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An energy efficient renovation transforms a historic Fairhope cottage for a modern family lifestyle, combining style with impressive substance.

As explored by Michelle Matthews in’s Cool Spaces segment, an energy efficient renovation was far from what this Fairhope couple thought they were looking for when they originally contacted Rebecca Bryant, senior architect at WATERSHED. They initially wanted to build a new, energy-efficient home on their own lot, but as fate would have it, the timing, or daylighting, was just right when the Bullington’s walked in the foyer of an older house that had been on the market for a while.

“We walked in the foyer, looked at each other and just knew—the light, the way it was positioned, the old bones,” the homeowner said. They were sold.

Built in 1938, they knew transforming the historic cottage into a modern home would need serious work to make financial sense. With Rebecca’s expertise in green building home design and energy efficient renovations, their dream home, just blocks from Mobile Bay and downtown Fairhope, was ready to move into by the next year.

“The greenest thing you can do is preserve a house that’s already here,” Bryant said.

From‘s Cool Spaces by Michelle Matthews:

As a result of the almost year-long renovation project, the cottage is now 50 percent larger and has a completely new façade—and yet, the homeowners are paying less in utility costs than the renters who lived there previously did. “Looking back at historical bills on the house, we have reduced energy costs per square foot by 60 percent,” Bryant said.

To achieve that kind of energy efficiency, all of the siding was replaced and new insulation added to form a continuous, air-sealed and well-insulated building envelope from attic to crawlspace. The homeowners also replaced all the old windows, electricity and plumbing, and beefed up the structure. The structural upgrades allowed the home to be certified through the Fortified™ Homes for Safe Living Program, which means it qualifies for significant discounts on insurance rates.

Rebecca firmly believes that “while the aesthetic transformation was what we were all excited about—the color, the light, textures and patina—the critical foundation of this renovation is the behind-the-scenes moves we made to make the house more durable and more energy efficient.”

….The homeowners moved into their home in September of 2013.

“It really is a ‘pinch me,’” (they) said of the house that combines modern convenience and energy efficiency with classic cottage style. “It’s a lot of fun, and we’re very grateful.”

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