Before & After: Bay House Renovation

A dark bayfront camp house is transformed into a welcoming home for a family with the vision needed to tackle the major overhaul.

[Click here to see the before] Deep porches wrap around a board and batten exterior that has been painted Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee. The home sits on a substantial hill, but that challenge allowed Baker to tuck an exercise room under the house as well as an extra bathroom, perfect for wet feet running in from the Bay. Photo by Ted Miles

One day a stranger knocked on Nicole and Jonathan Carrigan’s front door and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. They sold their house and began searching for the next place to settle their young family of five. When a dated and dark “fish camp” house in Montrose came across Jonathan’s list, he saw possibility. The home had been on the market for a long time and was overdue for a face-lift. Never one to shy away from a project, Jonathan enlisted the help of good friend Ryan Baker, principal architect with Fairhope’s Walcott Adams Verneuille firm, to transform the bayfront property. “The great thing about a renovation is that you take something with potential and make it better than anyone could have imagined — even with clients like the Carrigans, who already had a great vision for the space.” Baker capitalized on the property’s best features — like the view — and reworked the things that didn’t make sense — like the external laundry room — eventually creating the feel of a comfortable old Bay house with modern amenities. 

Dog Trot

The original central hall functioned like a dogtrot, flowing through from the front door all the way out the back towards the Bay. (Homeowner Jonathan admits they broke with the tradition of calling the water side of the house the front. “It was just so confusing for guests!”) Designer Rachel Anderson of March + May Design opted to eliminate any large furnishings in the space that would obstruct that stunning view and, by highlighting the dogtrot, it gives the home a feel of history.


The Carrigans’ home sits atop the Ecor Rouge bluffs in Montrose, 65 feet above the water. “It’s exactly 100 steps down to the beach,” Nicole says. A “sunset deck” sits just 10 feet below the bluff for quicker — and less aerobic — access to the outdoors. 

[Click here to see the before] The kitchen island once faced the living room, but architect Ryan Baker and designer Rachel Anderson decided to turn it 90 degrees to face the water. A theme of blue and white accents in both paint and furnishings gives the home a decidedly coastal feel.

Dark & Light

At one time the Carrigan’s home had the look of a fish camp, with lots of dark wood paneling and trim. The Carrigans brought in loads of white paint and added windows wherever they could, brightening it overall. To punctuate that coastal lightness, Anderson used dark paint in a few impactful places, like the navy painted kitchen island and the gray shiplap walls in the powder bath. “It’s a small internal room, so we wanted to embrace the fact that it was already dark,” Anderson says. The wall-mounted brass faucet really pops against the gray. 

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[Click here to see the before] A mix of neutrals and patterns pair perfectly on furniture designed for easy conversation.

Family Friendly

Anderson used fabrics on the living room sofa meant to stand up to the rough wear and tear of a young family. The open floor plan, which was original to the home, allows everyone to hang out together. Navy blue accents in the throw pillows and sea-urchin-inspired lamp set a breezy tone for the coastal living space. Both rooms face the Bay and spill effortlessly onto the porch, where Jonathan grills and Nicole reads while the kids enjoy the yard. 

The dining room initially had plans for fabric curtain panels, but as the project came together, both designer and homeowner agreed they wanted nothing to interfere with that view. Clean walls draw the eye outward.

Handy Man

Jonathan Carrigan laughs remembering how his friends growing up wouldn’t come over during daylight hours. His parents had purchased an 1870s fixer-upper in Battles Wharf and were knee-deep in renovations. “My dad would put my brother, our friends and I to work — we were free labor! So our friends only came to visit after dark.” But growing up in a household where the home projects never ended and everyone was expected to pitch in gave the Carrigan boys a work ethic that Jonathan now appreciates. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jonathan has a handy streak and even served as general contractor on this home renovation. “As a kid, we would hang shiplap, frame a door, lay brick.” Since then he has renovated and flipped a number of houses and owned a handful of businesses that cater to the homeowner, like fencing, stone masonry and more. He used all of those skills on this bayfront job, right down to some of the furnishings. Jonathan crafted the dining table as a gift for Nicole on their ninth anniversary from reclaimed, salvaged heart pine. When the family isn’t gathered around for dinner, Nicole uses the round table as a buffet when entertaining guests on the front porch.

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