George Marrone’s beach getaway is a midcentury modern cocktail: a shot of sophistication and a splash of whimsy, shaken gently and served straight up.
The 1,200-square-foot townhouse in Rehoboth Beach was built in the 1970s—“well loved, with great energy and a lake view”—and was in its original condition when Marrone and partner Michael Nocera bought it in 2019. They immediately began stripping away the ’70s and transforming it into a spare, hip retreat with a ’50s vibe, with Marrone providing the design and Nocera taking on most of the construction.
“I wanted to pare it down and add natural wood elements, with shades of blue-gray walls throughout to create a relaxed, modern retreat,” he says. “We wanted to create a place that when we arrived for weekends felt relaxed yet still us.”
The couple’s primary residence in North Wilmington, built in 1959 by the artist Carolyn Blish, is steeped in midcentury style as well. The beach house is a less formal riff on that sleek and sensual design sensibility, with rustic floors, a shiplap fireplace wall and vintage oars displayed on the wall in the dining room. Soaped white oak, with its lightly distressed finish, is paired with teak, whose smooth and sinuous grain was a favorite of midcentury architects and furniture makers.
“While still modern, this house is more of a mix. Furniture is vintage and new, high and low, and less polished,” he says.
The iconic petal coffee table, designed by Richard Schultz in 1960 for Knoll, was the inspiration springboard for the interior. Marrone placed the table outside for a while so the teak petals could develop a worn patina before moving it to its permanent home in the living room.
Schultz took his cue from nature, basing the table’s eight segmented sections on Queen Anne’s lace that grew near his home in Pennsylvania. Marrone’s aesthetic is also energized by the outdoors.
“For this house, I was very influenced by its natural surroundings. The lake views and proximity to the beach and bay are reflected in the natural elements and color scheme,” he says.
“While still modern, this house is more of a mix. Furniture is vintage and new, high and low, and less polished.”
The family includes two Olde English bulldogges, Callie and Gracie, who are very much at home in the townhouse. Marrone chose distressed white oak flooring and stain-resistant fabrics on upholstered pieces that look and feel glamorous yet stand up to pet traffic.
“Our flooring throughout is very pet-friendly. Distressed white oak hides imperfections like no other I have seen. This is as much my dogs’ beach house as it is ours,” he says.
In re-imaging the kitchen, the couple retained the footprint and added new appliances, white cabinets with a matte paint finish, mixed metal hardware and open white oak shelves to balance sleek Calacatta quartz counters.
The furniture in the adjoining gathering area is spare and streamlined, blending frames of wood or rattan with tactile, neutral fabrics.
“Handcrafted details have always appealed to me, like Danish oak dining chairs with natural woven cord seats. Jute rugs, seagrass and rattan pieces add warm texture, while modern art provides an unexpected edge I like,” he says.
In the powder room, graphic wallpaper depicting birds and butterflies, produced by Schumacher in the 1960s, is a nod to both midcentury style and the natural environment on the lake.
“It more or less sums up my approach to design: warm, organic modern with a touch of whimsy,” he says. “I think a home can feel curated and casual, easygoing yet elegant, terms that do not need to be exclusive from each other.”