This past weekend when my family took a much-needed vacation to the beach, I got to tour a hurricane-damaged abandoned beach cottage and I want to take you along!

Abandoned Historic Beach Cottage Tour (before Demolition)

Little did I know, I had been charmed by this little white cottage peeking coyishly above the dunes. Years ago during the offseason at Topsail Beach, I found myself standing on tippy toes trying to see a quaint little white house with a front porch spreading across the front like a welcoming smile. I climbed the beach access steps to get a better look. A few steps up the stairs and I marveled at the matching sets of corbels adorning the tops of each porch post.

Not wanting to look like a peeking Tom, I continued along the boardwalk, but stopped as I noticed the house was empty. I admired her architecture and noticed she had more adornment than the usual beach cottages lined along the coast. What caught my interest next was the small 2-foot white cinderblock wall surrounding the property and a vacant lot next door. The wall was hidden in areas by cascading vines and wild beach brush. I briefly wondered if a twin house once stood next door, but succumbed to one of North Carolina’s destructive hurricanes.

My gaze moved back to the cottage and I tried to mentally capture every detail in my mind. These little beach houses had always pulled at my heartstrings. My goal (or rather dream) has been to renovate one over a summer. But, to date, the right house hasn’t materialized.

Cute Beach Cottage for Sale Cheap!

Fast forward to this past weekend when my family took a much-needed vacation during a very stressful time. The ocean has been the exact prescription I needed for my nerves during these trying times. While here, I happened to stumble onto a real estate listing for a cute white beach cottage. The price was low enough that it piqued my interest. Before calling a realtor, I researched as much as I could about the house. I took a walk down the road to get a peek at the house and determine if I wanted to pursue setting up an appointment to see the property. Afterall, the price was low, there must be some major damage or some reason it wasn’t listed closer to a million dollars (the normal cost for beachfront property).

From the back, the cottage looked fairly nondescript: A painted white concrete foundation supporting a white siding-clad second story. The only features it had were two striped awnings over the lower windows. Centered on the second-floor were letters that spelled out: The “Happy” Lewis Cottage. Fittingly, the “Y” in happy had fallen off.

I strolled around the foundation perimeter looking for any signs of damage but couldn’t see a single crack. The house was built into the dune with a huge retaining wall holding the sand back for an empty lot next door. Suddenly, a memory appeared, and I recalled the small wall around a vacant lot.

Quickly I moved up the beach access stairs and there was the little corbel decorated porch I saw two years prior.

I ran back to our condo and began researching the house.  The “Happy” Lewis Cottage was named after the original owner, Harry “Happy” Lewis. Apparently Mr. Lewis was a trend-setter as this house was the first oceanside house built south of Surf City. I remembered reading in the MLS listing that the home had suffered some hurricane damage in 2018 from Hurricane Florence. Those of us who live on the east coast will never forget the hurricane that wouldn’t go away. Florence was a category 4 hurricane that pounded our coast with 130 mile per hour winds and rain.  The damage up and down the coast was extensive and many homes still need repairs. Hurricane Florence was so powerful, it made its way 15o miles inland to dump massive amounts of rain, wind gusts, and some tornados on us in the Raleigh/Durham area.

By the look of the roof, I knew there was likely some water damage and mold inside the cottage. This would explain the lack of interior pictures on the MLS listing. By now I was hopefully optimistic that this house could be saved. I contacted a local realtor who offered to let me see the house in a few days.

Bad News on the Showing Day

When I met the realtor at the house, he told me the listing agent wouldn’t give us access to the house. She was concerned for our safety because of the mold in the house. I begged my realtor to call her back. Luckily, he convinced her to let us in when he explained I was a general contractor and was used to severely damaged houses (you all remember Saving Etta, right?!)

Before I stepped into the house, the realtor told me the house was going to be demolished in two weeks. I thought to myself, “Wait, I bet I can save this house! Let’s see how bad the inside is.” His next words were like a bomb dropping, “The septic tank is buried on the vacant lot next door.” The lot next door was on the market separately for $480,000.

“Wait, what?!” I exclaimed. Apparently, when the property was built in 1949, the owner had purchased both lots and situated the septic tank on the empty lot. It made sense since there wasn’t enough room to put a septic tank on the house side. Over the years the house has been passed down for generations. But, with the storm damage, the current family owners wanted an exit and decided to sell both lots. Unfortunately, the empty lot needs to be cleared of the septic tank. And the house can’t exist without a septic system. It’s a true conundrum and not one that has a good solution. No one with a savvy investor mind would want to purchase two lots to save one house. After all, even if someone was crazy enough to do this, it only kicks the can down the road. When it’s time to try sell again, you have two lots, one that is unbuildable, and the other has a house with a septic on the wrong side of the property line.

The realtor shook his head as I vocalized this no-win situation. “I know, it’s a shame,” he said, “but, go ahead and take a look around. It’s a sweet little cottage.”

Inside the Abandoned Beach Cottage

As I stepped into the 1949 cottage, I was immediately transported back in time. The exterior door led directly into the kitchen. The cabinets appeared to be original as did the metal rimmed countertops. A large dining table sat next to the kitchen with a table cloth on it, as if waiting for the family to come in at any moment for dinner.

