A Rehoboth Beach House Is Transformed From Blah To Midcentury Dream

In Rehoboth’s North Shores neighborhood, a Miami-based design firm overhauls an early 20th-century home, reimagining what it was meant to look like. A sealable screened front porch beckons everyday use with comfortable seating and protection from inclement weather./Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg
Words by Drew Limsky 

Miami-based design firm Brown Davis transformed a blah beach house in Rehoboth’s North Shores neighborhood into the dream home it was meant to be.

Located on an enviably positioned lot in North Shores in Rehoboth, an ample beach compound sat in unenviable condition. Todd Davis, a principal with the Miami Beach–based Brown Davis Architecture & Interiors along with Rob Brown, explains that Rehoboth didn’t exactly have an exalted architectural history. “Rehoboth wasn’t like Nantucket during whaling times, or like Maine,” he says. “It didn’t have that wealth. The houses were just basic cottages and farmhouses.”

Here, the kitchen was expanded to be the center of the house by moving a powder room; a spacious countertop with bar seating was built to invite gatherings; and the opening to the living room was made bigger to create free-flowing spaces; nano doors added to the covered porch create an adjacent large family indoor-outdoor dining room./Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

So the firm went to work, overhauling the early 20th-century home inside and out, creating a simulation of what the house might have looked like in the first place (the three-bedroom main house is 3,000 square feet, with an additional three-bedroom guesthouse). “We started with the architecture,” Davis says. New serene blue shingles, oak floors, square wood paneling on the walls, evocative beadboard ceilings and round decorative windows to suggest portholes were added to look like they’d always been there.

In the indoor-outdoor dining area, the original brick chimney retains character, while new round windows add a nautical feel inside and out./Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

The interiors feature a subtle midcentury touch. “We were channeling kind of a 1950s era,” Davis explains. In the foyer, a cherry console from Scala Luxury—with its grid of circles—is a tone-setter. In the living room, Brown Davis custom designed a gray sectional and purchased reproduction standing lamps that also nod to the midcentury. Purple throw pillows provide color pops. One concession to the way we live now is the open-style kitchen: The designers knocked down a wall, using Oak Construction in Lewes for the job. Still, the starburst chandelier above the island continues the 1950s theme.

- Advertisement -
The home’s exterior was kept simple, to reflect its original character and neighborhood./Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Upstairs, the master bath is cleanly clad in subway tiles, while the window seat in the master bedroom looks like it has always been there. (Before Brown Davis got their hands on the home, this was just empty space.) Look closely to see that the walls are covered in a wood-facsimile wallpaper.

As befitting a beach house, much of the house’s energy derives from the wide front porch. “That porch wraps around the house,” Davis explains. “It’s always been screened, but we installed a system of plastic shades that can seal in the porch for the winter, but also for bad weather so it can be air-conditioned.” Thus, the space was made more functional, with a large dining table with purple wood and wicker chairs, and a hanging egg chair. Davis says he was determined that the home not be a cookie-cutter cottage with the typical blue and white coastal furnishings.

In the master bedrom, faux wood wallpaper creates a cozy space for rest and relaxation, the colors reflecting a calm, coastal atmosphere./Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

“It’s a fun little house,” he says—but one that took six years. Changes in concept and the uncertainty of the financial crisis caused delays, but once construction commenced, the project was completed within a year. “What we learned is that you can throw a ton of money at decorating things,” Davis says, “but if you removed all the architectural elements from this house, it would look kind of boring and not finished. That’s why we’ve gone into architecture, to set the stage before the props come in.”

Published as “Beyond Basic” in the December 2020 issue of Delaware Today.

Our Excellence in Nursing Awards event takes place on May 9!

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

Holiday flash sale ... subscribe and save 50%

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.