This Couple's Bethany Beach Home Has a Cheerful and Relaxed Style

When Carter and Matt Kirks moved to the coast full-time they embraced the beach in their lives—and in their decor.


Bethany Beach House Carter Matt Kirks

The homeowners created a multi-generational destination for family and friends.//photo by Joe Del Tufo


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Like a lot of kids growing up near Washington, D.C., Carter Kirks vacationed at the Delaware beaches. Her family’s annual trek to Bethany Beach was a tradition that began a generation before.

“My mom used to come here by ferry,” she recalls.

Carter grew up and got married. She, her husband, Matt, and their four children all enjoyed Bethany, too. Even after they moved to California, the beaches of the East Coast beckoned.

“We always have aspired to having Bethany as our final location,” she says.

When the couple moved back to the Washington, D.C., area they came up with a novel plan to make that dream a reality. They decided to rent an apartment in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. and buy a place at the beach.

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At first, they rented in Bethany, a savvy way to experience living in a neighborhood before they committed to buying or building. They settled on Tingles Addition, a laid-back community of townhomes, bungalows and large single-family homes, some of which overlook wetlands and the Salt Pond.

It struck them as just the right place for year-round living.

“We found a whole new world back here,” Carter recalls. “Crabbing, fishing and boating on the canal.”

‘This house honors our parents’

They bought a house on the Bethany Loop Canal with 100 feet of waterfront and razed it so they could build a larger property that would become a multi-generational destination, a place where the couple would gather with their adult children, grandchildren and extended family and friends.

Initially, the Kirkses thought it would take years to achieve that goal. But an inheritance from Carter’s mother allowed the couple to build sooner.

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“This house honors our parents,” she says.

Indeed, the couple is perpetuating their legacy with a warm, welcoming home with an open floorplan that promotes gathering.


Bethany Beach House Matt and Carter Kirks

The gathering room features a sectional sofa that faces a wood-burning fireplace.//photo by Joe del Tufo


To facilitate the flow, Matt drew meticulous plans for arranging furniture and fixtures using design software AutoCAD, down to the placement of the light switches.

“We wanted to be able to take advantage of the views, especially in our living area,” he says. “So, we came up with a sun room that wraps around house.”

A large kitchen is open to the gathering room, while a sizeable rectangular center island provides storage, seating for seven and prep space for three generations of cooks. Because they often feed a crowd, the couple invested in a commercial-size stainless steel refrigerator and a separate matching freezer.

“If something goes wrong with one of them, it’s much easier to swap out,” Carter says.

A combination laundry room and pantry is tucked behind barn doors, “great for the multipack of paper towels you get at Costco,” she says.

Relaxed and comfortable

The couple’s goal was to create a relaxed feeling, where nothing is too fussy. Hand-scraped oak floors were finished on site; scratches can be readily remedied with a dab of stain. A large sectional sofa faces a wood-burning fireplace. Down-wrapped cushions provide cozy seating, and slipcovers offer easy maintenance.

Bethany Beach House Matt and Carter Kirks

Color is an integral component of the home’s cheerful
vibe.//photo by Joe del Tufo

“You take the slipcovers off, throw them in the washer and hang them to dry,” she says.

The couple is committed to shopping locally, starting with their architect, Scott Edmonston, of SEA Studio, and builder, Allen Curtis of Cottage Construction, both in Bethany. They bought their appliances, including a steam oven that keeps food moist, from Coastal Maytag in Ocean View. They found a few vintage pieces at the much-anticipated annual bazaar at nearby Parish of St. Ann Catholic Church. Custom Cabinet Shop in Greenwood crafted raised-panel cabinets, outfitted with such niceties as a knife drawer, painted pale sea green, a one-of-a-kind color that reflects the homeowners’ affinity for nature.

In living color

Color is an integral component of the home’s cheerful vibe. The exterior is sunny yellow, with a bright coral door. The island in the kitchen is deep turquoise. The walls in the girls’ bunkroom are painted vibrant lilac. In the sunroom, a chartreuse dining table is surrounded by chairs painted in blues and greens. A focal wall of weathered planks blends painted blue, yellow and black slats with natural wood.

“We spent a lot of time with color wheels,” Carter says. “We went to the paint store and bought samples to bring home and compare.”

The spare, serene master suite is bathed in aqua. A two-sided gas fireplace inset in a wall of stacked stone warms both the bedroom and a sumptuous bath, where there’s a shower with three different heads for Matt and a jetted soaking tub for Carter.

“Every fixture we picked was something we knew we would use and enjoy,” Matt says.

Throughout the house are thoughtful details that enhance day-to-day living: a pull-out drying rack in the laundry room; retractable screens on all the exterior doors to usher in fresh air; pull-down steps in the bunk room.

To keep the project on track, the couple took a hands-on approach. “If the builder needed a decision, we were sure to give him a response quickly, so we could stay on schedule,” Matt says.

They also took on a variety of tasks themselves. Matt built the deck and shed. Carter decorated the house when an interior designer she had worked with was unable to fit the job into her schedule.

“It turned out for the best because there was no one to tell me I couldn’t do something,” she says.

Because the house is all about family, the Kirks’ adult children and grandchildren all signed their names on the sheetrock before the walls were closed.

The great outdoors

The couple has embraced life at the beach with accents inspired by the sea. In the master bathroom, towels hang from hooks shaped like seahorses. Seashells are displayed on an end table in the gathering space. Pillows are upholstered in prints of anchors and starfish.

A screened porch is accessed from the gathering room from one side and the master bedroom from the other. There’s a table for casual dining centered on a rug that depicts rows of red lobsters; a vintage icebox is repurposed as a bar. A swinging bed suspended on ropes from the ceiling can be used as seating or for sleeping on warm summer nights.


Bethany Beach House Matt and Carter Kirks

A screened porch includes a table for casual dining and a swinging bed that can be used as seating or for sleeping on warm summer nights.//photo by Joe Del Tufo


“We sleep out here often and it’s very comfortable,” Carter says.

A massive pedestal sink in the powder room was salvaged from an estate built by the Rockefellers in D.C. during the 1920s. Matt acquired it more than 30 years ago when the house was being razed. When it finally became time to install it, they required a master machinist to recreate the threads for the faucets, which hadn’t been manufactured for years.

“I’ve been hauling that sink around since 1985, including to California and back,” he says. “Now, it has a forever home—and so do we.”


Employ color to create a specific vibe. After poring over paint samples, Carter and Matt Kirks settled on a palette inspired by the sea and sun. Create bunkrooms for frequent houseguests. The couple enjoys extended visits from their seven grandchildren, who delight in their distinct spaces (one for the girls, another for the boys). Usher in the outdoors. The Kirkses’ home offers natural light and canal views via a wrap-around sunroom. Retractable screens on the exterior doors bring fresh air in but keep bugs out. Do your homework. To make informed choices, the couple researched appliances and fixtures ahead of time—even strategically planning the placement of electrical outlets. Embrace your favorite environment(s). The family’s love of the beach is reflected in decorative shells, seahorses and other coastal touches throughout the house.

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