Restoring a Raised Tybee Cottage

Resisting the build-bigger trend, partners restore and freshen a vernacular raised cottage dating to 1930.


This original Raised Tybee Cottage was built in 1930. The vernacular type is rapidly disappearing in favor of larger houses. left Before restoration and refreshing, the house, no longer regularly inhabited, was in rough shape.

“The raised cottages used to be very common, but are getting harder to find,” says Cynthia Dewick. She and David Gerbec bought “the worst house on a good street,” in April of 2020. It’s a genuine Raised Tybee Cottage, a vernacular two-level beach house that puts main living quarters upstairs, while such service areas as auto stalls and changing rooms are at street level. This flood-zone form was common on Tybee, a barrier island 18 miles east of Savannah. Most such houses were built between 1910 and 1939, as the island became a summer beach community for middle-class Savannahians.

On the porch, as well as inside the house, the color scheme is cheerful and bright, driven by what the  designer calls “sunset colors.” Many furnishings came with the house.

“The style is vanishing, because the original houses typically are small according to today’s tastes, and sited on land that has become very valuable,” David explains. “This one had been in the same family since it was built, in 1930, and hadn’t been screwed up. For a long time, it had been used for just one month of the year.”

Dewick and Gerbec are real-estate partners; this is the seventh house they bought, sensitively rehabbed, and now rent out. “We bought it with all the contents,” Cynthia says. “It was packed. The attic had afghan blankets that had never been used. It looked as though no one had ever thrown anything away.”

BEFORE AND AFTER: Colors pop against white paint on walls previously clad in dark, mid-century paneling.

Simple yet solid, the house is built of old-growth yellow pine. The main floor includes three bedrooms and two baths. A one-bedroom unit now occupies the lower level, which has a covered patio behind the lattice. Plumbing, wiring, heating, and air conditioning are new. The original floors were refinished.

Raised Tybee Cottages were summer-only homes, most without central heat or air conditioning. This house was renovated for year-round use. In the one-bedroom unit downstairs, a discreet Mitsubishi ductless mini-split heat pump (upper left) is 40% more efficient than 
conventional units.

The house is furnished with some of the bits and pieces already in the house, well edited. Furniture has been painted or reupholstered. Old photos, mementoes, collectibles, and oddball objects found in the attic were framed and now form a “memory wall” in the entry. One box held artwork done by a child, named Peter Dietz, who once lived in the house. “He was talented,” Cynthia says. “We tried to track him down but we couldn’t find him.” Now his drawings, from the 1950s, are on display, part of the personal history of the old house.

BEFORE AND AFTER: In the newly restored kitchen, the refrigerator is wrapped in automotive vinyl.

The living porch has a giant picnic table flanked by colorful chairs and cushions. The space is used for dining outdoors, playing games, and doing craft projects. 

Cynthia chose a palette of what she calls sunset colors. Clear tones of blue, orange, pink, yellow, and green are stunning against a backdrop of white walls and ceilings.  (The interior had been entirely clad in mid-century, dark-brown paneling.) David developed a motif of Xs and Os, used inside and out. These “kisses and hugs” are found in signage and framed graphics and on coffee mugs.

A bathroom mural was painted on a metal panel and then encased in waterproof automotive vinyl.

Gerbec and Dewick feel proud that their Tybee renovation proceeded seamlessly, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. “This isn’t a fancy house,” Cynthia Dewick says, “but it’s very comfy. Nothing here is precious, but it all has meaning and the house tells a story.”

BEFORE AND AFTER: below A patio tucks under the porch.


Tony Petrea, Consolidated Services, Savannah area
(912) 657-2331

decking, stairs, pergola
Schuman Construction, Rincon, GA
(912) 295-5461


SlimJim heat pump

Westberry HVAC, Garden City, GA

Floor and Décor

interior walls
SW 7005 Pure White
int./ext. accents
BM 2057-40 Ash Blue; BM 2086-30 Rosy Blush; BM 2015-10 Electric Orange; BM 2022-30 Bright Yellow • ext. body SunProof flat & satin latex BM OC-117 Simply White; ext. trim semi-glass BM OC-151 White • porch ceiling BM 2054-60 Old Pickup Blue; furniture paint SW 9104 Woven Wicker; SW 6991 Black Magic
Benjamin Moore


Dana Richardson Art 

kitchen design/cabinets
tru cabinetry


appliance wrap
Orafol 970RA Shift Effect Gloss Turquoise Lavender Vinyl
Port City Customs, Savannah, (912) 480-7061

kitchen, hall, bath
Shades of Light

Barn Light Electric 

Vintage Bath

CB2 Modern Home Décor

ext. fabrics

slipcovers, curtains, etc.
Alison Seeger

floor mats

hex floor tile
incl. 4″ size
Fireclay Tile

Heritage Tile/Subway Mosaics

You May Also Like

Tags: Historic Preservation Month OHJ June 2022

Product of the Week

© Copyright 2023 Home Group, a division of Active Interest Media. All Rights Reserved.

2143 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312