When Erica and Tad Wilson first spotted their future beachfront home, they weren't even in the market to buy. Texas transplants, they'd been living in Savannah and using a small duplex they owned on the island for six years. But when they saw the ailing 1909 cottage, with its hipped roof and its wraparound porch with water views on three sides, they knew they were looking at the bones of a great beach house. It was being sold by five siblings, four of whom lived out of state. "We lucked out," says Erica of their find.

But that's not to say that the couple didn't have their work cut out for them. Their potential beach beauty hadn't been touched since the 1970s, when the owners "modernized" it, replacing the wood double-hung windows with metal ones, slapping dark wood paneling on the walls, cutting up the original rooms, and installing dropped, acoustic-tile ceilings. "We had 15-foot ceilings upstairs and never realized it ¬≠until we started renovating," says Erica. At some point in its past, the downstairs—an area that would have been left open in the early days to handle rising tides—was enclosed to house the kitchen and guest quarters.

From the beginning, the couple knew that they wouldn't simply be transforming the house into a family-friendly summer home for their three children and weekend guests—they'd be restoring it. "We wanted to keep the integrity of the house, to bring it back," says Erica.

Ask TOH users about Befores and Afters

Contribute to This Story Below