Geoff and Maggie Litchney live with their four-month-old daughter in a beautiful, newly-renovated home on Anastasia Island. While it was never their plan to move in, as they uncovered the past from the more than 50-year-old property, they began to pave the way for their future as a family in this very space. At 1,550 square feet, it is the perfect mix of spaciousness and cozy nooks with a vision that took a village.
For example, the open, welcoming kitchen with its herringbone floors, central island, cozy fireplace, and white subway tiles was previously a screened-in Florida room. The roof had to be raised and a brick wall needed to be removed to make it fit with the rest of the home.
“Our original intention was to flip this house,” says Maggie. “We never imagined that we would live here, particularly when we first purchased the property. The home had been uninhabited for years and did not even have a roof. Everyone thought I was crazy for buying it, including Geoff. We had no electricity. The entire house was built on a generator.”
But, like many things that have happened in the time since, things fell right into place. And like many of its kind, the remodel of the home was a labor of love. The pair, who became engaged one month after Maggie first purchased the house, embarked on the remodel in June of 2016 and married in May the following year. Today, Geoff shoulders the hour-long commute to Jacksonville, which he jokes is all the easier with a self-driving Tesla.
“Chris Stapleton was playing across the street at the Amphitheatre on the same day I bought the house, so I decided to hold a tailgate party in the front yard,” says Maggie. “The neighbors came by and said wasn’t a good idea to loiter on abandoned property. When I told them that I’d purchased the lot, they couldn’t believe it.”
The photos from pre-renovation to the beautiful home today are unrecognizable, yet the work required to bring it to life was far from a fast turnaround. In fact, the neighbors who bought the lot behind Maggie’s were able to build a house from scratch in half the time. Proof that it is indeed often harder to edit than it is to create.
Even in the permitting phase, things remained dicey. Geoff had given up his lease at his apartment and was living in a hotel until the permits came through.
“We got all the way to the last permit and were told that we couldn’t get our certificate for occupancy unless we had wood cut out for hurricane shutters,” says Maggie. “We lived here for a while before things were done. Even on our wedding day, the pool was being resurfaced. It wasn’t the most seamless experience, but it was definitely worth it in the end.”
A strong trust between Maggie and Bart Piniaz of BP Builders, who she met through mutual friends, helped quite a bit under the circumstances. “Bart drew me an outline of the house and asked where we wanted everything. Normally you are limited by where your plumbing is, but we didn’t have any of that,” says Maggie. “It was very difficult and overwhelming to visualize the space at first.
“This was a complete transformation – knocking walls down, filling in other walls, building a roof. But overall, we had the same vision. He never told me that I couldn’t do something I wanted to, and I didn’t have to fight for what I did want. He told us about the 99-cent floor store in Daytona, which was genius. You tell them how many square feet of wood need to be covered and they provide ten or so options that same day. The next day, the possibilities could be completely different.”
Another cost-cutting strategy was initially painting the entire house one color. Now that the Litchneys are staying, they are beginning to add new layers for themselves and their family, including painting the guest bedroom. Upon the arrival of their daughter, they put in a barn door to convert the dining room into a charming Florida inspired-nursery dotted with watercolor prints from local artist Jenna Alexander.
Following the renovation, Hurricane Matthew played a major role in transitioning the HGTV-inspired flip to a forever home. In fact, the cedar mantle on the fireplace was created from a tree that fell in the backyard during the storm. Austin Weeks of Old Town Timber milled and whitewashed it for the Litchneys. He also repurposed the cedar wood into the couple’s wedding chargers and cake stand as well as floating shelves in the kitchen.
“We realized that the house didn’t flood with Matthew, and it didn’t’ flood with Irma. Throughout the entire time, we had family members and friends staying with us during storms as their homes were flooding and having problems with downed trees and power lines,” says Maggie. “We finally came to the realization that there is a reason this house has been here so long. Perhaps it is our forever home as well.”
As far as local goes, Maggie’s love for her native Florida is evident in the prints and pieces throughout their home. “I want to support as locally as I can,” says Maggie. “I live here, grew up here, I chose to stay here, we want to raise our family here. We love the island, the county, the schools, and we can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Making a comfortable house has made it possible for family to stay (bordering on moving in at times). From the hurricanes to the sheer, intentional comfort they’ve created, the guest room is a revolving door.
“Comfort is the key for us,” says Maggie. “We aren’t fancy people. We love to hang out and share our space and time with everyone we love.”
While some elements are carried throughout – such as the granite used in both the kitchen and bathroom – others were less planned. The transom window brought a little bit too much sunlight into the master bedroom and needed to be managed with a wall of floor length blackout drapes. Champagne brass and oil-rubbed bronze fixtures in the kitchen and bath are a personal preference decision that Geoff and Maggie made in the moment.
The 50-year-old pool was another gem that needed a lot of TLC in order to reclaim. At the bottom of it, they found a vanity, dry wall, bricks, and a garbage disposal. There were fish, ducks – a full ecosystem, they joked. Essentially, they had to tear everything out around it to salvage it.
“They don’t build pools like that anymore. It is 10 feet deep. As Geoff is from Ohio, he loves it, and literally dives in, along with the dog, whenever the temperature is above 60 degrees,” says Maggie.
Each summer, they make an annual pilgrimage to the Adirondacks where Maggie spent much of life on Saranac Lake. She hopes to have the same future for her daughter. “We love to travel to Savannah and Nashville,” she says. “We enjoy live music, we like good food, we love breweries. Old Coast is our favorite, proximity wise, and there are growlers in the fridge to prove it.”
In fact, Geoff stopped by to pick up tacos from Osprey and grab a beer at Old Coast while he still had his hospital bracelet on after they’d just brought their daughter home from the hospital. Today the Litchneys love visiting when they are looking for a low-key night out, and everyone at the brewery knows their daughter by name.
“I can’t live in a cookie cutter house. Even though you can get everything you need, it is the character we enjoy creating, and it is in fact something that has to be created personally,” says Maggie. “We are proud to have added value to the neighborhood by bringing this home back to its original glory and look forward to many more special years ahead here as a family.”
Editor’s Note: The before photos of this gorgeous home are pretty unbelievable. You’d never guess that the polished spaces you see above could have ever looked like this –
Photography by Brian Miller