SEA Studio principal Scott Edmonston was delighted when he connected with architecturally astute clients who were eager to live in an organic-feeling modern house—a reinvention of the home that had stood on the same lot. “I’d say it’s a warm contemporary,” the architect says. The residence became not just a temporary refuge from the pandemic but a year-round home.
When the Virginia-trained architect moved to Delaware with his wife over a decade ago, he launched SEA Studio Architects because “there weren’t any other firms in the area doing the kind of work I wanted to do,” he says. One look at the Cardinal Residence in Rehoboth Beach easily proves his point.
Edmonston found the right clients for his sensibility. “One went to Yale for her undergrad and actually sat in on some lectures by some pretty famous architects at the time,” Edmonston says. “I think good architecture is driven by good clients, and this design really came from them. The architect’s job is to listen and to really make [a] client’s dream maybe even better than they thought it could be.”
Edmonston credits the neighborhood for being open to varying architectural styles. “Thankfully, the head of the architectural review committee is a retired architect,” he says.
The home, which is eminently inviting yet has a kind of glamorous mystique, is tucked away among the pine trees, a block and a half from the ocean, near Gordon’s Pond. There was actually a previous house on the lot—a modest place the clients liked the feel of but decided could never function as a year-round house. Rather than tear it down, Edmonston says it was “reconstructed.” The owners wanted year-round living, a desire only reinforced by the pandemic.
He describes the style as “contemporary but also familiar, and the proportions are good. So even if you like a Cape Cod and are drawn to a traditional Rehoboth house, you’re not going to be turned off by this house,” he explains. “It’s not intended to be a spaceship—it’s intended to fit within the site. I’d say it’s a warm contemporary.” The exterior is dominated by rich ipe wood (an exotic hardwood resistant to rot), but it also makes use of purplish fiber cement and Boral.
The home’s standout space is surely the double-height great room. “[Designing] it around the fireplace is the poetic architectural move, and it anchors the room,” Edmonston says. Stretching up to the ceiling, the fireplace is flanked by vertical windows and was created with local reclaimed wood from Lewes. The stacked stone is also local.
Right off the great room, the kitchen is similarly bright with natural light. It’s clean and somewhat Scandinavian in style. The surfaces represent a serene mix of pale woods and dark walls and flooring; the blond countertops are Caesarstone, while the slate-looking floors are actually porcelain tile. The interiors were designed by Jodi Macklin.
Beyond the kitchen lies considerable spatial originality. The dining room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows on opposite sides—one overlooking the woods and the other adjacent the sunroom—can be closed off or opened up to become a breezeway. It’s a flexible space with clerestory windows that invite in both light and air.
And this wouldn’t be Rehoboth without an outdoor shower, but the version in this home is particularly luxurious, evoking the finest rustic-elegant resorts in Napa Valley, California, with direct access to the indoor shower room.
“We’re trying to give you the sense that, wherever you are in the house, it’s relaxing,” Edmonston explains. Once the pandemic hit, his clients sent him a note: They wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on the planet.