Photos by Dana Hoff
Marnie Custom Homes designed this idyllic coastal home in North Bethany Beach with nautical pendants and beautiful outdoor living space.
If anyone has sawdust flowing through her veins, it’s Marnie Oursler. “My father was a builder, my grandfather was a builder, my great-grandfather was a builder,” says the president of Marnie Custom Homes, who launched her business in 2007. “I’ve worked in real estate. I grew up building houses with my dad and I loved it.” The company is currently on a roll, building around eight houses a year. TV producers have taken notice: Oursler has hosted Big Beach Builds, which aired for two seasons in 2017 and 2018 on the DIY Network; she was also the host of HGTV’s Dream Home 2018.
Though her website displays what seem like types or models, each home is a unique custom build. “We never build the same home twice and I don’t build any spec homes,” she says. Case in point: a 3,400-square-foot project she calls Bay Daze in North Bethany. Bay Daze is the clients’ second home, but they spend a lot of time there—most of the pandemic quarantine. The 18-month execution went according to a tried-and-true, three-step process: wish list, budget and a mood board. “Typically, I base a lot of the design on their inspiration photos,” Oursler says. “And then I try to fit it all within their budget.”
And yes, as befitting its name, the whole point of the three-story house is to leave you dazed by the bay. “It’s a bay front home with a great location,” Oursler says. “The key thing was to capitalize on the views. We inverted the typical floorplan to put the kitchen at the top, along with a nice big great room and a screened-in porch.
“The goal was that when you land at the top of the stairs on the top floor, you just see nothing but water,” she explains. “I drew that kitchen. The clients were great to collaborate with, and they really wanted that zinc hood.” The kitchen also features a wood island with a quartz countertop, white maple cabinetry, a handy butler’s pantry and a separate beverage cabinet so guests wouldn’t be messing around in the main refrigerator just to grab a Coke.
The kitchen’s primary decorative touches are the white subway tile backsplash and the nautical pendants. But even the interior architecture serves a decorative purpose. Oursler installed exposed beams mainly to mimic a structural ceiling even though they aren’t structural, with an eye-catching crossbeam in the corner. The rift-cut white oak floor runs through the whole house. “It’s a casual look,” she says. “You want to go to the beach to relax.”
The master bedroom also occupies the top floor. “The whole design there was to walk through the bedroom and see the water the whole time,” Oursler says. “We used French pocket doors to the bathroom, which has a washer-dryer, a separate water closet, a double vanity and an oversized shower stall.” The marble on the shower wall reveals a gradient in aquas, blues, whites and grays. The second floor is filled with four additional bedrooms, and every bedroom on the water side enjoys its own deck.
With such outdoor access, it’s hard to stay inside. The outdoor living space boasts a hot tub, a ceiling-mounted swing sofa, outdoor showers lined with stone walls, and a dock leading to the boat. “The whole point was to be very convenient—get off boat, take a shower,” Marnie says. By the time you go inside, you’re clean and dry, not trailing sand or water through the house—only the memory of a day on the water.