I could trust anyone to help us…. and then I met Debbie Webb Watson. She laid all my cares aside and was an absolute delight to work with. (This is not an ad for her, and she doesn’t know I am writing this, but if you are looking for an agent anywhere in Walton County, Florida–give her a call. You can thank me later.) She helped us get the house we wanted and took care of absolutely everything. After unexpected circumstances forced us to move from the old place to the new place in 48 hours flat, she even sent me a spectacular crew of packers and movers to help get the job done. (And when that other tacky real estate agent tried to guilt her into splitting the commission–on a house he never showed me, or ever saw, or ever heard of–I blew that up in five seconds flat. I considered legal action but I assure you–karma will get him, where ever he may be.)
All that to say–I DID NOT WANT TO BUILD A HOUSE! I was completely and totally happy in my little fish camp fixer-upper on the bay and The Linger Long-er Cottage was coming along nicely. It was cozy and perfect for us and really starting to feel like home. But as you surely know, God has an amazing sense of humor. He clearly DID want me to build a house. Perhaps He wants to show me that Mr. Long and I can indeed work together on a project. Perhaps He wants to confirm that I can work on a project all by myself while Mr. Long goes to fish all day. I am voting for the second choice but only time will tell.
The fire itself was pretty awful but the water damage was worse. We filled two dumpsters with debris and furniture and appliances and everything under the sun and I couldn’t have done it with out my friends– who brought food, old boots and cocktails or the folks from ServePro–who gave me my own set of coveralls and the guys from Two Men and A Truck–who packed up everything that survived the fire. I have even put in a formal request to send back the same team when we move back in–and I hope they’ll agree to return. I’m sure they all think I’m crazy–and I am–but we did all we could to make those two days of long had work as fun as we could and everyone was amazing!
The house is currently being gutted and in the next few weeks the roof comes off– along with the top floor. After that, the real fun starts. I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes us and the lessons I’ll learn along the way.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the time –about ten or twelve years ago– when our son and his friends accidentally set our yard on fire. (Make a note–young boys with a chiminea, matches and a stack of old newspapers don’t mix well.) It was a scary, panic filled afternoon but– nobody got hurt and that spring, we had the greenest, most gorgeous lawn in the entire neighborhood. I am not exactly sure what God has in store for us with this house building project but I know that the sun will rise each day and that great things can rise from the ashes as well; and for that I am truly grateful.
My journey to document the update and remodel of our house on the bay near Grayton Beach, Florida began back in 2017. My husband and I had barely moved in and I had completed exactly three posts describing the renovations when the house burned. (You can read the entire story of The Night We Burned Bay Magnolia Down here.) Thankfully, nobody got hurt –and that’s really all that matters.
As we rebuild, I will carry on writing about my sweet little cottage by the bay. We have a fabulous builder and an amazing architect and while I never set out to build a house, I am excited of the possibilities ahead. If I can keep my husband out in tree stands and on fishing boats and golf courses until it’s time to move in it should be a successful endeavor. All he wants out of the deal is a big fishing/hunting closet, a hanging pot rack and a fire pit and I think I can make that all of that happen. Other than that, he said “let me know when the music is playing, the lamps are on and the candles are lit and I’ll be there.” And that’s exactly how I like it.
I hope you will enjoy this journey and that it will give you something pretty to look at and some pretty funny stories to laugh at as well!
If you are not one of the seven to twelve people who follow this blog regularly, you should know that I am currently sharing my attempt to revive a little thirty year old cottage by the bay near Grayton Beach, Florida…..
….without killing myself or my husband along the way!
Recent events, including but not limited to Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Tropical Storm Nate have put me a bit behind schedule on sharing the progress of my little project on the bay. I’ve been getting plenty of things done– but with all the driving back and forth and moving patio furniture inside and outside and inside again; I just haven’t had the time to sit and write about it. Exactly one month ago today, I finally sat down to get things going again and not long after I finished the post below; I received a call from my son informing me thatThe Linger Long-er Cottagewas fully a-blaze and the fire trucks were rolling in full speed ahead. (If you subscribe to Good Grit Magazine–and you really should subscribe–you can read all about it in the 2018 January/February AWAKEN issue.) Thankfully, nobody got hurt, but the renovation reporting will come to a full stop with this post. I’ll pick things up again once we have a plan in place and I hope you’ll tune in to find out:
1. Will we rebuild?
2. Will I kill my husband for burning the house down?
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, please enjoy this hopefully humorous story about the previously updated bathroom that is now charred and black.