When I looked up at the beautiful pine tongue and groove ceiling, I spotted the telltale signs of mold and wood rot. Amazingly the roof had to have been leaking for a while to cause the old-growth wood to rot.  The rest of the kitchen still looked to be undamaged.

Walking into the living room, I knew this room had been privy to many nights of family laughter and stories. I could tell by the broken in sofas that many hours were spent curled up against the arm reading a book after a long day playing in the ocean. And I feel certain on many occasions they provided a spot for a cat nap.

Moving on toward the hallway leading to the bedrooms, I pushed through the half-light door and looked down to see the original pine floors in perfect condition. The tongue and groove walls had been painted a cottage-style white and there were several niches built into the wall lending a charm only an old house can pull off.

Each bedroom was small with matching tongue and groove panel walls. And each had a perfectly made bed ready for family or guests to sleep in. Again, everything looked to be in great shape, and ready for guests.

When I reached the back bedroom, I saw some telltale hurricane damage. One of the window sashes had been blown in and hung at an odd angle. Remarkably the floors and everything in the room was still intact.

After assessing the condition of the entire house, I mentally tallied the removal of the ceilings to be replaced with drywall, new insulation, and definitely a new roof. The scope of repairs wasn’t too bad but there was the septic issue. I wracked my brain, but couldn’t come up with a solution that made sense financially.

I’d love to bring you inside to take a video tour before this cute cottage is demolished in a week or so. I hope you appreciate the charm of this bungalow.

After seeing the tour, are you as sad as I am about the loss of this little historic cottage?

Are you a big fan of the HGTV annual dream homes? My hand is raised with you! The houses are always built in a dreamy vacation location. But, the insides of the homes are often dreamier to me. Last week I had the good fortune of being invited to tour the 2020 HGTV Dream Home in Hilton Head, SC thanks to Cabinets to Go. (Disclosure: I’m not sponsored by Cabinets to Go, the HGTV Dream Home sweepstakes is sponsored by them. I was provided with an invitation to tour the home and Cabinets to Go paid my hotel expenses.) What do you say, want to come on the tour with me?

Tour of the 2020 HGTV Dream Home in Hilton Head, SC

The house is at the end of a cul-de-sac and feels private because of the landscaping around it.

But by far the most amazing part of this house aren’t actually in the house. It’s the views out the back. Granted, there’s still a lot of beauty inside. But, don’t take my word for it, let’s go in and I’ll give you the tour! By the way, if you see anything you like, I’ve sourced most of the items in the home for you to purchase!

Inside the foyer, the room is decorated with art from the ground on up the staircase.

Yes, that is a canoe hanging over your head as you walk in. Honestly, this was one of the few things I didn’t like in the house. Let me explain.

Something about it looming over my head gave me worry. It wasn’t until I took a peek at how it was hanging that I understood why I got that feeling.

There was a french cleat attached to the boat and the other half of the cleat was attached to the wall. But, the top of the french cleat wasn’t seated into the wall cleat completely. It looks like they had a devil of a time hanging the canoe and finally just secured it with a few wood screws. I certainly hope they are long enough to go into the studs in the wall. Regardless, I never lingered underneath that boat.

Now on to the rest of the house HGTV Dream Home house tour (which I really enjoyed.) The use of textures in this home was amazing. From real shells and driftwood, to rope framed mirrors and shiny ceramic pots. It was a delight to the eye.

These oyster shell mirrors were beautiful, but more impactful as a trio.

I did my best to get you the links to the exact sources. For any item I couldn’t find or that is no longer available, I selected very similar items.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Sources From Top Left to Bottom Right:

Rug | DIY Oars (or Purchase Oars) | Oyster Mirror (or DIY one)| Guard Station Print | Nautical Rope Mirror | Driftwood | Colorful Beach Painting | Coral | Pink Succulent Photo | Sea Print | Colleen Elizabeth Art Canvases | Umbrella Stand | Aqua Pillar Candles | Hurricane Candle Holder | Faux Peace Lily Potted Plant | Dresser


From the foyer, the living room beckoned me. Especially because I couldn’t wait to see the beautiful fireplace surround. And the beadboard ceilings helped highlight the fireplace feature.

My best guess as to how it was made was the surround was coated with stucco material, then beach pebbles and shells were pressed into the wet stucco.

The results were beautiful and perfect for a coastal home.

Paint colors in this room are all from Sherwin Williams: 

Walls: HGSW4001 Fundamental White | Ceiling: HGSW2327 Mint to Be

Here’s a list of sources for the living room furniture and decor.

Sources From Top Left to Bottom Right:

Zig Zag Pillow | Macrame Pillow | DIY Watercolor Map | Beach Huts Print | Glass Vase | Magnifying Glass | Rope Serving Tray | Driftwood, Coral, Glass Float Decor Spheres | Picture Frame | Rattan Chair | Hand-Braided Rug | Coffee Table | Modern Arm Sofa | Faux Willow Tree | Navy & White Garden Stool


Let’s go into the kitchen. When I first entered the kitchen, I did a double take because I was surprised to see the same cabinets I chose for Millie’s Remodel! It was fun seeing them in a completely different style home.

