Seaside Surrender in Bethany Beach

Earthy tones and custom details make this property a home away from home.

The gathering room.

Linda and Bruce Pollekoff had never been to Bethany Beach. But when they were looking for a place to unwind, a friend recommended the town, known as one of Sussex County’s “quiet resorts.”

Only a few hours’ drive from their home near Washington, D.C., the couple came for a visit and were impressed with the pedestrian-friendly community and its shops and restaurants. They immediately decided to make Bethany their home away from home.

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“We are not ordinarily impulsive, but we immediately felt at home here,” Linda Pollekoff says. “We ride bikes. We walk. 

We slow down and relax.”

The Pollekoffs bought a wooded lot on a tranquil street, donating the existing house to a low-income home program in Dagsboro. To build their vacation home, they turned to Marnie Oursler of Marnie Homes, a fifth-generation builder who specializes in custom homes made mostly from sustainable, American-made products. 

“We went to see Marnie’s own home, and we loved the chunky moldings, the big pillars,” Pollekoff says.


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A Relaxing Retreat

With abundant millwork and built-in cabinetry, board-and-batten wainscoting and raw pine floors, their five-bedroom, five-bath beach house is a contemporary interpretation of the Craftsman style, a
contrast to the Pollekoffs’ more formal primary residence in Potomac, Md.

The HardiePlank exterior has the look of wood, yet stands up to salt air and ocean breezes. Porches and decks provide outdoor living space.

The core living area—an open gathering room, kitchen and dining space—is located on the third story, with bedrooms and a secondary living room on the lower levels. An elevator from the ground-floor garage makes it easy to transport cases of water and other heavy supplies to the kitchen. (It also spares the family’s elderly dog from having to climb the stairs.)

Jennifer Gilmer of Chevy Chase, Md., and Bethany Beach designed the kitchen with white, Shaker-style cabinetry. Linda Pollekoff loves to cook, so professional-grade appliances were a priority. The hood over the Wolf six-burner range is edged with a weathered log reminiscent of driftwood. 

A large island provides both prep space and an informal buffet. Silestone quartz countertops are luxurious yet durable. Counter-height stools have leather seats mounted on bases crafted from tree branches.

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To create a relaxed and elegant decor throughout the house, the couple turned to designer Karen Shapiro of Chevy Chase.

“Karen really understands our lifestyle and worked to make sure everything was functional, natural and comfortable,”
Pollekoff says.

Left to Right:The mud room offers ample storage space. The kitchen boasts a large island.



Shapiro designed several custom pieces for the Pollekoffs, including one-of-a-kind bookcases in the main room that are upholstered in a tobacco-color fabric, accented with white-leather nail heads.

The first-floor lounge provides a space for the couple to unwind with friends while their sons are entertaining college buddies in the upper-level gathering space. The lounge is outfitted with a hip, built-in martini bar. A large, sea-blue sectional sofa is conducive to conversation. The custom carpet is a patchwork of pieced antique rugs.

In choosing a palette for the house, Linda Pollekoff was attracted to the same hushed and serene neutrals she favors in her wardrobe. Throughout the house, the walls are painted Benjamin Moore Classic Gray, a pale shade reminiscent of wispy clouds.  

The stain on the raw pine floors also has gray undertones, unifying the space.

“We love the grain of the wood floors because it has so much character,” Bruce Pollekoff says. “It’s something that will only get better over the years.”

The upholstered furniture in the gathering space is slipcovered in white denim. Linda Pollekoff liked the crisp, fresh look of white. But she worried about the maintenance. 

“They are amazingly easy to keep clean and have worked out beautifully,” she says. 


The Getaway

The master suite is a soothing retreat with a blend of earthy textures. The focal wall behind the bed is made from planks reclaimed from a barn. A towering tufted headboard is upholstered in boiled wool. Suede and shearling cover the ottoman.

Instead of traditional matching nightstands, Shapiro designed one-of-a-kind pieces for the couple, a writing table and
a chest of drawers.

“They act as night tables but are better because the room allows for these pieces to be larger than a standard bedside stand,” the designer says.

The master bath is spa-like, with a barrel ceiling, oversized shower and a big, comfy chair covered in white French terrycloth. 

Architectural elements throughout the house are signatures of the builder’s work. There’s a secret door and sleeping nook for a dog built into the base of the staircase on the first floor. The upper-level powder room is accessed by a sliding, barn-style door, mounted on a metal track. The patterned tray ceiling in the hallway is made of reclaimed wood, a rustic counterpoint to a shimmering capiz-shell chandelier. 

Nine-foot ceilings and eight-foot doors enhance the feeling of spaciousness. In the top-level living area, the wood-plank ceiling is pitched with exposed rafters, soaring to 12 feet.

The dining area abuts the gathering room.

A New Family History

The corridors form an interesting gallery as a place to display photographs of the couple’s parents enjoying the beach half a century ago. The pictures are black-and-white, an intimate and artistic statement that hearkens back to the glamour of old movies.

“Black-and-white is mysterious,” Shapiro says. “It has a vintage feel.”

The older generation was photographed vacationing at the Jersey Shore and Long Island. The Pollekoffs have quickly adopted their new seaside home in Delaware, shopping locally for materials and furniture. 

All the plumbing fixtures came from Elegant Designs in Seaford. The Tile Market Stone Shop in Lewes was their resource for the bathrooms. Floors and the reclaimed wood used in the house were supplied by Old Wood Delaware in Harbeson. 

The family also embraced the community, opening their home for the local Beach and Bay Cottage Tour, which supports the South Coastal Library.

“This is a very special place,” Bruce Pollekoff says. “We are so glad we found it.”    

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