Bill Nussbaum enjoyed an idyllic boyhood summering in the laid-back North Shores community in Rehoboth Beach.
His longtime dream was to extend that warm and wonderful experience to his wife, Susan, and their two children—and to the grandchildren that will some day join the family.
“We wanted a place our grown-up kids could come back to, year after year,” Bill Nussbaum says. “I had a great childhood here, and I want to keep that tradition going for future generations.”
The Nussbaums, whose primary home is in suburban Washington, D.C., also wanted to spend more time at the beach. They envisioned a year-round retreat that would be just as relaxing on a snowy winter night as it is at the height of summer.
Having a large, inviting home was especially important for these soon-to-be empty nesters, who also take tremendous pleasure in sharing their getaway with friends.
They found it in a nearly completed spec house, ideally sited just a few doors down the street from Nussbaum’s mother.
In addition to the tranquil setting, the property offered a slip on the yacht basin inlet for the family’s boat.
The lot is pie-shaped, with the widest section fronting the water. That offered exciting design opportunities for the builder and architect, Yavar Rzayev, founder of The Great House in Rehoboth.
“I designed it so that every room has a water view,” Rzayev says. “Even the bedrooms on the front of the house have a view.”
By the time the Nussbaums bought the house, the finishes and fixtures had been selected by the builder.
“We came in at the ceiling fan stage,” Bill Nussbaum recalls.
The dramatic coffered ceiling in the gathering room was already in place, as were Brazilian cherry floors. A whole-house audio system filled the home with music. The kitchen sparkled with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Baths were outfitted in marble, onyx and high-end ceramic tile.
In the end, the couple was grateful they didn’t have to invest all the time required to make the choices themselves.
“Thank goodness Yavar has good taste,” Susan Nussbaum says.
To help create a welcoming, all-season decor, the Nussbaums turned to Pamela Gaylin Ryder, a Washington, D.C.-based designer who frequently decorates homes at the Delaware beaches.
The Nussbaums gravitate toward soft yellows and greens, inspired by stands of pine trees in the neighborhood. Their goal was to create a relaxed vibe, where guests feel free to put their feet up on a coffee table constructed from distressed wood.
“We used earthy colors and a more sophisticated palette than the typical shells and blue theme you often find at the beach,” Ryder says. “We used textured looks for durability and contrast, including some fabrics with Sunbrella technology.”
The designer arranged for the couple to buy most of their major pieces directly from furniture manufacturers in North Carolina.
“In addition to getting high-quality furniture at a competitive price, ordering from the manufacturer also allowed us to work with a very short timeline,” she says.
The designer and the homeowners collaborated to combine art and accessories the Nussbaums had collected over the years.
A painting of the sea over the mantel is the work of Martha Spak, who has shown at the nearby Rehoboth Art League. Susan found the one-of-a-kind brass framed mirror at Tulip Ltd., a boutique in Rehoboth that specializes in Asian, European and Mexican pieces, as well as handmade and artisan lighting fixtures and accessories. The glass-and-metal console table in the foyer is the work of Sabra Richards, who operates an art glass studio on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The windows are dressed simply, with rattan blinds, a chic and streamlined alternative to traditional draperies.
“Rattan blinds offer light filtering and texture without the heaviness of some fabrics,” Ryder says.
Multiple cooks can share a spacious kitchen that is open to both the gathering room and a casual dining space.
Stocking groceries to feed a crowd is simple, with a full-size, side-by-side fridge and freezer. A second sink serves multiple purposes, for prep, cleanup and the bar. There are two dishwashers, ideal for hosts who enjoy entertaining a houseful of guests.
The Nussbaums spotted a long, farmhouse-style table made from salvaged planks in New York City, just right for casual dining.
“But it was too large for the space, so we asked them to make one that is a bit smaller for us,” he recalls.
There are chairs on one side of the table and a bench on the other. A bench makes it easy to squeeze in an extra diner at meal times, she notes.
“And you can either sit on the bench facing the table, or turn around and sit facing the kitchen when you want to talk with the people there,” she says.
A large, second-floor landing outfitted as a casual sitting room is Susan’s favorite spot in the house. The space also serves as a secondary living room, a spot for guests to congregate.
The peaked, soaring ceiling is crafted from tongue-in-groove wood, reminiscent of a lakeside getaway but with a fresh interpretation. The planks are set in a herringbone pattern.
“It reminds me of a cottage in northern Michigan,” she says.
