Couple transformed a once-modest Rehoboth home into a veritable gallery of visual delights
By Lynn R. Parks | Photographs by Carolyn Watson
From the September 2019 issue
The Rehoboth Beach home in which Kathleen and Rick Ellinghaus live started out as a guest cottage for Delaware River pilot Derrick Lingo and his wife, Martha, who had a house next door.
Rick and Kathleen bought the cottage in 1987 from Derrick and Martha’s great-nephew Bill Lingo and his wife, Jenkie. In 2005 they completed a major renovation, tearing down much of the original house, and building new in the same footprint but, because they went higher, with more space.
“We wanted to maintain the quaint, cottage feel,” Kathleen says. At the same time, “I didn’t want to make it too beachy.” Colors are largely earth tones, including sand in the dining room and sage green in the library.
In the foyer hang two pen-and-ink drawings by local artist Dolores Andrew — one showing the house when it was on the Rehoboth Art League Cottage Tour of Arts in 1993 and the second completed after its renovation. Just down the hall a bit, in the powder room, hangs a third representation of the house, a watercolor by Lewes artist Marilyn Feldman. The Ellinghaus home was on the RAL’s cottage tour for a second time in 2017 and Feldman was commissioned to paint it and the other six homes spotlighted.
“As soon as I saw our painting, I knew exactly where I would hang it,” Kathleen says. The bathroom wallpaper features big tropical vines and butterflies, “and I knew that the painting would look perfect there.”
The Ellinghaus art collection doesn’t end with those three works. Every room in the house has paintings on display, most of them by artists who are associated with coastal Sussex: Steve Rogers, the late Julie Molyneux Hoenen, Aina Nergaard-Nammack, James Drake Iams and Barbara Peterson. On the screened porch sits a small keg-shaped wooden ice chest — a gift to Rick’s father, William, when he retired from AT&T — that was painted by area trompe l’oeil artist Betsy Edgeworth. The image, which wraps around the cooler, depicts five houses along Henlopen Avenue — including the Ellinghaus cottage and, nearby, the former Lingo house.
“We like to collect works by artists who live here, so that we have something of the place where we are living,” Rick says.
The couple were initially attracted to the property because “it had a woodsy feel,” Rick says. “We are just a couple blocks from the beach, but here it doesn’t feel like you’re at the beach.” The house also sits back farther from the street than other houses in the area, giving it a secluded aspect, Kathleen adds.
When they bought the cottage, it had already been expanded beyond its original footprint. In their 2005 renovation, the only part of the house they kept was a room that had been added earlier as a dining room. That room now is their living room (or “gathering room,” Kathleen says). The gas fireplace is set into a gray stone surround that stretches from floor to ceiling and is deeper than the wall so that it extends into the adjacent dining room.
Making the fireplace surround part of the dining room wall was the idea of Rehoboth Beach architect Jim Ellison, who has worked for the American Institute of Architects and as special assistant in the office of the Architect of the Capitol. Ellison is also responsible for the fact that all of the home’s hallways have a view of the outdoors.
“The sight lines were a big thing to him,” Kathleen says. “And really, how nice it is to always be able to see green.”
The front door opens into the dining room. There, a giclee print of a painting by Providence, R.I., artist Anne Packard shows a lone rowboat sitting on a beach. The Ellinghaus’s grandson Connor, now 14, told his grandmother several years ago that the boat was sad. “It’s just sitting there, alone, waiting for it to rain,” he said.
What was the master bedroom, another early addition to the cottage, was torn down to make room for a library, where the couple have their desks. Hanging on a wall is what Rick says was his dad’s real retirement gift (in addition to the ice chest): a Pacific coastline scene painted by noted Disney artist Peter Ellenshaw. On the room’s vaulted ceiling, grass cloth covers the spaces between rafters.
A hallway, called the “gallery” because one wall is lined with artwork, parallels the stairway and leads to the master bedroom, painted pale blue and with a built-in dresser. Just off the hallway, tucked in under the steps, is a glass-front lighted cupboard. Both the dresser, in a space behind the bathroom plumbing that otherwise would be empty, and the cupboard were suggestions from architect Ellison: “He loves to use space,” Kathleen says.
The Ellinghauses made Rehoboth their permanent home after Rick retired as a gastroenterologist in 2014. They love living in town, venturing out onto Route 1 only when they are headed on vacation or when they visit Kathleen’s sister in Lewes. Otherwise, “we can walk everywhere,” Rick says. “This really is such an easy place to live.”