I am a student of beautiful interior design and decor. Not an actual student, and certainly not an actual interior designer or decorator, but rather a student of books and magazines who covets anything written by Dorothy Draper and Bunny Williams and Phoebe Howard as well as every copy of House Beautiful and Traditional Home and Veranda and House and Garden UK–you name it–that I have ever seen. I even have a stack of neatly organized back issues of Southern Accents which went out of business years ago because …….good taste never goes out of style.
Sometimes when I catch a home show on television and see the “before” scenes I am amazed at the choices some people make when it comes to furnishing and decorating their homes. My amazement is often accompanied by one of my most uttered phrases:
“Baskin Robins has thirty one flavors for a reason.”
For those of you who may not know; Baskin Robins is an ice cream parlor famous for having thirty one flavors available to choose from on any given day. It’s where Ferris Beuller passed out, no doubt due to the overwhelming number of choices before him. My use of this phrase has nothing to do with ice cream but rather is a polite way to describe people who make choices that I most certainly would not.
For instance, when I see the decorating choices made by the previous tenants of this cottage I feel like they were definitely black walnut people. A perfectly respectable flavor–and my grandfather’s favorite–chosen by perfectly respectable people, but number thirty one on my list for sure. Possibly even thirty two.
Within 15 minutes of closing on this house, I ripped down the dated glass shower doors and quickly replaced them with a shower curtain I inherited from my best friend’s mother during her last move. She was changing EVERYTHING out in her new house and very graciously offered to let me have first dibs.
I love all things blue and white and all things chinoiserie so when she announced that the Lee Jofa, Willow drapes, bedskirt, shams and shower curtain were up for grabs– I grabbed fast. The pattern is perfect in this bathroom and will also be used in our son’s room across the hall. It is such happy fabric and it makes me think of of my sweet friend and her mother every time I see it.
Truth be told–she also had the blue and red color way in her guest room so I bought that from her too. What? You never know what you might need…. and it is actually providing a great fill in for our guest room until I get that all figured out a bit later down the menu.
Both of the bathrooms here are much smaller than one would hope and right now there’s no way I can change that. Storage is quite limited and you can’t blame anyone for having their belongings all along the vanity as there was really nowhere else to put them. (However, on behalf of real estate agents everywhere, I must point out that those things could have easily been placed aside by the listing agent for the photographs!)
I decided to be as thrifty as possible with the changes I made and chose not to replace the vanity but rather to have it painted. It was easy to find a great, inexpensive countertop replacement at Lowe’s and I found the faucets, cabinet hardware and lighting there as well.
The small, thin cabinets above the sink were very well made but unfortunately didn’t allow for much storage; so we opted to remove them along with the slimline mirror and switch to a mirrored cabinet. The downstairs bath is the one Mr. gets to use (You do know the secret to a happy marriage is separate bathrooms don’t you?) and so far, he has managed to keep it neat and tidy. Only time will tell if he ends up getting in trouble for slipping into a rocky road way of life.
For now, I am very happy with the results of this small space, second hand, bargain basement bathroom re-do. It works great for what we need at the moment and I’m now off to another project across the hall.
If you are one of the seven to twelve people who follow this blog regularly, you’ll know what’s going on. If not, click back one post and you’ll be all caught up with the rest of us. Take your time, we will wait.
And now on with the next installment of my attempt to revive a little thirty year old cottage by the bay….without killing myself or my husband along the way!
Several years ago we spent Fourth of July with some very dear friends from Georgia. They drove down to stay with us at the beach and we all had the BEST time imaginable.
During their visit they christened our former home as the “Linger Long-er Inn and Spa” which, of course, was a complete joke as we didn’t have much room there at all and it was nothing close to a spa. The name stuck however and we have now carried it over with us to our new little homestead on the bay. The Linger Long-er Cottage is up and running and I can’t wait to welcome our friends for a second visit!
Due to a little health scare and hospital stay for my Daddy (who is perfectly fine now) my grand plan for a week long packing session followed by a two day move was quickly transformed to a 48 hour pack AND move which was simply tons of fun!
Once I managed to get everything transferred it looked like bomb exploded……
….after a tornado blew through.
I wanted everything in a proper place immediately–which was not even a remote possibility so I decided to start on the outside and work my way in. The yard needed to be cleaned up and fenced in and the house needed to be spruced up so the first chore I decided to tackle was putting a fresh coat of paint on the exterior.
