Florida vernacular home saved and restored to become a seaside retreat

It was a rescue mission as well as a business opportunity for preservation architect Dean Brenneman and designer wife Marika when they first laid eyes on a vintage Florida vernacular cottage on Garcia Avenue in Sarasota in 2019.

The couple were thinking of an investment property that would earn them vacation rental income, but wanted a home that would express Old Florida charm and attract visitors who wanted a private, country setting that was still close to beaches and cultural amenities. from downtown Sarasota.

“Since my career has been spent in residential preservation architecture – primarily in the Washington DC area – I was hoping for something we could restore,” said Dean Brenneman. “And Marika and I especially wanted something that hadn’t already undergone a lot of renovations that lost the original features and architectural details.”

This one seemed ideal for the couple as it was in an advanced state of benign neglect and the yard was so overgrown that potential buyers missed that there was a storage shed on the property. “The last update to home appliances and equipment dates back to the 1950s,” said Brenneman.

“The original heart pine floors were intact, the double hung windows, interior doors and surrounding trim were all original and some in good condition.” With two porches and a large fenced outdoor area, he said, the house “was the right size for a vacation rental and it was a job we knew we could do.”

The chalet at 4721 Garcia Avenue is listed as having been built in 1945, but the owner disagrees. “A lot of the house features predate WWII and I think the cottage dates from the 1930s,” said architect Brenneman, “But I have no way to prove it. It’s just my professional intuition.

The porch is equipped with a swing.

The 800 square foot cottage has a metal shingled roof, wood siding, a carport on either side of the house (one is large enough for a boat or RV), walkways doubles and a stone path from the street to the main entrance. The property is fenced and shaded by old trees. The Brennemans named their home “Canopy Cottage” because it sits on an officially designated canopy street where trees arch over the road, creating a shady and private world in itself. The house has screened porches in the front and back, a picnic area in the backyard, a separate fire pit, and additional parking space. The 6 foot wood fence surrounding the property is new.

The renovation of Canopy Cottage took eight months and required a general contractor, but most of the work inside the house was done by the Brennemans, who intended to retain and reuse items such as the woodwork, windows and interior doors, many of which converted to pocket doors to save space. During the renovation, they were also able to reconfigure the interior to incorporate a half bath into the floor plan. There are two bedrooms, a full bathroom, a powder room, a laundry area with a drop-down counter, a home office area with wifi and two screened porches. Due to the open floor plan and outdoor living areas, the house is larger and appears more spacious than the square footage suggests.

“The chalet floors are original heart pine,” said Dean Brenneman, “and just needed some repairs and refurbishment, but we covered all floors in luxury vinyl to protect the floors as we had. planned to use the place as a vacation rental.Vinyl is foam, no glue, so the pine underneath will not be damaged.A subsequent owner may wish to reveal the original flooring.

The 800 square foot chalet has two bedrooms, a full bathroom and a powder room.

The Brennemans installed the heat, air conditioning, replaced all plumbing, and updated the wiring to code. They modernized the kitchen and bathrooms, removed all the outlets from the baseboards and installed them in the walls. They also reconditioned the front and back porches. The back porch needed a new foundation and both needed hurricane ties. There is also a shed in the back yard about 20 feet from the back porch. The Brennemans repackaged him and now he has bikes and beach gear for vacationers.

The kitchen has been updated and the space on the other side of the wall has been converted into an office area with a coffee station.

A welcome surprise feature is a fully enclosed outdoor shower (hot and cold water) just off the back porch. “Everyone who rented the place has commented on this shower,” Brenneman said, “people love it. The enclosure is wood which we reused from the old fence. We were able to salvage and plan enough of planks to make a very nice rustic shower.The headboard in the master bedroom is also in reclaimed wood from the house.

The owners of Canopy Cottage have used reclaimed wood from the property to add new touches including a headboard.

Brenneman said the three worst parts of the renovation probably came early in the process. “When we cleaned up the overgrown backyard, we filled two dumpsters with auto parts at random,” said the owner. “The previous owner worked on cars and just stored junk parts in the yard and let the grass grow around them.”

A gate with an arbor provides a romantic entrance to the house, which has been designed to be used as a vacation rental.

Then the renovators got a surprise inspecting the raised attic. “It was full of used brake pads and hundreds of old car magazines,” Brenneman recalls.

“We added a new retractable ladder, cleaned everything up and now it’s a clean and useful place for storage. But, probably the worst job was to clean out the three foot high crawl space under the house. An incredible amount of garbage and nasty stuff out there. We have added thick wire mesh all around and built an access door to access it in the future. Brenneman noted that all of those vernacular cottages in Old Florida were built on stilts for added ventilation. The roof overhang and porches were other features that helped ease the summer heat before air conditioning throughout the house became common.

An open floor plan makes the home more spacious than its square footage might suggest.

The new Canopy Cottage is a “smart home” which means the security system, lights, security camera, heat and air, and even the water heater can be adjusted remotely. The ceiling exhaust fans in the bathroom ceilings are equipped with Bluetooth speakers, which makes singing in the shower even more rewarding.

The owners rent Canopy Cottage for $ 150 to $ 300 a night, depending on the day and season.

Marika Brenneman took care of the interior design and furnishing of the chalet. She selected all the furniture, lighting, appliances, color palette, accessories, tableware and linens. The style is casual and comfortable with a Florida vibe in terms of the color selection – sunny yellow, turquoise, white, and some distressed wood tones.

The couple rented Canopy Cottage to vacationers for between $ 150 and $ 300 per night, depending on the time of year and length of stay. Before uploading it, Dean and Marika Brenneman lived in the chalet for several weeks to make sure the place had everything a guest could want, down to a potato peeler and ironing board. . “When we were sure we had thought of everything we expected from a vacation cottage, we marketed it and were totally happy with the response,” Dean said. “We loved being able to save a vintage piece of Sarasota history and make it shine again.”

Beach decor on the back porch is included in the turnkey setup.

Despite their success in owning investment property, Dean Brenneman says they are willing to sell them and are asking for $ 375,000 through realtor David Brown with Florida Internet Realty. “There were some health and family issues that made us realize that we don’t want to own investment property for the long term,” Dean said. “I’m still working on projects in Washington DC and I’m progressing into semi-retirement. Marika and I loved rehabilitating Canopy Cottage, but we are willing to hand it over to someone who wants to use it as a second home in Florida or want to have it as an investment property. Or there may be a couple or a single person who wishes it for their residence in Sarasota all year round. Lots of options.

The spacious backyard has a fireplace and an outdoor shower, visible to the right in this photo.
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