Published on August 15, 2019

As you gaze out to the glistening ocean through the vast floor-to-ceiling windows of this airy beachfront home, it’s hard to believe it was a rundown shack just a few years ago. But that’s exactly what it was: Dark wood–paneled walls, small pokey windows, and dated carpeting made the house feel more like a funeral parlor than a weekend retreat.  

But Lauren Charge saw beyond the wear and tear, and seized the opportunity to build a waterfront vacation accommodation with multiple units when she purchased the property in 2016. “My husband and I both have large extended families and we love the idea of being able to vacation together in the same place, but with separate self-contained spaces for our individual families,” she explains. 

This was a renovation not for the fainthearted, but one that followed a clear vision. “We incorporated all the things we would appreciate when vacationing with our kids: hot outdoor showers; hooks for towels at the entry; areas to store surfboards, bikes, and beach bags; a fire to warm up by in winter; and an outdoor barbecue for summer,” says Charge. Here, she shares how she got it all done:

Look Outside

Back of home exterior. Pin It
Courtesy of Lauren Charge
White home exterior. Pin It

To transform the rundown exterior, Charge replaced and extended the roof, swapped the old aluminum windows for custom-made ones, dropped the height of the deck to meet the existing floor level, and installed a new balustrade. In addition to these key structural changes, she also painted and recladded the entire exterior for a cleaner and more durable look. “Fresh paint can change the exterior dramatically,” she says. “Look for ways to reclad shapes on your exterior that seem dated, such as circular pillars or columns or anything that doesn’t fit in with your overall vision.”

Break Down Your Walls

Living room with huge windows. Pin It

Charge recommends looking for ways to knock down walls or open up doorways to create larger living areas. Inside the house, she eliminated the walls of a bedroom and the original L-shaped living room to connect the spaces and create one vast open-plan kitchen, lounge, and dining area. “We decided to keep the bedrooms small and simple and give as much space as we could to the communal spaces,” she says. To make it feel even bigger, she opted for a raked ceiling when replacing the roof.  

Add an En Suite Bathroom

Before image of bedroom. Pin It
Courtesy of Lauren Charge
White bedroom with white bedding. Pin It

“Adding a bathroom to your master bedroom always increases the value of your property,” says Charge, who took five feet out of the master bedroom and added a divider to create a tiny but practical master bath. To make the space and light-challenged room feel bigger, she also included a skylight over the shower and a louvered window for ventilation and natural light.  

Focus on the Kitchen

White kitchen with stainless steel fridge. Pin It

The kitchen was originally in a small room on the eastern side of the house, so rather than renovating it, Charge moved it to the western side of the living room where views of the bay were on offer. She installed a flat two-pack polyurethane kitchen in a matte natural white finish to complement the home’s all-white and minimalist style. She suggests allocating a good part of your budget toward your kitchen during a home renovation, something she did in her own space. “It’s where most families spend the majority of their time,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be over the top with fancy technology or built-in coffee machines, but it should be functional, practical, and emotive.” Remember, it’s called the heart of a home for a reason.

See more jawbreaking before and afters: 
I Turned a Warehouse Into My Dream Studio in Just 2 Months
A $1,000 Shiplap Ceiling Transformed This Dated ’70s Home
Before & After: This Designer Painted Over Hardwood and Doesn’t Regret It One Bit