This pantry had me digging the dark navy colored wall behind. The color is Blue Endeavor HGSW4001 from Sherwin Williams. Remember when I painted the pantry at the Saving Etta project black? I really like how the pantry items show up in front of a dark background!

I also like the use of baskets to hide clutter and the glass containers showcasing colorful dry storage.

The kitchen had so many beautiful elements, these are a few I sourced for you:

Sources From Top Left to Bottom Right:

Pendant Lights | Kitchen Utensil Canister | 3×12 Navy Subway Tiles | LaCuisine Cast Iron Set | Charleston Driftwood Cabinets | White & Blue Metal Storage Bins | Glass Food Storage Jars | Striped Towel | Wooden Kitchen Utensil Set | Marble Cutting & Serving Board | Breville Espresso Maker | 3 pc. Floral Canister Set | Round Acrylic Knobs | Acrylic Cabinet Drawer Pulls

The house doesn’t have a dining room, but off the kitchen is a breakfast area. Frankly, I’m seeing more homes that don’t have a formal dining room. As you probably remember, I turned our dining room into a more functional space. Besides, in this home, the back deck has a large dining table for guests.

I love the furniture chosen in the breakfast nook, here are the sources, but I’m telling you, someone should totally create a DIY version of that pendant light!


Sources From Top Left to Bottom Right:

Geometric String Light | Square Mirror | Handle Square Rope Mirror | Handle Round Rope Mirror | Pedestal Table | Modern Chairs | Geometric Planter | Stripe Rug

Let’s head into the master suite, shall we? Where as most of the rooms you’ve seen so far have a cool palette. The master suite is filled with bright coral and pink accents. This space is filled with sunshine and cheer.

I loved the driftwood art installation. This can be easily recreated by using 3MCommand strips or tacking the wood with finish nails.

The wall and ceiling paint color HGSW4001 Fundamental White from Sherwin Williams.

The french doors in the master bedroom open out onto the back deck and a sweet little seating area for coffee and conversation.

For your convenience, these are the sources for the master bedroom. Most of the items are available. If not, I substituted similar items.

Sources From Top Left to Bottom Right:

Wall Mirror | Sails Ceiling Fan | Eyelet Pillowcases | Quilt | Diamond Throw Pillow | Square Knit Pillow | Rug | Trellis Bed | Peacock Chair | Driftwood | 3 Drawer Side Dresser | Coral Night Light Lamp Set | 9 Drawer Dresser

The master bathroom was painted a beautiful blush color. But, the wall tile was a nice graphic balance keeping the room from feeling too feminine.

Walls and ceiling are painted Romance HGSW2067 by Sherwin Williams

Walls and ceiling in the water closet are Coral Reef HGSW1074  by Sherwin Williams

The master bathroom sources are available below. Again, I sourced as much as I could find and substituted like items when they weren’t available.

Sources From Top Left to Bottom Right:

Wall Sconce Light | White-Framed Mirror | Wall Color | Shower Wall Tile | Shower Floor Tile | Chelsea Linen Vanity Cabinets | Beach Day Print | Delta Sink Faucet | Square Cabinet Pulls | Towel Set | Teak Bench | Tub Filler | Large Modern Artwork | Concrete End Table Stool | Black & White Artwork | Free-Standing Tub

I leave you with a view of the Master Bedroom closet! This was such a fun and colorful space.

The walls and ceiling are painted Island Time HGSW2312  by Sherwin Williams

The blue and aqua diamond rug can be purchased here.

I’ll give you the rest of the tour soon. Click here to see the mudroom/laundry room, the upstairs bedrooms, and the amazing backyard!

Hope you enjoyed the tour of the 2020 HGTV Dream Home in Hilton Head, SC. You can enter to win this house by entering daily here. Last day to enter is February 19th, 2020. Good luck!

Disclosure: I’m not sponsored by Cabinets to Go, the HGTV Dream Home sweepstakes is sponsored by them. I was provided with an invitation to tour the home and Cabinets to Go paid my hotel expenses.


I’ve known Karen and her sister Anne since fourth grade. Karen was my best friend growing up and ultimately, my maid-of-honor. Anne is her older sister. During play dates, Karen and I were silly girls who avoided (the more mature) Anne, as we played top secret spy games under the stairs. After high school, Karen and I only saw each other every few years. I rarely saw Anne, especially after she met the love of her life in Japan and followed him to his childhood home in England. Anne and Chris settled into a beautiful old row house in Ilkley, UK, where they are raising their daughter and two twin boys. It has been years since I’ve seen Anne, but when we were contemplating our trip to the UK this summer, I thought it would be fun to look her up and visit with her and her family. We had such a wonderful visit with them and I fell head over heels in love with their home.


I begged them to let me share their home on the blog, so be sure to thank them!


Come right this way, I have one of those antique keys to unlock the front door. Can you imagine how many generations of families have used this same key hole?


The first thing you notice as you walk in the door is the amount of beautiful wood, molding and character in their home. Read more