Before the days of building codes and reinforced concrete, Florida’s seaside homes were built by early pioneers who used what they had—incorporating salt-washed timbers from shipwrecks and a concrete and crushed oyster shell mixture known as tabby —into structures just steps from the sand.
That’s the case with this cottage in Old Naples. Built in 1914, it is believed to be the second or third oldest house in the city. One of several area cottages listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, at one time it was home to Naples’ second mayor, E.G. Wilkinson. But the land the cottage sits on has an even deeper history: a now-filled-in canal dating to 700 A.D. borders the site. Dug by local native people, the prehistoric engineering marvel was used to shorten the distance from Naples Bay to the Gulf, offering a more efficient route to open waters for fishing and trading.
Projects with that kind of history don’t come along every day in Florida. So when Jett Thompson—owner and principal designer of Jett Thompson Home (and a sixth-generation Floridian)—was hired to work on this unique space, she quickly set about preserving the past while meeting modern needs.
The home offers unrivaled views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Naples Pier. But more than a century of being beachfront had battered the cottage, and it was in a state of disrepair when the current homeowners purchased it. Following an extensive structural renovation by Frontiero Custom Homes, Thompson created a guesthouse with a comfortable, beach vibe— a space where guests and grandchildren can congregate on the furniture in wet bathing suits. “We used a lot of performance fabrics so we don’t have to worry about red wine or popsicle stains,” she says.
Inspiration began with a vintage Swedish bench that the homeowner fell in love with when she visited Thompson’s retail shop in Old Naples. “It’s made of pine with worn paint of soft aqua, and it set the tone for the color palette,” says Thompson. The bench holds pride of place in the cottage’s foyer.
“The owner wanted the design of the cottage to be fun and light, a bit playful, and for the colors to blend with the colors of the Gulf outside and not compete,” she says. The result is a medley of blues and turquoise throughout the home. “When the doors and windows are open, the design flows from the inside to the outside,”
Preserving the original tabby fireplace in the dining area was an important nod to the cottage’s pioneer construction methods. “We used to call it the Tabby Cottage,” says Thompson. The original heart-of-pine floors were another story—mostly too damaged to be salvaged. “There is a small bit of the original floors on the narrow interior stairway leading to the widow’s walk,” she says. As a replacement, Thompson installed natural shell stone tiles on the first floor and waxed French oak flooring on the second.
“Throughout the rest of the design, we added texture and color and brought in paintings from Florida artists,” says Thompson. In keeping with the cottage’s unfussy style, there’s an abundance of seating areas where guests can catch a sunset or a bit of conversation.
Thompson finished the cottage walls in white Venetian plaster to reflect that beachy glow. “The light bounces off in this beautiful way,” she says. “The surface of the walls is flat, almost like glass. It creates a luster, but it’s also low-maintenance. Any marks are easily wiped off.”
Today, the cottage is both a glimpse into life a century ago and a modern haven for vacationing visitors to enjoy and explore Naples. Thompson says projects like this one
are a portal to a past worth preserving. “For me, the fact that this cottage has been saved is so special. It has a special place in my heart,” she adds. “It was a total labor of love to restore it.”
Interior Design by Jett Thompson, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Builder Joseph Frontiero, Frontiero Custom Homes, Inc., Naples, FL
Text by Judy Martel
Photography by Sean Murphy, Neptune Beach, FL
Sofas – Lee Upholstery, Traditions, Naples, FL
Club chairs – Verellen, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Fabric – Perennials, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Pillows custom designed Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Blue stools – Max and Company, Atlanta, GA
Cocktail table – CFC, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Curvy-side table – Fabulous Things, Atlanta, GA
X-side table – Acquisitions, Atlanta, GA
Blue table lamps – Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
White table lamps – Jamie Young, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Chandelier – Currey and Company, High Point, NC
Boat artwork – James Kerr, Arsenault Gallery, Naples, FL
Swimmers’ artwork – Eileen Corse, Gardner Colby Gallery, Naples, FL
Area rug – Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Table – Sarreid, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Chairs – Mainly Baskets, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Sideboard – Sarreid, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Beachy artwork – Paul Arsenault, Paul Arsenault Gallery, Naples, FL
Chandelier – Solaria, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Mirror and pelican – Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Sconces – Currey and Company, High Point, NC
Cabinetry and island – Tradewinds Cabinetry, Naples, FL
Fabricated by Naples Stoneworks, Naples, FL
Pendant lighting – Juliska, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Poster bed and headboard – Century Furniture, Hickory, NC
Bench – Bunny Williams Home, New York, NY
Fabric – Perennials, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Side tables – Phillip Scott, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Lamps – Mr. Brown London, High Point, NC
Headboard, bedcoverings, and drapery fabric – Quadrille, DCOTA, Dania Beach, FL
Area rug – Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL GUEST BEDROOM
Headboard – Phillip Scott, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Bedside chest – Sarreid, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Lamp – Mr. Brown London, High Point, NC
Chaise – Bunny Williams Home, New York, NY
Area rug – Barrier Island Rugs, Atlanta, GA
Decorative headboard designed by Jett Thompson, Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Fabricated by Donata’s Workroom, Naples, FL
Side tables – Bungalow 5, High Point, NC
Lamps – Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Double stools – Jett Thompson Home, Naples, FL
Window treatments – Donata’s Workroom, Naples, FL
Flooring – Legno Bastone, Naples Flooring, Naples, FL