July 13, 2012
Text by Maria LaPiana Photography by Laura Moss
Memories of summers at the beach have a way of sticking with you, like sand after a dip in the ocean—only you don’t ever want to brush them away. It was this persistence of memory that compelled Jim Gauthier to find a house where he could re-create the lazy and blissful days he’d spent on the New Hampshire coast as a kid. “I grew up vacationing on the coast and it was wonderful,” Gauthier, a co-owner of the Boston design firm Gauthier-Stacy, remembers. His family’s three-room cottage was cramped, though, and he wanted a place spacious enough for extended family and friends. Plus, says the interior designer, it had to look “cool and great.”
He found a house he liked in Hampton Beach, but he was wary of its location. “The town has a reputation for being ‘honky-tonk,’ so I hadn’t really been considering it,” he says. Then there was the matter of curb appeal: the house had none. But the beach, being gorgeous, held sway. And the house had three things going for it: affordability, six bedrooms and the forty-five steps it takes to set foot in the sand.
Gauthier bought the property in 2000, and for seven years he and his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews happily came and went, while he made slow and steady improvements to the interior. But he admits that the home’s cobbled-together facade didn’t exactly thrill him.
He finally called in an architect, choosing Bruce Miller, with whom he’d worked on his Boston loft. Remembers Miller: “I got what Jim was trying to do. We had to make it as charming as possible. He gave me a lot of images of houses he liked and I combined them with my memories of traditional summer homes.”
Miller carried off a transformation so complete that “people hardly remember what it used to look like,” says the elated homeowner. The roofline was changed, the fenestration thoroughly reconfigured and the vertical siding replaced with gray shingles. The open second-story porch is now enclosed (a gaudy balustrade gone), and the unsightly garage replaced by a sheltered ground-floor porch and proper entry. A tidy lawn, picket fence and boxwoods complete the now-pretty picture.