Valerie Schneiderman first discovered Longbeach in 2012 and fell in love with the tiny historic community. “When we were looking, this north end of Longboat Key was for us,” she says. “The feel of it, the canals, the bay down the street, the walkability, the people and the mix of old and new.”
Schneiderman, her husband, Ross, and their dog, Baxter, eventually found a pecky cypress home, which is one of 13 Whitney Beach cottages built in the 1930s. Ranging from 1,200 to 1,400 square feet, these homes were originally built on the Gulf of Mexico for vacationing tourists and were moved across Gulf of Mexico Drive to Longbeach in the ’50s to avoid storms and flooding. The Schneidermans paid $620,000 for theirs in 2016 and moved there permanently in 2018.
Schneiderman liked the home’s imperfections. The cottage’s lines weren’t ruler straight, and there were uneven gaps between the hand-cut wall slats. But she also saw the limitations in the kitchen, a guest bathroom and in the use of old finishes.
Luckily, Schneiderman had restored a 220-year-old home in Ridgefield, Connecticut, before moving to the Village, so she knew how to make her new cottage work without moving or eliminating walls. As someone who loves to cook, she needed more counter space, so she raised the kitchen windows to allow for more prep and storage space. She replaced the impractical terracotta countertop tile with soapstone, added taupe and white-washed cabinets from Cucine Ricci, new appliances, open shelving and pantry space.
The guest bathroom was also updated. The old tub was removed to make way for a walk-in shower, and she added a new vanity. An old medicine cabinet embedded in the wall was removed, and the empty space was used for shelving.
The previous owner had added roughly 475 square feet to the cottage with a main bedroom, bathroom and laundry room and finished the walls in customary, modern-day orange peel. But because it felt out of character with the rest of the home, Schneiderman plastered over it and brought in tongue-in-groove wood for the bottom portion of the walls, trimmed out the windows, and added crown molding.
To make the small home more functional, Schneiderman added roughly 1,200 square feet of deck space, including a covered dining and lounge area. The new space connects the home’s main living area to a Florida back yard filled with mangroves, saw palms and sea grape. The space also overlooks the 10- by 26-square-foot pool she had sunken into a raised deck, since an in-ground pool isn’t an option when a home is steps from the shore. Made of cumaru wood, the decking tolerates the sun, salt and rain and weathers naturally. Replacing the lawn with all native landscaping keeps the design “in harmony with its surroundings,” she says.
Done in phases, the remodel has taken roughly two years and an estimated $400,000. But Schneiderman is considering one more big change. “We recognize what’s happening with global warming and sea level rise. We love this spot, and we want to stay here, so we’re looking at elevating it,” she says. And there’s a connection to history here, too. The owners of “Johnson & Son, Inc.” will take on the project—their grandfather moved the home the first time.