This renovated Niantic beach home is an idyllic family hub

Kelsey W. Popham


Twenty-nine years ago, Pat and Bill Bayne bought a beach cottage in the Black Point Beach Association in Niantic. Built in the 1950s, the modest two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,600-square-foot retreat needed some work, but they fixed it up “enough,” enjoying the beach every summer with their neighbors — young families like themselves with 30 children between them. With adults and children alike making lasting friendships, the Baynes decided to retire here, selling their primary residence in Burlington in northern Connecticut, and making the move to the shore. Here, they knew everybody would want to come back again and again. 

“The idyllic community was a throwback to the childhoods that we had remembered,” says Pat Bayne, noting that both she and her husband grew up spending summers at their grandparents’ beach cottages in Old Lyme and Waterford. “Kids came and went, and everyone always had an ear open, whether it was for your kid or someone else’s. Every year, how far they could ride their bikes changed, and curfew times got pushed back later and later. They developed lifelong friendships and so did we.”

While they looked into renovating the house, tearing it down proved to be the best option to get everything they wanted — an open living/dining area, mudroom, sunroom on the first floor, four bedrooms each with its own bath, bunk room on the second floor, three-car/boat garage, elevator and an outside shower. For a narrow site on a corner lot, “It was a large program,” says Nina Peck of Old Lyme-based Nina Cuccio Peck Architecture and Interiors, tapped to design the house thanks to a referral from Bill’s friend, David Director, owner and president of Connecticut Lighting Centers.

“Coincidentally, my husband’s parents had a summer home a few houses down, so I had a sentimental attachment to the area,” Peck says. “The project was meaningful for me. My kids played on that coast, visiting with their grandparents for 20 years. As did my husband’s family, Pat and Bill have a strong connection to family and they wanted to create a homestead for their adult children and future grandchildren.”

To solve the challenge of fitting five bedrooms on the second floor, Peck created a double-gambrel design, which allowed the 4,000-square-foot house to subsume the three-car garage rather than having it overwhelm the house. The sloped-roof style adds to the home’s seaside charm, while also allowing cathedral ceilings for the bedrooms and providing each a view of the water. 

“We were required to raise the house six feet above base flood plain elevation to comply with town zoning and FEMA regulations, and my concern was making sure the roofline was not too high,” says Peck, who worked with Bill’s brother, Scott Bayne, general contractor of Bristol-based S&W Custom Home Builders. “But even without the roof-height regulations, I wanted the house to be as low as possible, so it wouldn’t tower over the neighborhood.”

Inside, Peck says the house reflects the Baynes’ personalities — warm, welcoming and gracious. A half-wall separating the living/dining and sunroom spaces was turned into a bar with a teak and holly countertop, designed to look like the traditional floor of a boat, a nod to the owners’ love of boating. The sunroom’s shiplap and mahogany-arch ceiling design also carry the theme.

“My husband had this boat-hull theme for the bar cabinet, and it just took off,” Pat remembers. “Nina was able to execute what I was feeling-slash-describing but couldn’t put into words. We ended up picking out gold-toned light fixtures, brass pulls on cabinets, and window benches that carry the boat feel throughout. And the round light above our dining room table looks like the steering wheel at the helm of a sailboat.”

The biggest challenge was where to put a fireplace without blocking water views. Peck also wanted to shield the Millstone nuclear power plant as best she could. Her idea of angling the fireplace in a corner with a piece of driftwood as the fireplace mantle did just that. In the adjacent corner, she used the same stone as the fireplace wall and carved out a niche to display a driftwood sculpture created by the Baynes’ youngest daughter in a college art class.

“Because Nina is both an architect and an interior designer, she has a very keen eye,” says Pat, who didn’t have a strong idea of how she wanted the house to look, but knew how she wanted it to feel. “So when she was designing something with a wall and a window, she was already thinking about where she was going to place the furniture.”

In her 38th year as an architect, Peck says she’s always thinking about every detail from the early phase of the schematic design. As a result, spaces are never oversize because she’s designing them with furniture in mind. Her philosophy is that a well-scaled and finely detailed house can best be achieved with an eye to the furnishings and interior details that ultimately transform a house into a home.

“Because I design the interiors and furniture layout as I develop the architectural design of the house, I’m not just creating vacuous spaces where someone else comes in and sets down furniture,” Peck says. “Once I have the bones of the building solved, it is rewarding to ‘bring the house to life’ and have it reflect the personal character of the homeowners through the interior detailing and decorating.”

One of Pat’s favorite spaces is the master bedroom with its recessed porch balcony overlooking the water. “It’s shaded in the afternoon and just a great spot to relax and read a book,” says Pat, adding that when her young adult children come back, bringing their significant others and friends, they too now have their own spaces in the home to enjoy.


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