Little House, Big Impact
A stone’s throw from Falmouth Town Landing sits Bayview, a diminutive vacation bungalow with a large personality.
As an architectural and interior designer, Linda Banks spends a lot of time thinking about how design can improve other people’s lives. But when it came to creating a space for her own fiends and family to use, she found herself considering an old saying. “It’s always the shoemaker’s kids who go barefoot,” says Banks, the owner of Banks Design Associates and Simply Home in Falmouth. “I wanted this cottage to be different.” Pint-size and optimally located near Falmouth’s Town Landing, Bayview (as she decided to name the house) is a cleverly designed restoration project that Banks completed in 2016 with the help of builder Paul Moutal of Flying Point Construction in Topsham. “It was a puzzle,” Banks admits. “But I love to solve puzzles, and I think this one turned out really well.”
The property was in bad shape when Banks first saw it. The cottage had languished on the market for 18 months. Although the 1920s bungalow had its charms, previous homeowners had enclosed the front porch in large sheets of thick glass, which Banks felt disguised the house’s true potential. “It was a camp. Like a lot of camps, it was really cobbled together,” says Moutal. “The structural integrity had been compromised during the various renovations.” The house was missing several bearing points, and the collar ties had been removed from the upstairs dormer, rendering the roof unstable.
There was also no front entryway. The main door into the house was located around the back (away from the water views), which Banks thought detracted from the overall experience of arriving at a vacation destination. “It was obvious to me that we would need to move the doorway and create a stronger entrance,” she says. “I wanted guests to be able to see the ocean before they got inside—that gets them excited to be here and puts them in the right mind-set.” Banks wanted to keep the vaulted ceilings, add an additional dormer to the front of the house, reexpose the front porch, and create a new and more picturesque entryway.
In order to build the new entrance, Banks had to make a few trade-offs. Due to the postage-stamp-size lot, she couldn’t increase the footprint of the house, so she created a design that would push the exterior walls inward, sacrificing indoor space to create a roomy covered front porch. This task would prove a practical challenge for her builder. Banks wanted to build a wood porch with slatted decking, but that kind of structure would allow water to flow through it, thus exposing the basement to potential water damage. Since the basement is a heated space that houses mechanical elements like the HVAC and plumbing, Moutal says they “had to find a way to build a porch without exposing the basement to the elements.” Moutal came up with the idea of lining the porch with pitched sheets of metal that would act as funnels, channeling any rainwater that fell on the porch into bays. “Now, you can go in and throw a bucket of water on the wall next to the front door, and it will drain without getting a drop in the basement,” Moutal says. The resulting porch is large enough to fit a small metal French- bistro dining set. To optimize the view, Banks chose an unobtrusive wire railing, and to fit with the home’s Victorian style, she picked vintage-inspired Edison bulb lights to frame the front door and welcome any guests arriving after dark.
While Banks says she “tried to avoid changing too much of the interior architecture,” she did want to modernize the flow of the first floor. When she first bought it, Bayview had three rooms downstairs: a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen. She opted to open this up, creating a “circular path” through the main living spaces. This semi-open floor plan allows for light to pour in through the living room front windows and into the kitchen. Another major change Banks made was to install new flooring throughout. “To unify the first floor, we ripped out all the old floors and put down this remarkable faux-driftwood bleached flooring made from snap-and-click vinyl. It’s practically sand-proof,” she says, making it a good fit for a vacation rental. (“I needed a floor that could tolerate dirt and water and could be easily cleaned with a mop,” she says. “Wood would have gotten ruined.”) Throughout the renovation process, Banks kept the house’s function at the forefront of her mind, which is why she moved laundry to the second floor, turning the original laundry room into a tiny bathroom. “Now there are two bathrooms upstairs for the three bedrooms to share, which is so much better than one.” This, she says, was one of her biggest contributions to Bayview. “But I found it immensely valuable to have another bathroom, and everyone who stays here agrees.”
Bayview’s small size is part of its charm. At 1,900 square feet, it “came out like a little dollhouse,” Moutal says. “The proportions are great, and it works for the location.” Plus, Banks managed to pack a lot of personality into the furnishings and decor. To make the bedrooms seem larger than they are, Banks used white high-gloss paint in two of the guest rooms. “Because the ceilings have so many angles I thought an all- white ceiling would help unify the room,” Banks says. One guest room has more of a “sporty” look, with framed single flags in a classical nautical color palette and a navy blue headboard for the queen-size bed. (“We only had room for the bare necessities,” she says, “but a big bed is a necessity when you’re vacationing.”) For the largest guest room—what Banks refers to as the owners’ suite—the designer wanted to create a more “womblike” space full of cozy neutrals, so she added wall-to-wall carpeting in sandy beige for warmth, seafoam green walls for an element of color, and limed oak furniture to match the driftwood- inspired flooring downstairs. Banks also installed a set of antique wooden double doors, which is something of a trademark of hers, as is the wave tile installed in the larger of the two upstairs bathrooms. “That S-scroll tile is one of my signatures,” she says. She brought in Larry Stoddard of Distinctive Tile and Design to create a serene gray and white space, complete with a marble-topped bathroom sink that has scalloped edging.
Downstairs, Banks used mirrored cabinet doors to create an illusion of extra space in the kitchen. “I had to give up a window there to make space for the stove,” she says. “So I created my own windows by adding mirrors into the cabinets.” Never one to do an all-white kitchen, Banks kept the space playful with a set of dark hunter green vintage doors from Portland Architectural Salvage that look particularly fresh next to the mint green cabinets and black- painted dining chairs. Although she originally planned to paint the doors, Banks liked how they looked with the dining set. “That’s what I call design through discovery,” she says.
While the overall renovation took more time than she had originally planned and involved quite a few trade-offs, Banks loves her quirky overflow cottage. “I have some practical Yankee sensibilities, but after 30 years in architecture and interior design, I think I know what people need and what people can do without,” she says. Bayview, she says, hits all the right notes. “It’s everything we need, and nothing we don’t.”