Seating is upholstered in velvety deep blue, a comfy place to settle in with a book. Lamps with mercury glass bases add subtle shimmer.
“It’s not a beachy blue,” she says. “It’s warmer, cozier.”
The Nussbaums bought the white wicker end tables more than 20 years ago for their first home. The rustic texture and compact size make the tables the perfect fit for the kick-back feeling they wanted to achieve in the space.
“We just dusted them off and spray painted them,” she says.
The striking abstract painting of flowers blossomed from the imagination of Ward Ellinger, an artist who owns a gallery in Rehoboth.
“Even in winter, there’s a reminder of the garden,” she says.
At his own home, Rzayev unwinds at the end of the day in the soothing open air.
“I go to the top deck of my house, sit down with a drink and look at the stars,” he says.
He envisioned the owners of the North Shores house enjoying a similar experience. Before he started drawing designs for the house, Rzayev brought in a crane that would give him a bird’s-eye view of the property. That enabled him to find the sweet spot, the place where the family can take in the most expansive vistas.
From the highest deck, the Nussbaums can see pines lining the inlet and sunsets over the marsh, as well as ocean views.
“We are so glad we kept the trees,” Bill Nussbaum says. “We can still see the water, yet the foliage gives us complete privacy.”
There’s no need to lug refreshments to the rooftop deck. A fridge, mini-bar and cupboard for glassware are at the ready, installed in a niche by the door that leads outdoors.
A screened veranda on the main floor is a peaceful retreat from insects and rainy afternoons.
“It is the best place in the world to take a nap,” he says.
The master bath in the Nussbaum house is awash in luxury.
An enormous walk-in shower shimmers with tiles in a mother-of-pearl finish. The wall is curved, an artistic counterpoint to the sharp angles and hard finishes traditionally found in bathrooms. The edge of the double vanity is undulating rather than straight. The countertop is Jakarta marble, a rosy exotic species found in Indonesia. A rainfall shower head creates the feeling of a tropical getaway.
“To me, each bathroom should be a piece of original art, with each one different,” Rzayev says.
Every bedroom in the house has an en suite bathroom, all with custom stone and tile work and such niceties as built-in niches for soaps and shampoos.
“As a hostess, it’s so nice to be able to say, ‘Here’s your bathroom,’” Susan Nussbaum says.
The builder envisioned a room off the foyer as either a guest room or office. The Nussbaums transformed the room into a home theater, a favored retreat for the couple and their children, Rachel and Michael.
“It’s the perfect place to be on a rainy day at the beach in the summer and cold, windy day in the winter,” Bill Nussbaum says.
Rachel, a journalism student, is an aspiring fashion writer. She decorated her room in girlie glamour, with a deep purple sofa, tufted for extra drama, and a mirrored side table reminiscent of old Hollywood.
Decorating a room is a lot like putting together a fabulous outfit. Every room should include a touch of the unexpected, that special element that makes it unique.
To that end, Rachel chose the hip, leopard-print ottomans in the gathering room.
“They are everybody’s favorites,” her mother says.
Harness the hallways. Corridors and landings are more than passages between rooms. They are functional space, offering floor-to-ceiling possibilities. In the Nussbaum home, an open, second-floor landing is designated as an intimate sitting room. A smaller landing could serve as a home office, furnished with a desk, chair and laptop. A hallway is ideal for displaying art collections and family photographs.
High-efficiency zoned cooling systems are the antidote to muggy Delaware summers. But don’t forget ceiling fans, a low-tech solution for creating a cool breeze on porches and in bedrooms. Fans use much less electricity than traditional air conditioning and also add to the ambiance of a space.
Looking for inspiration? Go on house tours. The Nussbaum home was featured on the annual Cottage Tour sponsored by the Rehoboth Art League, which has been illuminating visitors for more than 60 years. Tours enable people looking for ideas to see a variety of styles, up close and personal, in a single day. Often, designers and docents are on hand to answer questions.
Embrace local artists and artisans. Displaying the work of talented individuals who live in your community gives your home an immediate sense of place. Also consider pieces made from salvaged materials. The mirror in the foyer is framed with vintage tin ceiling tiles.
Be playful. The family enjoys board games. A designated table in the gathering room makes it easy to get a round going. No game table? Set up a system that is conducive to family fun. Tuck the Scrabble box in the buffet. Keep the Chinese checkers in a cupboard near the kitchen table.