As a child Katie Denton would travel to Maryland’s Gibson Island to visit her great-grandparents and Key West to visit her maternal grandparents, so some of her fondest memories took place in quaint cottages on the water.
Those days spent in simple, cozy homes were the launchpad for an idyllic childhood and the origin story for Bees Nees – a boutique collection of beach rentals located in Virginia Beach.
“I really love the time spent with family and the memories we made,” Denton says. “Especially times with my grandmother, who instilled in me a love of hospitality, of playing host.”
Denton, 47, founded the business in 2019 with a goal of creating unique spaces for people to relax, find peace, and create memories. The first vacation spots she converted were in the Outer Banks. Those rentals have since been sold.
That has allowed her to put all of her energy into the Pink Bungalows, a beautiful collection of rental units in Virginia Beach’s Vibe District, not far from the Oceanfront. The bungalows are an explosion of coziness and color, the design of which was inspired partly by the Playa Grande Beach Club in the Dominican Republic.
The rentals sit on two plots and feature five options: the Pink House, the Carriage House and three smaller structures named the Libby (after her grandmother), the Liz (after her friend) and the Kate (after the Princess of Wales).
Seeing it all today, you’d never believe the poor condition it was once in. “[It] needed to be brought back to life,” Denton says. The Pink House, which dates to the 1930s, was likely a Sears kit home. From 1908 to 1942, the company sold about 75,000 such homes, which could be ordered out of a catalog and put together on site.
Denton, a Baltimore native, said that before the repairs on the cottage started, a contractor suggested she just tear it down. “The house basically wasn’t level and it was really filthy,” she says. “But I walked in and saw potential and immediately had a vision.”
That vision was born on Gibson Island, her great-grandparents home and the original Bees Nees. Her family loved a good party, they loved to sail, and they loved the memories they made on the island. Denton dreamed of recreating that rich family tradition with her own collection of cottages.
What intrigued her most about the property was its personality. She said the main house looked like the quintessential beach cottage from her memory, with cedar shakes and shutters. Denton repurposed many items found during the restoration. She recovered three antique windows and fashioned those into a gorgeous bay window with all three side-by-side. The pieces were installed right off of the Pink House’s primary bedroom and overlook the heated pool and terrace.
Thanks to her persistence the rental and its grounds have since transformed into a sought-after vacation destination and event venue. It recently hosted two glamorous fashion dinners in the Carriage House and is a popular spot for parties and family getaways.
And the Pink Bungalows likely won’t be the last the city sees of Bees Nees. Denton is constantly exploring things. “I’m always thinking, dreaming, and scheming,” she says. “My mission is just to preserve structures.”