Century-Old Virginia Beach Cottages Transformed Into Pink Bungalows Perfect for a Girls’ Getaway

By Stacy Parker
From The Virginian-Pilot

Virginia Beach—Nearly a century ago, small cottages were built near the ocean in the young resort town of Virginia Beach. In 2021, a string of bungalows on Cypress Avenue caught the attention of Katie Denton.

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“Houses with character,” she describes them.

Denton was shopping for a new project after remodeling two vacation cottages in the Outer Banks. She owns Bees Nees, a company that specializes in vacation getaways and intimate events.

She bought the Cypress Avenue properties and converted them—three houses, an old garage and a shed into The Pink Bungalows, rentals that play up the historic charm of the neighborhood with an eclectic look and personalized experience.

Denton, who prides herself on preserving and not tearing down, saw potential in the houses and renovated them using inspiration from her childhood vacation experiences. Even the name of her business was inspired by her roots: Her family home on Maryland’s Gibson Island, in the Chesapeake Bay, was called The Bees Nees. (In the 1920s, “the bee’s knees” became a popular colloquialism for something outstanding.)

Denton, who is from Baltimore, moved to Hampton Roads as a young child, and she often visited her grandparents in Key West, Florida. The tropical atmosphere and the inviting spirit she remembers from those trips work their way into her projects.

Katie Denton, owner of Bees Nees, in one of her renovated pink cottages, The Libby. It’s used as a work space for her company. (Kendall Warner/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS)

Throughout The Pink Bungalows, Denton has incorporated styles from around the world. Pops of color and flair hearken to the Caribbean, Mexico and India in fresh, unusual and tasteful ways.

“The spaces sort of transport you,” she said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Denton transformed her home in Southern Shores, dubbed The Treehouse, into a vacation rental. She hired her friend Liz Hartz, a Virginia Beach interior designer, to lead the project. They revamped another rental property, The Cottage, a mile away. Denton picked out the furniture and prepared the home for guests. She fell in love with the level of planning involved.

“Intentional” is the word she uses to describe how she thinks through each piece.

The extent of the work needed for a makeover of The Pink House, a 1937 cottage that is the centerpiece of The Pink Bungalows, quickly became more of a challenge than she expected.

“It was really struggling,” she said. “The house was just sinking.”

A contractor was able to shore up the foundation and salvage all of the walls and the original living room floor. The Pink House features several bedrooms and a loft with twin beds for children.

Next to The Pink House was a “really awful-looking garage,” Denton said.

She transformed it into The Carriage House for intimate gatherings. It features a long dining table and a large beaded chandelier. French doors lead to the backyard, where wispy, beachy plants line the edge of a brick patio. Pink and white umbrellas are next to a heated saltwater pool. Even the garden hose and the electric golf cart are pink.

The heated pool behind the main cottage.
The heated pool behind the main cottage. (Kendall Warner/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS)

The Libby is a second beach cottage, bright and tropical, that Denton renovated and uses as a workspace and for event rentals. Behind it is The Liz, an old shed converted into a plush sitting room. On display there are pieces from a glassware line that Bees Nees developed with the Chrysler Museum’s Perry Glass Studio. A third home, The Kate, is a yearly rental.

Denton likes to support local businesses, especially women-owned companies, that provide catering, floral and gift services as well as some of the décor. She is excited about a commercial renovation she’s about to embark on, and it will be her most extensive yet, she said. She isn’t ready to share details.

“The next big one is going to be another preservation project because that’s really important to me,” she said. “I love that you can look around in Virginia Beach and still see some of the original Virginia Beach.”

Copyright 2023 The Virginian-Pilot. Visit pilotonline.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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