It's hard to look at a cottage with weak plumbing and rotting floors and think "cozy beach house." Especially when you're 20 miles from the coast.
But for Susan Delurgio, who co-owns Beach House Style ― a home decor shop in Fairfax, California ― a seaside-inspired cottage was her lifelong dream.
"I wanted something carefree and simple," she says.
It turns out that achieving her ideal living space just took a little imagination - and a lot of white paint.
Under the guidance of an architectural consultant, Susan and her husband, Marc, did most of the renovations themselves.
Their remodeled kitchen mixes old and new, with reclaimed 1920s cupboards, built-ins from salvage yards, a vintage Wedgewood stove from an estate sale, and a farmhouse sink and butcher-block counters from Ikea. They reinstalled the original beadboard walls that had been taken down during the renovation process, and replaced the rotting wood floors with reclaimed Douglas fir.
Outside, the couple framed their front yard with a classic white picket fence.
Since the cottage is only 780 square feet, Susan kept the palette consistent.
"I treated the whole house like one big room," she says. She started with white walls and sisal rugs for a calm backdrop.
The prime source for Susan's decor is her store, which she owns with friend and neighbor Alisha Peterson. The shop has an eclectic mix of pieces ― from sea-grass runners and frames made of recycled boat wood to vintage furnishings ― in creams, whites, pastels, and other seaside hues. The two often scour local flea markets in search of items with soul that just need a fresh coat of paint.
Marc, who calls himself "free labor" for Susan's decorative adventures, has come to appreciate his wife's aesthetic. "When we were dating, all my bachelor-pad furniture mysteriously started getting covered with white sheets," he says. Now I love it. Our home instantly makes you feel like you're on vacation."
Next: 9 ways to get the beach style
Susan Delurgio and Alisha Peterson, co-owners of Beach House Style, share their favorite design tips:
File ideas: Create a wish-list notebook to record your dream pieces (with accompanying dimensions and color swatches). This allows you to shop with confidence at flea markets and estate sales.
Paint the insides: Add a splash of color to the inside of a cabinet or armoire. In Susan's kitchen cabinet, aqua paint makes the eclectic display feel like a true collection.
Keep whites white: To preserve the fresh look of white slipcovers, buy extra sets. Wash slipcovers every other month as part of your cleaning routine.
Convert old textiles: Don't stop at recycling furniture. The striped pillow on the sofa and the curtain below the kitchen cabinet were fashioned from a tablecloth from Anthropologie.
Look in your closet: A good way to find your signature style is by assessing your wardrobe. This could reveal your personal color palette as well as your favorite patterns and textures.
Decorate with nature: Gather your finishing accents outdoors ― flowering branches and clusters of single-stem flowers are good bets. In Susan's kitchen, a single palm frond in a simple white bowl creates an almost sculptural display.
Tell a story: Create a vignette with similarly themed items. In the bedroom, a breezy summer tunic hangs next to a vintage oar and raffia beach bag.
Use mood lighting: Keep a collection of white candles on hand to enhance tranquility. Low-wattage bulbs also help set the right tone.
Info: Beach House Style , 779 Center Blvd., Fairfax, CA (415/454-3138).
See more of their style: Summer Retreat home