After misfortune and disaster, family rebuilds waterfront home
Elizabeth and David Whelan, of Seabrook, suffered a double-whammy loss in 2008. Just six weeks before Hurricane Ike destroyed their waterfront home on Galveston Bay, thieves had broken in and taken just about everything that wasn’t nailed down while the Whelans were out of town. Rather than walk away, this resilient family dug in and rebuilt.
Much of their inspiration to rebuild their Seabrook home came from their daughters, Victoria, 12, and Catherine, 10.
“So many people said they would never return after what we went through,” Elizabeth Whelan said. “But, we couldn’t wait to get back. It’s all our daughters have ever known, so it was home to all of us; it was our life. We took an unfortunate disaster and used our resources to rebuild a dream home on a budget. We knew it was probably the only chance we would have to do that, and that’s pretty much how we attack life.”
Crews broke ground in April 2009, hauled in 7 feet of dirt and sank poles 42 feet into the ground. A few months later, the 2,800 square-foot house — rising 12 feet above the driveway — was completed.
The two-story house with three bedrooms and three baths, office, media room and recreation area, was designed by David Whelan with the help of architect David Garcia.
David Whelan, who has an engineering background, acted as general contractor. As the owner of a boat repair and design company, he had access to many materials normally found on boats, so the home is unique in that aspect. Mahogany kitchen cabinets and teak bathroom cabinets were built by a master woodworker at Whelan’s shop.
The HardiPlank exterior — Sherwin Williams’s Resilience Paint in Aqueduct — is moisture and mildew resistant. The outside stair balusters are anodized aluminum and the wire cable is stainless steel. Front and back decks are made from Epay wood, which is extremely hard and durable for salt sea air environments.
Upon entering the house, a 30-foot cupola rises above the front door. The floors and all doors are solid oak. Interior stairs and handrails are also oak with metal spindles. Impressive archways are noticeable in the open-concept kitchen/dining/living room, all with seaside views. Walls are mostly white, yet occasional hues of soft blue and sea green are subtle reminders of the home’s coastal vibe.
Elizabeth Whelan is particularly fond of the granite countertops in her kitchen — Juparana Fantastico pattern — with dark veins of black on brownish yellow-gold.
In the living room, a sailboat-themed upholstered chair, purchased from a resale shop, is the first piece of furniture Elizabeth bought for the new house. Lamps are from Island Furniture in Seabrook. White, sheer curtains frame French doors that lead to the first floor back deck.
The master bedroom and bath extend from the living room, offering the Whelans more views of the bay. Wooden blinds, hanging bedside lamps and a sliding oriental door between bedroom and bath are nice touches. The master bath with Jetta tub and shower are tiled with travertine and glass-beaded borders. The custom-built teak cabinets with louvered doors are similar to those found in the galley of a yacht.
Family photos and art by Elizabeth and her daughters hang on the stairwell wall. Photography by Elizabeth’s father and paintings by her stepfather are prominent throughout the house.
Victoria and Catherine share a bathroom with pink vanity, but each girl has decorated her bedroom to reflect her very own personality.
Catherine, who is wild about Katy Perry and all things Parisian, has decorated hot pink walls with posters of the popular performer, as well as decals of the Eiffel Tower and other “ooh la la” embellishments.
Victoria shares her room with her pet gecko, Austin, and prefers marine life and reptile décor on the deep blue walls. She also plays trumpet in the school band. Both girls participate on swim teams.
A rescue terrier, Hope, and a parakeet, Fanta, complete the Whelan family. The best thing the Whelans like about their new home is hanging out together.
“We survived and we came back stronger,” Elizabeth said.