This Dewey Beach Home Makes a Statement on the Forgotten Mile

This Dewey Beach home was built with height in mind.

Scott Edmonston, principal of Millville–based SEA Studio Architects, has a signature style: angular, modern and sustainable, yet homey. But when he creates houses in Dewey and Rehoboth beaches, where the lots are typically narrow—you can easily see the homes on either side—he makes sure that his designs are not discordant with the neighborhood. He must build something both relevant and architecturally distinctive—no easy feat. “I’m not drawn to spaceship architecture, like some beautiful object that just landed there,” he says. “It’s not something I like to draw, personally.”

Edmonston explains, “It’s about designing something that looks like it should be there, belongs there, but is also of its time.” Case in point: In a stretch of Dewey known as the Forgotten Mile, located between the bar scene and neighboring Rehoboth, the architect achieved this careful balance with a 3,500-square-foot very vertical home. “In this case, the house was finished in 2020 or 2021, so it’s of this decade, but then when you tie it back to contextual Rehoboth and Dewey—homes that people sort of expect to be there—it also takes on a sort of timelessness,” he says.

The full-time home—with its high ceilings, doorways and stair rails—is scaled to its owner, who is 6 feet, 8 inches tall.
The full-time home—with its high ceilings, doorways and stair rails—is scaled to its owner, who is 6 feet, 8 inches tall.

That timelessness reflects a sense of familiarity that makes people comfortable as well as stimulated. “We’re starting with proportion and scale and then texture and balance and all of that, so I think it should look like an architect has been there, but it should also look like a design that your grandmother would recognize as a house,” Edmonston says, noting that this philosophy transcends the Delaware seashore.

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Edmonston prefers to show a home’s structure, even subtly, as in the exposed beam in this bedroom.
Edmonston prefers to show a home’s structure, even subtly, as in the exposed beam in this bedroom.

“How you do that is a really fun and interesting challenge, and I also think it’s a good baseline for how you design houses all over the place—if you begin with understanding the historical context, you’ll have a really nice fabric to start with, from a design standpoint.”

For this south-facing, four-bedroom house—which is a full-time home, not just a vacation retreat—the architect’s stamp and his respect for tradition merge. With its two-tone shingled façade, stucco chimney and steep roofline in contrast with its tall, asymmetrical profile, it feels like a deconstruction of a coastal Delaware beach house: “We’re skinning the traditional gable-form box, and the cottage-style siding is something everybody recognizes. We’re tweaking the color a little bit, so it’s more of a modern kind of gunmetal.” (The other tone is synthetic wood.)

The sprawling multipurpose Great Room on the top floor represents the soul of the abode.
The sprawling multipurpose Great Room on the top floor represents the soul of the home, resting under oak structural beams, ducts and steel collar ties.

The house features what the architect calls “a twist”: two angled masses, one seemingly random from the other, that rise in a way so that the great room and an ample deck can be positioned on the top story. The great room contains the living space, kitchen and dining area, and occupies the entire floor under oak structural beams and steel collar ties. “They just feel like they’re supposed to be there,” Edmonston says of the exposed structural elements. “Even the layperson will stand in there and sort of feel comfortable, like something just feels right about it. The house isn’t lying to you. It’s not performing a magic trick.” Even the bedroom below the great room features expressed beams, to display the design’s structural integrity.

The architect describes the geometric, vertical design, with its angles in counterpoint, as having “a twist.”
The architect describes the geometric, vertical design, with its angles in counterpoint, as having “a twist.”

But with all the home’s inventive textures, angles, shapes and structural moments, it’s the verticality, which is reflected in the columns of windows, that keeps pulling focus. There’s a practical reason for the emphasis on height: The husband is 6 feet, 8 inches tall. “We needed to make some tall spaces throughout,” the architect explains. “He should never walk through a door that’s shorter than 7 feet, and even that is going to feel a little bit uncomfortable at times. Setting everything at 8 feet is really going to have the sense of scale that’s meeting him where he is.”

Related: 10 Brunch Hotspots at the Delaware Beaches

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