Picture, if you will, the stereotypical beach vacation rental, with its kitschy seashell art, sand-worn carpet, 1960s blankets, cheap sheets, and cast-off furniture: a grandma-decorated family hand-me-down that the newest generation of owners is happy to rent out but doesn’t care about. Enter designers Pamela Hill and Lois MacKenzie, on a mission to change the status quo. Glass buoys, fishing nets, sand dollars? Not here. Scandinavian design, throw rugs, and concrete counters? Absolutely. Welcome to a new spin on the beach house.
“We kept seeing these houses that were dark, low, with furniture nobody wanted anymore,” MacKenzie says, sitting with Hill in the great room of their newest project—a 1972 Arch Cape two-bedroom ranch house just 25 feet from the Pacific Ocean. “We’ve all seen places like that—the kind where you’re afraid to sit on the couch. We didn’t understand why it had to be that way.”
This project, a complete remodel from the inside out, took a year and a half and $280,000 to complete. “There was nothing like this house on the coast,” MacKenzie says, pointing out the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, the custom tile-and-concrete fireplace, and the spiral staircase. The designers’ vision was to create a boutique-hotel feel for the home—a high-thread-count lifestyle juxtaposed with the dramatic beauty of the outdoors. They installed new floors, a new kitchen and bathrooms, and new windows and drywall; rebuilt the entryway and deck; and finished the attic. Only the roof and one wood-shingled interior wall remain from the house’s former life.
MacKenzie and Hill met in the late 1990s while designing NikeTown stores. They developed a working relationship and a friendship that, 12 years later, has bloomed into three investment properties and an LLC called OttoBaat (ottobaat.com). (The name evokes the lucky number eight in both Chinese and Italian.) Both women are full-time designers with a deep and abiding love of craft, and their respective loves of the new and the old complement one another at OttoBaat.