Beach Style

How to Get the Coastal Cottage Look

Tips from the designer who literally wrote the book.

Photography by Ilene Denton December 2, 2019 Published in the December 2019 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Image: Courtesy Photo 

You don’t have to live on the water to achieve the cozy cottage look that’s coveted by so many, says Sarasota designer Tracey Rapisardi, who literally wrote the book on it. Called Simply by the Sea, Rapisardi’s new book chronicles many of the coastal retreats she has designed in her long career.

Simply by the Sea

Image: Courtesy Photo 

Rapisardi, who moved her design business to Sarasota from the Boston area in 2011, has had her work featured in Traditional Home, Coastal Living, Cottage Style and other national shelter magazines.

The photographs from her new book, shown here, were taken in a Gulf-front single-family home on Longboat Key she designed for a family who also moved here from Boston. “They wanted a cottage, beachy feel,” she says, “so we gutted the original home and started over.”

That applies from the exterior, which was painted white with brand-new seaglass-colored shutters and mint green double entry doors, to the interior, which got whitewashed cypress floors and beadboard wall accents. 

Rapisardi says the difference between Florida coastal cottages and those of New England are in the details that Florida homes often lack. “Florida homes don’t have nooks and crannies—built-in window seats, woodwork around the windows and doors, wainscoting, beadboard walls, tongue and groove ceilings—so I build all those in,” she says. “I just keep going; that’s what makes it really cottagey.”

But don’t overdo the accessories, she advises. “Let a relaxed look evolve over time. A bowl of found shells and sand dollars on a table, fresh flowers, books, a sculptural piece of driftwood or a bowl of fresh fruit make a more welcoming statement than a shopping cart full of stuff you buy in one trip.”

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