Since purchasing his 1940’s beach cottage in 2007, Norm laid out mega aspirations to transform his house into a home by enhancing it with customized construction projects and unique materials. With 10+ years in the construction trade and (what were then) trial-and-error electrical skills, he began the intense work of remodeling and updating the house, on his own. It’s come a lonnnnng way, baby! We began dating in late 2008 and by the spring of 2009 I was living at the beach house, working on projects large and small…together. Norm now works full time at a bath fitting company and can add super handy “indispensable plumbing skills” to his laundry list of abilities…

Here’s how (the outside of) our beach cottage looked before Norm transformed it, from February 2007:

GM house before

See that Carolina Blue sky?! I promise I didn’t photoshop it to match the house! Wilmington IS just this amazing in the winter…it can’t help that it’s always so stinkin beautiful here!

Anywho…the cute beachy character of the house has always been appealing. The property, however, was bleak and extremely sandy with a smattering of weeds developing in patches. The weedy-gravel driveway was defined around the edges but splotchy in the middle.

Over time, our amazing neighbor has retold the historical legacy of the beach house to us- recalling when it was moved from Wrightsville Beach in the 70’s…to the various owners who resided here…and the most intriuging stories of how the backyard was a playground for youngsters who used it as a bonfire pit and for beer bottle smash-grounds before the home was relocated (when there was just an empty lot). It was quite the hotspot on the backyard party circuit. Evidence found while digging our garden suggests the local lore has some truth to it…you can find glass pretty much anywhere in our yard, if you scratch the surface! But I digress…

For fun, here is an “in progress” shot of the house from February 2010, when Wilmington actually had real snow:


If you look closely, you’ll notice that the windows have been replaced and decorative shutters removed as well as the addition of tiny sabal minor palms flanking the steps to the porch. What you can’t see in this image is that the chain link fence (to the right) has also been removed, a large trunk off a multitrunked cherry tree has been cut down from the backyard area (since its low forking branch was growing towards the house), a large cedar removed from the center of the side yard, shed relocated and mulch beds have been created along the driveway and in front of the porch. Fast forward to 5+ years later…

And here is the after…Well, the after, after….this is a pretty recent picture and what the house from above looks like after years of serious dedication and major luv-ins:


It’s very tropical paradise-y, no?! After awholelotta transplanting of native vegetation, grass seed and and sod laid down, a cheerfully painted front door and better defined spaces, the landscaping alone has really transformed the feeling of the property. The other major outdoor change since 2010 is that you can spy a slight hint of our three raised edible garden beds to the left, if you follow the faint stone path; altogether they measure about 30′ x 8′ and provide space for seasonal herbs and veggies…and hopefully flowers too, this year. To the right (where the chain link fence used to be) there are a few more defined spaces including a flagstone patio dining area, cobble brick patio for the fire pit cauldron and an area that I call yucca valley. You can find more details about the outdoor transformations and how we did them right here.

We love coming home to our luscious yard, full of green and punctuated by happy palms, potted plants, agaves and yuccas greeting us! Of course, we still have our dreams, which means many more exterior projects to come…

For the interior tour and room by room transformation, click here!


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