Open Your Designing Mind to Beach Chic

Gain inspiration at this month’s Designer Show House in Rehoboth Beach.

The apartment space is defined by sloping ceilings and keeps with the cottage’s romantic beach theme.

IF YOU GO: The Designer Show House will be open the first three weekends in May: May 2-4, May 9-11 and May 16-18, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 if purchased by April 25 and $25 after. Free street parking; carpooling encouraged. (227-1631,


- Advertisement -

Decorating ideas are like sea shells. It’s fun to collect them.

And you can enjoy them again at home.

At the Designer Show House in Rehoboth Beach, visitors can gather pails brimming with inspiration, from a romantic master bedroom to a chic guest apartment over the garage. 

The event benefits the Village Improvement Association, a volunteer group that has been raising money for projects that benefit the community since 1909.

An open-concept family room and kitchen designed by Josephine Keir and Taylor Wells of Lewes is set against a pale, sea blue backdrop that unifies the spaces. The seating area is grounded by a one-of-a-kind silk-on-cotton carpet loomed in northern India that is patterned in pink and gold on a blue field.

- Partner Content -

“A great carpet unifies everything else you want to do in a room,” Keir says.

In a beach house, guests need lots of places to perch. She maximized a compact seating area with a striped, apartment-size sofa, a pair of chairs upholstered in a large floral print and a lean, clean-lined chair in aqua leather. A tufted tangerine ottoman under the cocktail table can be pulled out for additional seating.

A console table and occasional tables are made from weathered wood, conjuring an image of driftwood for a relaxed, kicked-back feeling. 

Small oil paintings displayed in gilded frames add a contrasting touch of glamour.

“They are all sea scenes by artists from Britain and the United States,” Keir says. “People like art that reflects water when they come to the beach.”

- Advertisement -

The family room provides guests plenty of places to perch—including an ottoman that can be pulled from under the cocktail table.

Awash in Inspiration

Among the other designer ideas:

  • An ornately carved fireplace mantel takes center stage when it is surrounded by dramatic, deep green walls in the formal living room designed by Mark Showell Interiors of Rehoboth.
  • Patterned wallpaper and luxurious printed fabrics are combined in the master bedroom designed by Dreamweaver Interiors of Rehoboth. The theme is beach cottage romantic.
  • Landscape lighting allows people to enjoy the garden after the sun goes down. Mike Schimmel and Erin Walls of Bella Terra Landscapes in Lincoln also installed lighting to spotlight two statues previously collected by the homeowners. 
  • A jot of an apartment over the garage gets a jolt of bling with a chandelier. A settee and two chairs are set in a niche defined by sloping ceilings. By working with the existing architecture, designer Mary DuBois of Mary DuBois Interiors in Lewes was able to keep costs under $3,000.


(left) An apartment over the garage was decorated by Mary DuBois of Mary DuBois Interiors. (right) The spacious kitchen features modern amenities.

A House with History

This year’s show house was built in the 1940s as an 1,800-square-foot restaurant at Lewes Beach. The restaurant was a washout, so the building was moved to the newly paved Columbia Avenue in Rehoboth, where a front porch and two-car garage were added.

Previous owners include Jay and Dian Stein of the Stuart Kingston Auction House and Clem Conger, curator of the Kennedy White House and the State Department. Both sets of homeowners added their own touches to the house, which now encompasses 3,700 square feet. The current homeowners are Chuck and Nancy Donohoe. Nancy is a VIA member.


(left) The shabby sheep-themed guest room is a quiet place to catch some sleep. (right) A multi-generation guest room offers a nook for reading and relaxing. 

Old and New

Walter Gagliano of G&G Arte Inc., in Milton and Washington, D.C., designed a multi-generation guest room that incorporates a chest and bureau already owned by the Donohoes. The bassinet is on loan from the designer’s sister.

“That’s the way people really live, finding ways to use the things they already have,” he says.

Gagliano gives the room a twist with such touches as a traditional-style lamp sculpted in modern lucite. Rustic matchstick blinds are paired with panels of laser-cut lace. Two multi-pane mirrors hung side by hide form a headboard. The “canopy” is a rectangle of sky blue paint on the ceiling.

The theme in a first-floor guest room is “shabby sheep,” a blend of tactile textures, soothing surfaces and a dash of funk. Designer Debra Folsom of OohLaLa Design in Rehoboth painted the large portrait of a flock of sheep that hangs over the seagrass headboard on the bed. “What could be more relaxing than counting sheep?” she asks.

A carved wood chandelier hangs above a small table flanked by two reading chairs. Embossed vintage ceiling tins are displayed in shadow boxes. 

The finishing touch is a vintage dress form. Folsom clipped paper tags to the wires, each with the name of a favored destination to share with visitors, from the Delaware Greenways bike trail to the restaurant Nage in Rehoboth.

“Part of the fun of having visitors is sharing special places,” she says.    

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

Holiday flash sale ... subscribe and save 50%

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.