It was tough to envision the potential of the beach cottage beyond its dated wood paneling, drab wallpaper, and obsolete fixtures — but Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski of Tiffany Leigh Design in Toronto knew it was there.
When she and her team purchased the 800-square-foot Sauble Beach house, which was being renovated to serve as a future Airbnb vacation rental, it came as-is. “So we had a lot of old furniture and belongings to clear out to start to see the potential of the space,” she says. “Our goal for the house was to create a coastal retreat where people could come and really feel at ease. We wanted to take the space from dark cottage in the woods to bright beach shack.”
One space in the two-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage that definitely needed some extra TLC was the kitchen. A quick glance at the yellow cabinetry and ’70s-style carpeting told Piotrowski that the room needed to be entirely gutted. The problems weren’t only cosmetic, either: the range was quite tiny, the side door was partially blocked by the fridge, the seating area was totally cramped, and a peninsula island cut the room in half. “Our goal for the kitchen was to increase function and also give the space an aesthetic identity that matched its beachy location,” she says.
So Piotrowski switched up the kitchen layout completely, moving the eating area to another part of the house, which allowed her to place the new stainless steel fridge along a blank wall with a white full-height pantry. “Pantries help to maximize storage in a small space,” she says, adding that they removed all the upper cabinets along the long wall. “If you have a dark kitchen, try removing some upper cabinetry, which can feel heavy, as well as cast shadows.” She notes that since the home will be used as a short-term rental, it didn’t need the space for a ton of kitchen items.
The peninsula counter was removed to make the kitchen more open and accessible. Her team enlarged the pass-through opening above the sink, which was once an exterior window before an addition was constructed in the 1990s.
“This brought in a lot more natural light,” Piotrowski says. “Think about increasing the size of your window if it’s in the budget.” To aid with the coastal feel, they covered the old popcorn ceiling in tongue-and-groove paneling.
Thanks to their crisp white hue and glossy finish, the walls’ subway tiles (which Piotrowski DIYed to save a few bucks) reflect lots of light, further adding to the bright and airy aesthetic she was going for. White quartz countertops by Hanstone (in the hue Montauk) further contribute to that look while offering the durability needed in a vacation home. “While these were a splurge, we saved elsewhere like using ready-to-assemble cabinets and less expensive appliances, which also take a beating from renters,” she notes.
She added a full-sized range and a dishwasher, which Piotrowski considers “super important in an Airbnb [because] because people really want to be able to unwind and relax,” and replaced the dated carpeting with a light laminate that resembles wood. A gold-tone pendant light over the sink matches the flush-mount drum light on the ceiling, both by Hudson Valley Lighting.
Finishing touches included floating shelves, which her team created by using building lumber, topped with decorative objects; Hickory Hardware knobs and pulls in copper; a textural IKEA runner; and a coat of pale aqua paint (Restful Retreat by Beauti-Tone Paint) reminiscent of sea glass on the side door. Completing the room is a duo of beach landscape paintings by a local artist, Stephanie Fehrenbach, based on photos Piotrowski had taken of the nearby beach.
While the paintings are lovely, nothing beats seeing the real thing from the vantage point of this fresh and revitalized beach rental.