Dream home: Couple goes back to the basics with Fenwick bungalow
Tiny beach house dating to 1950s 'is what it is'
Kurt and Gail Zanelotti with their dog Tank, pictured in one of the backyard hammocks near the dock on their beach house in Fenwick Island, Del. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun / September 13, 2011)
In what may possibly be one of the smallest houses in Fenwick Island, Del., the couple's thinking on their home is summed up in the words of a little plaque hanging on a wall of their enclosed front porch: "It is What It Is."
Kurt Zanelotti, 53, the owner of a commercial and residential floor-covering business, along with his wife, Gail, 55, purchased an authentic, stick-built beach bungalow, one of 14 built on their street more than a half-century ago.
They learned later that these houses, constructed sideways on a tiny plot that abutted a canal out to the Assawoman Bay, originally sold for $5,000. While the two paid far more for the "waterfront property" and tiny house in 2005, they were able to move into their little beach box immediately after the last renter vacated the premises.
"We learned soon enough that our little bungalow was called 'The house of 22 ashtrays,'" says Gail Zanelotti, a retired Howard County school teacher, in reference to the laid-back lifestyle of generations of past renters. "They would come up to us and say, 'Oh my God, we rented this house in the summers when [we were] growing up!'"
The Zanelottis gave their little bungalow a good cleaning and proceeded to make only a minimal amount of changes, all while they happily lived there. These changes included replacing the exterior siding, replacing windows, building a screened-in porch on the west and south sides of the bungalow and replacing the heating and air conditioning.
Cosmetic interior work was done with a paint brush, using pastel colors over sea breeze-darkened pine paneling. The first floor's 850 square feet of space include a living room with walls painted cream and bright green, a kitchen in soft yellow, and two bedrooms, one pink and the other sea green. New flooring was laid throughout — a durable-strand bamboo.
"Our motto is 'Good enough,'" Gail Zanelotti laughed, even as she proudly pointed out simple cottage furnishings scaled to the small rooms.
"I didn't want wicker; I wanted comfortable," she says about her furnishings. The couple installed the kitchen table that Kurt Zanelotti grew up with. It now serves family and friends as a place to sit and enjoy cracking crabs.
The second story, which the couple calls their "doll house," is reached by a staircase on the exterior of the cottage. A rooftop deck is filled with Target's "end-of-season sale" table, umbrella and chairs. The second floor's 750 square feet of living space include a small kitchen, living room, bathroom and two bedrooms. It is here, in this rooftop paradise, that the couple's grown daughters, Taylor, 25, and Meredith, 22, enjoy long easy weekends with their friends.
Looking out over the back lawn, the pergola by the water's edge, the two power boats moored beside a summer vegetable garden, and watching Tank, the couple's 9-year-old black Lab run and sniff at the flowers, Gail Zanelotti remarks softly, "This place is pretty special. Like the bumper sticker 'LSD' says, this is really 'Lower Slower Delaware.'"
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Making the dream
Dream element: The Zanelottis' beach bungalow in located one block from the surf and sand of Fenwick Island, Del. Located on a street with like bungalows, all built in the early 1950s, and all painted in a variety of brightly colored pastel exterior paint, their bungalow sits on a canal — not much wider than a back alley — leading out to the Assawoman Bay.
Dream exterior: The beach house (referred to as an authentic 1950 stick-built beach bungalow) is shaped like a little green Monopoly-style house. Its exterior is shingle shake siding painted a bright shade of yellow. Exterior stairs lead to the second story, which features a deck over the first-floor enclosed porch. All of the home's trim is white, while a screened-in porch along the west and south sides of the bungalow provides summer living space. "We have more room on this porch that on our first floor!" jokes Kurt Zanelotti.
Dream interior: Warmth and color are highlighted in rooms, once a dark knotty pine paneling, now painted in a variety of pastel shades. Furniture is simple, utilitarian and scaled to the tiny rooms.