“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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Tony Petrea, Consolidated Services, Savannah area
decking, stairs, pergola
Schuman Construction, Rincon, GA
SlimJim heat pump
Westberry HVAC, Garden City, GA
Floor and Décor
SW 7005 Pure White
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
Dana Richardson Art
Orafol 970RA Shift Effect Gloss Turquoise Lavender Vinyl
Port City Customs, Savannah
facebook.com/portcitycustoms, (912) 480-7061
kitchen, hall, bath
Shades of Light
Barn Light Electric
CB2 Modern Home Décor
slipcovers, curtains, etc.
hex floor tile
incl. 4″ size
Heritage Tile/Subway Mosaics