This Branford Beach House Offers Big Charm in a Small Footprint

Greg and Rita Raucci had been looking for a coastal home for a long time, from Milford to Stonington. Then, one day in March 2018, Greg saw a 1920s cottage in a real estate flyer. It had been on the market for a while and the price had dropped. And although they had never heard of the Indian Neck section of Branford, they decided to google it and go check it out.

“We weren’t looking for a waterfront property, but we knew we wanted to be near the water,” says Rita, whose primary residence is in Fairfield County. “This cottage met our criteria, then some, sitting just one house from the beach. He also ticked other boxes — city water, city sewer, and a nearby marina for Greg’s boat. I don’t particularly like boating, but I wanted to be able to walk the shore.

After purchasing the cottage in April 2018, they originally thought they would fix the two-bedroom, one-bathroom, 900-square-foot home and winterize it. But after spending their first summer there, they brought in Joe Sepot of Branford-based Joseph Sepot Architects to design something bigger and more aesthetically pleasing. They wanted a place where their two children could visit with their families as well as a home they could one day reside in year-round.

The cathedral ceiling in the master bedroom and a high window give a majestic and spacious impression to the small house.

Dennis M. Carbo Photography

“I made several preliminary sketches to show Rita and Greg. I wanted to make sure I captured everything they wanted in their second home,” says Sepot, who does a lot of commercial work in the Greater New Haven area with Greg’s company, Bismark Construction of Milford. “It’s a very, very restricted site. The footprint of the house is long and narrow due to local zoning restrictions. We knew it was important to maximize daylight and create a sense of expansion within the compact footprint. We have selected light interior finishes to reflect daylight to achieve this goal. »

After putting pencil to paper, Sepot put together a set of drawings that Greg, who took on the role of entrepreneur, could pursue. It included an open kitchen, dining area and living room; master bedroom; a second bedroom with several beds for the couple’s five grandchildren; two bathrooms; and a laundry area. The plans, which nearly doubled the square footage of the house, also retained the screened porch at the back of the house, which was important to them in maintaining a summery feel.

The screened porch doesn't technically count toward the home's living area, but it's an expansive and welcome aspect in the summer (and beyond).

The screened porch doesn’t technically count toward the home’s living area, but it’s an expansive and welcome aspect in the summer (and beyond).

Dennis M. Carbo Photography

“I never thought that on this site we would be able to get the square footage that Joe was able to get,” says Greg. “The screened porch doesn’t count as living space, but when we open those 16-foot wide slides, the house expands. Even in winter and during other seasons, the grandchildren always play on the porch, so it’s an extra space for us.

The exterior of the house oozes charm and includes classic details traditionally found in 19th century period cottages, as does the detached two-car garage, which they restored during the building process. six months of ownership, which began in February 2019. To reduce its horizontal mass, the home’s exterior is differentiated by a mix of building materials, including painted panels and lath siding and stained cedar shingles .

With such a long area, owners could space things out a bit.

With such a long area, owners could space things out a bit. “Everyone stacks the TV and the fireplace,” says Greg Raucci. “I loved the side-by-side look. No one ever does it that way.

Dennis M. Carbo Photography

Greg adds that a side pergola is the perfect design element against the white siding and puts the cottage feel into perspective, “especially when you see the size and unique sheen of the raft tails from our return from the beach. . We were surprised how the pergola sometimes provides shade with the angle of the sun in the kitchen.

Sepot says the pergola visually balances the overall elevation of the house. It adjusts the vertical massing of the house, lowers the gaze and creates an intimate outdoor living space perfect for family gatherings and al fresco dining. In addition, it is located next to the kitchen to facilitate receptions.

Proof that a cramped space doesn't have to be claustrophobic, the 12-foot-wide kitchen opens up to a 24-foot-wide living space.

Proof that a cramped space doesn’t have to be claustrophobic, the 12-foot-wide kitchen opens up to a 24-foot-wide living space. “You look through those big, beautiful French doors to the porch and the view,” says Rita Raucci.

Dennis M. Carbo Photography

“We didn’t build one of these huge mega mansions,” says Greg. “Rita and I liked the cottage style and wanted it to remain typical of the region. One of Rita’s prerequisites was that we still have a lawn for the grandchildren to run around on. And it worked very well. »

In fact, Greg found the house so successful that he suggested Sepot submit it for a prize. Luckily, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Connecticut recently awarded the home an Alice Washburn Award of Excellence in the New Construction category. Named for Connecticut’s prominent designer and builder of the 1920s, the program recognizes excellence in traditional home design through the thoughtful adaptation of tradition to meet the needs of the 21st century.

Despite a cramped footprint, this Branford home is packed with cozy features.

Despite a cramped footprint, this Branford home is packed with cozy features.

Dennis M. Carbo Photography

The jurors noted: “Well-proportioned, clean and simple lines. Very efficient use of space and effective natural lighting. A delightful retreat, suitable for a laid back day at the beach. Big things come in small packages!

“At the end of the day, I just wanted to have a place where the family could come,” says Greg, who likes to be close to his primary residence. “It turned out perfect since our children are within driving distance. I didn’t want a place too far away where they would have trouble being with us in the summer. When people go far away for second homes, I don’t understand. You don’t have to go far to find it. »

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Raymond I. Langston