I have always wanted to live in a white house with black shutters but sadly I knew that color scheme wouldn’t suit this particular house.
Since I had to go in an unknown direction, and since my husband was allowed no say whatsoever in the matter, I worked my way through saved photos and chose a picture of a very pretty blue house on the water to mimic.
I made him drive me all over town until I found a local house that was very much like the special picture I had chosen. I really need to see things in person and he knows this about me. He couldn’t have cared less what color I was going to paint the house but he did care about me being in a happy mood so he was a great sport during the entire house stalking adventure. He even pretended to be excited about the whole process.
The greatest painter in the world (Clayton–who I can’t live without) helped me through every step. We had a long-distance-paint-relationship for about a month and he was amazing! He diligently sent photos all along the way during the decision making process and kept it up until the project was complete. He was very good to put up with me (which is no easy task by any stretch of the imagination) and he kept me fully informed at every turn.
In the end, we went with Benjamin MooreSantorini Blue on the exterior walls, Dragon’s Breath on the porch floor, steps and doors, Glass Slipper on the porch ceiling and Sherwin WilliamsPure White on the trim.
Just in time for Fourth of July to roll around again, the outside was finally starting to take shape! The fence is up, the yard is somewhat on the way to being a yard again and Mr. is getting so excited he even bought himself a lawnmower and a weed eater! That man hasn’t hit a lick at a snake in 25 years but he’s now suddenly decided he wants to do yard work. I love it!
When I arrived for the first time to see the new look in person I couldn’t have been happier and I wanted to give Clayton an award. He’s coming back for some inside projects soon and I can not wait! In the meantime, here are some shots of the exterior and it is finally starting to take shape.
After keeping a somewhat-slightly-regular schedule with my original blog I have been fortunate to stay busy as a freelance writer these last few years. I admit I was also absent from blogging due to my hesitance to write about current events. The state of the world, and the country I am blessed to live in, has been somewhat crazy these last few months. The overwhelming barrage of media coverage during the Presidential election followed by the ridiculous aftermath left me feeling safer staying under the radar. I’m not scared of the world–oh no. I have too much faith in God for that. I am scared of my MOUTH and what it might say, or what my fingers might type…. so it’s been a pretty good idea for me to hide out. I try (at least publicly) to follow the advice of Miss Jane Austen and restrict comments to the weather or the state of the roads when I have nothing nice to say– so I have felt it best to zip my lip and sit on my hands to keep myself out of trouble. I have chosen to break my silence now not to berate or chastise anyone or any group but rather to take things in an all new direction. We have enough ugly, negative, hateful information being thrown at us on a daily basis so I have decided to commit to something lovely. (And by the way–there’s a LOT more lovely out there in the world than there is ugly. You see what you look for.)
After years in the thick of things down on Scenic Highway 30A, my family decided we wanted a quieter more slow-paced place to spend our time. We started looking for a place on the bay about two years ago and last winter we finally hit the jackpot. It’s a precious little cottage near Grayton Beach, Florida (and is a definite fixer upper) but once we saw the view (seen in the shot above) we were hooked. After only a few short visits, we have already fallen in love with the quiet, tree lined street, the delightful neighbors and the charming setting.
I am certainly not a decorator or designer by trade but like so many others I enjoy pretending I am– at least in my own home– and I already have a file full of fabric swatches, paint chips and magazine tear sheets lined up and ready to go. The “fabric closet” in my basement will be put into full use and my husband will finally get to see why I needed all of that fabric to begin with. Like I’ve told him for years…….you buy the whole bolt because you never know what you might need!
I definitely know what direction I want to travel with this project but I am trying to keep in mind that it will be a lengthy journey. I firmly believe it is much better to take your time and be sure to choose things you love rather than trying to fill a space quickly with things you’ll soon grow tired of. It has taken me years to learn that lesson but I now know I would rather have an empty room than one filled with items I chose quickly when I wasn’t sure of myself.
The house was built by a delightful family long ago and I can easily tell that it overflowed with love for many, many years. Although it has been a long term rental property for quite a while; I hope to recreate that original loving environment for my own family and bring it back to life. While I know It won’t happen overnight; I’m looking forward to sharing the transformation here as I go along.
Here are a few “before” shots of the outside and even though you can see there’s quite a long way to go, I can’t wait to get started so…….stay tuned!