Beachy Keen

In designing a beach house from the dunes up, a family gets the rare opportunity to build its own sand castle.

The kitchen features Shaker-style cabinets, cupboards that extend to the ceiling and a center island topped in walnut. Photograph by Barry HalkinImagine a sprawling, seaside cottage with a contemporary twist. Think open spaces for gathering, balanced with cozy crannies for private time. Visualize a home in harmony with the natural world of sea and sky.

To transform those musings into a 7,000-square-foot getaway in Lewes, the homeowners turned to Biff Bartron and Kevin Weinstock, partners in BW Design Group of Wilmington. Bartron handles the design end of the business, while Weinstock is in charge of getting the work done.

“The goal was to build a new house that looked as if it had evolved over time,” Bartron says. “This project was particularly exciting because we were doing everything from the architectural design to the landscaping to the finishes and the furniture.”

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Located in an established neighborhood of large, classic cottages, the site offers panoramic views of the Delaware Bay. The existing structure, out of place with the surrounding homes, was razed. Maximizing the original footprint was the first step in designing a new cottage more in keeping with the setting.

TThe courtyard’s stone walls create a warm space that’s free from the elements.  Photograph by Barry Halkino achieve an authentic look and keep the elements at bay, the exterior walls are clad in cedar shakes. The roof has the rustic texture of natural cedar, but the shingles are actually made from recycled rubber. Contrasting accent roofs were crafted from seamed metal. Stacked stone pillars topped with large bronzed lanterns define the entrance to the property. Sculptural river beech trees stand sentry.

“Love that peeling bark,” Bartron says. “So beautiful, especially in winter after the leaves have fallen.”

A retreat that is a destination for lots of visitors calls for a parking plan for multiple vehicles. Two separate garage bays can accommodate five cars. A small gravel plot can handle several more. To give the garages a more residential feeling, Bartron designed raised-panel wood doors stained in a honey finish that complements the cedar and stone exterior.

Page 2: Beachy Keen, continues…

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Because the house is set in high dunes, exterior space is limited. To maximize access to the outdoors, the designer came up with an ingenious plan to excavate a below-grade courtyard with dramatic, stacked-stone walls. Because the courtyard is sheltered from the elements, the homeowners can enjoy the space from the first blush of spring well into fall.

The floors in the large bath are sheathed in walnut. Photograph by Barry HalkinAt ground level, the stacked stone is topped with a glass knee wall that prevents anything—or anybody—from falling into the grotto. Yet it allows natural light to freely enter the courtyard and an adjoining game room accessed by glass doors.

“Sunlight streams in and you feel very connected with nature,” Bartron says.

Sited on the first floor, the game room is outfitted with a cozy bar equipped with refrigerator doors and climate-controlled wine storage. The cabinetry is crafted from distressed mahogany that might have been reclaimed from the captain’s cabin on a sailing ship. The hardware is wrought iron, cast in shapes reminiscent of nautical knots. Glass pendants with a soft amber glow are suspended on weathered iron rods above the counter.

“It’s warm and comfortable,” he says. “Nothing is too shiny.”

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Double doors separate the game room from a formal foyer. A small room tucked off the foyer is designated as a home gym. Throughout the house, there are places where the homeowners and their guests can find a private moment.

The screened porch is a prime spot to watch watercraft glide by on the bay. Photograph by Barry HalkinOff the open living, kitchen and dining area, there is a clubby den, ideal for watching a movie or catching up on e-mail. There is a large, screened porch, suitable for dining, playing board games or watching the ferries glide past on the bay.

“There are lots of intimate spaces,” Bartron says. “Nothing is cold—and nothing is too grand.”

In a large, inviting kitchen, Shaker-style cabinets are finished in soft white. Cupboards extend to the ceiling to maximize storage. The center island, topped in richly grained walnut, is expanded to accommodate a U-shaped extension. Outfitted with refrigerator drawers, it is an ideal spot for a bartender to set up for parties.

The expansive master suite is sited in a wing off the gathering area. It is a tranquil retreat, decorated in hushed neutrals that complement the water view.

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The bay-front home was built to appear as if it had evolved over time.  Photograph by Barry HalkinIn the large, luxurious bath, the decking on the soaking tub and the floors are sheathed in walnut.

“A wood floor in a bathroom is very practical if it is finished properly,” Bartron says. “And it eliminates the need for a heated floor because it isn’t cold, like stone or tile.”

“With the living space and master suite on the same floor, the homeowners can close off the other floors if they choose and use this as a New York-style apartment,” Bartron says.

Building from the ground up provided a blank canvas for such infrastructure as a whole-house audio system that enables listeners to select different music in each zone.

“Music is everywhere,” Bartron says.

The master suite, decorated in hushed neutrals, is spacious and serves as a tranquil retreat. Photograph by Barry HalkinOn the walls, corners are rounded for an aura reminiscent of old plaster. Every floor and every interior wall is insulated to keep sounds from spilling over into adjoining areas.

“It’s a minimal expense and a very effective way to create a quiet feeling,” he says.

There are three separate laundry areas, including a stacked washer and dryer in the master bedroom.

“Convenience, convenience and convenience,” Bartron says. “We wanted the third floor to be like a private hotel for guests.”

A large Jack-and-Jill bath is outfitted with such niceties as built-in hampers and an oversized linen closet to maintain a steady supply of clean sheets and towels for visiting friends and relatives.

In keeping with the casual, cottage vibe, the designer embraced such architectural elements as slanted ceilings. In a guest bedroom, an arched ceiling was detailed with wood strips and painted the soft brown of driftwood.

Page 4: Get the Look!



  • Dig it. To claim more outdoor space, the designer came up with a plan to excavate a lower-level courtyard.
  • Sweat the details. In the beach cottage, interior corners are rounded, creating the appearance of old plaster. In a guestroom, bunk beds are outfitted with individual reading lights. Wrought iron drawer pulls are fashioned in the shape of nautical knots.
  • For an infusion of warmth, turn to color. Woodwork is painted earthy green, an alternative to stark white. A vaulted bedroom ceiling is painted brown to suggest the ambience of wood.
  • Think infrastructure. Insulate interior walls and floors to boost the home’s quiet quotient.
  • Rethink materials. Large slabs of slate were cut down into 4-by 12-inch panels, then installed in a vertical pattern in a shower to conjure the look of rain cascading down the rocks of a waterfall.


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