Tell us about the original structure.
Bryan: It was literally a shack, a kind of Quonset hut that became a lean-to. It kept changing—people adjusting the roofline and adding more space onto it. Then it got to be the 1960s, the hippie days, and the building was encroaching on neighbors’ property, [there were] no permits drawn. Two-by-fours beneath the building like carpeting, then a layer of plywood, then on top of that rested two-by-sixes that were embedded in the sand. So the whole house just listed. When you’d walk through it, you could feel the mushy moisture, the salt air–softened wood.
Robin: There was carpeting in the kitchen that looked like it came from the Golden Nugget in Vegas in the 1960s. The back bathoom was so small that you could sit on the toilet and wash your hands at the same time. It got to the point that I didn’t want to come anymore except to sit on the deck. You just knew there was mold. It was not a healthy house. We came up only on the weekends, and it became quite the party house.
Bryan: It was really fun—we called it the “love shack.” But it truly outlived its purpose, and it was incredibly wasteful, energy-wise.
How long did you occupy it before deciding to renovate?
We were there for a couple of years! I thought, Well, it doesn’t make any sense to just buy it and tear it down because it will take years to get the right permits. So we used it as our little flop shack—we’d sleep on the floor, sleep on the deck, sleep in the little bedrooms that we had. We were there about three years before we tore it down.
So living at the site for years, you must have been planning the new house in your mind the entire time.
Bryan: Yes, that’s very true. During that time I saw firsthand what a storm surge could do, flinging rocks like they were pebbles. There were cracked windows. Fortunately the new house’s deck is several feet taller, and we are situated farther from the ocean than we were before. Also a permit thing.
Robin: I’ll probably get more and more fond of the old house the further away I get from it.
How did you use the original house as opposed to the way you live in the current one?
Bryan: [The first house] had become a party place and people would bring up the worst crap—bad food, booze, and beer, mixing drinks at ten in the morning. We talked about it and decided to change the energy of this place completely. It’s now our home, and we didn’t want it to represent a lifestyle that we didn’t want to perpetuate.
You had a group of people working on this project. Can you share some details of that process?
Bryan: If you like putting puzzles together, building a house is just that. I like the act of translating the two-dimensional into three-dimensional, looking at floor plans and imagining walking into a room and what I’m going to see, what I’m going to feel. I love architecture, it’s a rich artistic history and it strikes me, it moves me, there’s a message to it. In my business, it’s about storytelling, and I think there’s storytelling in architecture. It’s all about having function and style working together.
Robin: My part of the conversation was more about aesthetics. I worked with John Turturro on the inside of the house, the furniture, the colors. I had a blast decorating, and it was a real learning experience because John knows his stuff. Our other house is very East Coast, very traditional. It’s a whole different look for me, and I like it.
Your design team is pursuing LEED Platinum and Passive House U.S. certification. Why were these designations important to you?
Bryan: The sense of repurposing has been in my blood for a long time. If you have parents who grew up in the Depression, it’s hammered into them—nothing goes to waste, not food, clothing, not a tin can. That was just part of our upbringing, we were raised with that frugality, and it’s who I am. I’ve been recycling ever since I was a child. It’s automatic to separate what is reusable. I believe we should live responsibly all the way around.
To learn more about the back story of the Cranston Residence project and its players, please visit www.3palmsproject.com