With a blanket of snow covering most of North America, I decided this week to stay with the theme of white but to move it to a more tropical setting. The result is a feature on a white-on-white beach cottage. One of my highlights of 2017 was traveling to Seaside, Fla., located along the coastal Panhandle and scenic byway Highway 30A. The husband-and-wife founders of Seaside Robert and Daryl Davis started with a large untouched family-owned coastal tract of land that once served as a vacation camp for workers at a family-owned factory.

Inviting innovative planners and architects into the conceptualization and design, Seaside stands as an example of the early application of form-based codes and New Urbanism. Architects from all over the country designed distinctive and interesting cottage homes that seamlessly flow together while forming a community that feels and functions very much as a whole. The town center is on the north side of 30A, but some building sites are in the sand dunes to the south. It is here that Scott Merrill (Merrill, Pastor & Colgan) designed a cluster of one-bedroom beach cottages.

Merrill’s inspiration for the cottage design was Thomas Jefferson’s Honeymoon Cottage. Jefferson built the tiny structure as a start to Monticello after his parent’s home Shadwell burned. Soon after, he married and settled into the cottage with his bride, Martha Wayles Skelton. In Seaside, the porticoed porch faces toward the road and town center, and the rear veranda (shown in the opening shot) faces the sea.

Scott Merrill, white-on-white beach cottage, natural rug, antique chandelier
Photo by Scot Zimmerman

The home is a long rectangle with the open-planned living, kitchen and veranda on the upper floor. This view looks out to the sea. The covered porch allows for outdoor living in mild rain or bright sun and allows for ocean breezes to dispel some of the heavy hot air, characteristics of the Gulf Coast weather. The room design keeps a white palette with the area rug and cushions picking up the tones of the sand. White ceiling and walls are classic cottage design because the space feels larger and less confined, and the views introduce color to make the views to the outdoors the focal points. The walls and ceiling are all shiplapped boards.

open-planned living room, galley kitchen, antique chandelier, shiplap ceiling
Photo by Scot Zimmerman
shiplap walls, white-neutral decor, wood-burning fire place, beach cottage
Photo by Scot Zimmerman

Looking the opposite direction, you can appreciate the simple open-gabled design and the careful attention to furniture placement to separate seating groupings without making the whole of the space discordant.

galley kitchen, white-on-white beach cottage, natural rugs
Photo by Scot Zimmerman

The one-sided galley kitchen is functional, and the design allows for a dining table inside, although the upper veranda is the principal area for entertaining. The ceiling’s cross beam suggests a division for the kitchen space, and I suspect it is functional.

shiplap stairway, beach cottage, rope handrail, neutral, nautical
Photo by Scot Zimmerman

The stairway leads up from the entrance with shiplapped walls on each side. On the right, the wall forms the half-wall backsplash in the kitchen. The dense rope handrail references the nautical and the beach location. 

white-on-white bedroom, painted iron headboard and footboard, rustic side table
Photo by Scot Zimmerman

Downstairs is just one bedroom (of course—it’s a honeymoon cottage), a bath, and another veranda with a sitting area and soaking tub. The white-on-white theme continues with the painted iron headboard and footboard, bedside table and lamp, shades, shiplapped walls, and the painted floor trusts of the ceiling.

open-air veranda, white-on-white beach cottage, soaking tub
Photo by Scot Zimmerman

Looking out you can see natural vegetation growing on the sand dunes. Considering this is a resort area, one would expect clear views to the ocean, but Seaside gave careful consideration to how the natural landscape design guidelines could protect the beach homes from storm damage and reduce dune erosion. Even with more frequent storms and hurricanes, to my knowledge, the vegetation and the setbacks are protecting the coastline and the homes.


Another feature to call your attention to are the latching shutters. Robert and Daryl Davis generously invited me to stay in another Honeymoon Cottage. That night a severe storm raged. With the shutters latched we stayed safe and comfortable. They really worked well for weather protection. 

white-on-white porch, swing, wooden side table
Photo by Scot Zimmerman

It is possible to experience Seaside, Florida, and to even stay in many of the homes. If you are interested in planning and architecture, I think it is a must for your post COVID travels. The original concept for Seaside was a permanent full-time community complete with a school. However, Seaside’s success as a destination has meant a demand for vacation rentals. Agencies handle the homes’ rentals, and it’s possible to stop for part of a day while driving up 30A. In an afternoon, you can walk out to the pavilion sea overlooks, stroll the community and take in the architectural details of the homes, browse the bookstore and art shops, and enjoy a meal at a restaurant or food trailer. 

And sympathies to those in Texas and in the South without power and water. How very difficult for you. We will hope for help for you and for warmer weather. 

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