Harmonious Rehoboth Retreat

Symmetry is everything in this pavilion-style home designed on geometric grid.

Ken Sugarman and Tommy Llewellyn know that great architecture is the ultimate geometry lesson, a pursuit that combines lines, surfaces and dimensions.

Both partners are design pros. Sugarman builds and renovates high-end homes in the Washington, D.C., area and at the Delaware beaches. Llewellyn is an architect for the World Bank.

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When they built their own retreat in Rehoboth Beach, the couple turned to Hugh Newell Jacobsen, an architect who is known internationally for his modern, pavilion-style residences, including the home on Martha’s Vineyard he designed for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the 1980s. Every year, the professional journal Architectural Record chooses the 15 best new houses in the United States. Jacobsen has won the honor 20 times.

“We knew that he would design a wonderful, one-of-a-kind home for us—and he has,” Llewellyn says.

Essentially, the house is designed on a geometric grid in which architectural elements add up to the number 16. The stone pavers on the floors are 16 inches square. The large windows and doors on the back of the house are eight feet wide, which is 16 divided in half.

The result is harmonious flow free of friction, a subliminal invitation to relax.

“It’s pleasing,” Sugarman says. “You don’t know quite why, but everything works together.”

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Whiter Shades of Pale

Like their house, the homeowners are blissfully compatible in their design aesthetic. Both partners envisioned a sanctuary with spare surfaces, crisp angles and a monochromatic palette of various shades of white. 

“We are very simpatico,” Sugarman says.

“We don’t have arguments,” Llewellyn adds. “If I say ‘I want that,’ he usually says, ‘I want that, too.’”

To make clean-lined white cupboards in the kitchen, the couple commissioned Oceanic Ventures, a cabinetmaker in Lewes. Custom storage enables the homeowners to corral clutter and keep the kitchen sleek. A washer and dryer are hidden behind doors under the counter.

The couple chose Carrera marble for the countertops in the kitchen and baths. The stone’s milky tones and silvery veining are a subtle complement to stainless steel appliances and chrome fixtures. “Repeating materials helps to make a home feel cohesive,” Sugarman says.

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White stone floors laid throughout the house are elegant yet practical. “Stone is impervious to everything,” Sugarman says. “Wet feet, sandy feet, high heels.”

Vintage waterman buoys are mounted on walls to add rustic pops of color. The couple discovered the bright turquoise and red sign advertising Esther Williams swimming pools at Pelican Loft, a shop in Rehoboth that specializes in salvaged furnishings and architectural elements.

Left: The master bedroom, like the rest of the house, is done in various shades of white.
Right: A pair of pavilions are transformed into open-air bars when the couple entertains. 

Arranging the Furniture

In the gathering area, furniture is placed away from the walls, creating an aura of breathing room, a feeling of spaciousness. 

A large sectional sofa in the center of the room provides lots of seating. It’s a classic piece the partners have used in several homes. “It’s 20 years old,” Llewellyn says. “We’ve had it re-covered three times.”

In a previous, more traditional incarnation, the sofa was upholstered in a floral print. This time around, it’s covered in soft white, with tailored gray piping. To give the piece more contemporary lines, the couple replaced small, multiple back cushions with long, linear cushions. 

The seating area is anchored by a shag rug in a large block pattern of white and pale gray, a cozy counterpoint to the stone floor. “Shag is a more casual kind of rug, something people enjoy walking on in bare feet,” Llewellyn says.

A wall of glass sliders that forms the back of the room visually expands the space, as well. The glass also ushers in serene views of the pool and gardens. 

A Midcentury Master

The master suite is hip and spare, with a midcentury modern sensibility.

A pair of clean-lined, cream-colored chairs that flank a low and lean circa 1950 chest also are midcentury originals, rescued from the trash during an office remodeling project. Llewellyn recognized the chairs as the work of Jens Risom, a Danish designer who brought Scandinavian interiors to the United States. Lyndon B. Johnson, intent on giving the Oval Office a touch of youthful hipness, installed a Risom chair there in the 1960s. Today, you’ll find Risom pieces in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “What a waste to throw them away,” Llewellyn says. “It was our duty to salvage them.”

Sugarman and Llewellyn employed the time-honored design tip of combining vintage and designer pieces with furniture of more humble origin. They bought the bed from IKEA. The streamlined side tables are from West Elm.

The total effect looks hip, relaxed—and expensive. “Good design is good design, whether it comes from Target or New York City,” Sugarman says.

The master bedroom adjoins a private screened porch furnished with a large daybed that can be wheeled outdoors to provide extra seating during large gatherings. In day-to-day life, the porch is a tranquil retreat that offers an intimate connection with the outdoors.

Sugarman and Llewellyn envisioned the grounds surrounding the house as a series of open-air rooms. Paxton Holt Jordan, a landscape architecture firm in Milton, designed a California chic setting with an East Coast twist. Flowering crape myrtle and hydrangeas, all in white, mirror the pale palette inside the house.

If the oversized settees, chaises and market umbrella on the patio look as if they might be at a resort it’s because they were designed for use at high-end hotels.

“Commercial furniture costs a little more going in but it will last much longer because it is made to stand up to constant use,” Sugarman says.

A tall hedge buffers the yard from neighbors. A dining table and chairs are stationed in a small grove in the side garden. A hammock is tucked away in a stand of trees in the far corner of the property.

A pair of pavilions are stationed at either end of the yard. On most days, they serve as massive garden sculptures. When the couple entertains, the structures are transformed into open-air bars. A shimmering Roman-style pool is ideal for swimming laps, or, Llewellyn notes, “getting your feet wet while you’re enjoying a cocktail.”

Left: The living room doors open to create a seamless connection with the outdoors.
Right: The Roman-style pool is ideal for swimming laps.

Super Space Planning

There are pocket-sized patios outside each guest room, allowing visitors to enjoy morning coffee or a nightcap without disturbing others in the house.

Each guest room is furnished simply, with a bed, a pair of nightstands and a chair. Flat-screen TVs are mounted on the wall. Storage is provided by built-in cupboards. To keep the tops of the nightstands clear for a book or a drink, pendant lamps are suspended from the ceiling.

The architect designed window seats in the foyer, ideal for quiet reading. Beneath the seat, there are drawers for storage.

“He made every square foot count, without making the house feel crowded,” Sugarman says. “That’s the genius of his design.”   

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