Harrison County

Coast couple bringing back stylish beach cottages

 Big windows allow natural light to illuminate the kitchen at Tidewater home in Gulfport, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Big windows allow natural light to illuminate the kitchen at Tidewater home in Gulfport, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. SUN HERALD

GULFPORT -- Michelle and Jeff Stanfill took a chance when they incorporated Tidewater Homes in 2011.

They believed they could make their business work because enough buyers would care as much as they do about authentic architecture.

The Stanfills said their home-construction business was up 50 percent in 2015 compared to 2014. Their most popular home is the beach cottage.

They are finishing a beach cottage just off U.S. 90 on Phillips Drive in Gulfport and have started on a second in the small subdivision, which has a total of 12 lots. The cottage is a heartening sight on beachfront property that had been barren since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Lots fronting the highway are commercial. The Blind Tiger, a popular restaurant and bar in Bay St. Louis, is building at the foot of Phillips.

"We're glad to see some renewal all along the beach area," Michelle Stanfill said. "Katrina was devastating and we hated to see so many beautiful, historic homes lost. If we can bring a style of architecture back to create that feel before Katrina, that's what our hope is."

Jeff Stanfill went to work for a home-construction company in 2002 when he left the Air Force, where he received his construction education. In 2010, he signed on as construction manager for the Habitat for Humanity affiliate for the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he became well-versed in building energy-efficient homes fortified against hurricane damage.

He uses those same techniques at Tidewater Homes, where Michelle serves as design consultant and real estate agent. The extra attention to elevation, roof covering, nailing patterns and tie-downs are a boon because of insurance discounts for fortified construction, plus the decreased likelihood of major storm damage.

Jeff Stanfill said he follows construction standards set by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, an industry-sponsored nonprofit.

The Stanfills started their own company because they wanted to build homes in architectural styles that appeal to them. They are careful about bringing the exterior style into a home's interior.

Tidewater Homes built its first beach cottages in Tradition, a planned community in Harrison County. They've also built beach cottages in Gulfport's Florence Gardens.

They like other architectural styles, but the beach cottage has been a hit with buyers. The cottage on Phillips has pilings faced with brick, front and back porches with treated wood floors, a dormer window on the second floor, and a peaked tin roof.

Inside the house with four bedrooms and 3.5 baths, floors will be tongue-and-groove pine in main living areas, with an open floor plan that features built-in shelves and a window seat in the great room.

Bathrooms are tiled, incorporating the octagonal pattern found in historic cottages. The main interior doors feature faux transom windows. Kitchen counter tops will be granite. Ceilings are 10 feet.

Michelle Stanfill describes the interior lines of the house, including wainscotting and molding, as "simple but elegant."

Tidewater advertises homes on Phillips from $230,000 up, but Stanfill said most will fall in a price range of $265,000 to $300,000. The homes they are building are 2,200 and 2,400 square feet.

She estimates fortified construction adds $2 to $3 a square foot to construction costs, but insurance discounts can be up to 20 percent.

The city of Gulfport is trying to encourage construction on the waterfront by dismissing city tax bills for seven years on new construction south of the CSX railroad tracks. County and school taxes, however, still apply.