Let There Be Light
Renovations bring openness, reoriented views to couple’s waterside home
By Lynn R. Parks | Photographs by Carolyn Watson
From the September 2020 issue
Kevin Naff and Brian Buebel had a perfectly nice vacation house. Their nieces and nephews loved to visit, and the couple, who also live in Baltimore, enjoyed throwing parties there.
But in 2018, 10 years after purchasing the home, Kevin and Brian started thinking about eventually retiring to Sussex County. If they were going to live in their Rehoboth-area home full time, they realized, some changes had to be made.
For one, the loft looking over the great room was practically unusable. Dark, with just one small window, it was “wasted space,” Brian says.
The dining area was too small. The pool was fenced in in such a way that it was separated from the deck and tiki bar, making socializing difficult. And while the house is just feet from a small tributary of Bald Eagle Creek, its views were aimed away from the water and the marsh and toward neighboring houses.
Kevin and Brian hired Berlin, Md., architect David D. Quillin and explained to him their vision. And now, after the completion of last year’s seven-month renovation project, headed up by Rehoboth-area Turnstone Custom Homes, “we are still pinching ourselves to make sure that this is all real,” Brian says.
One thing the Quillin plans called for was putting in bigger windows and tearing down walls to get more light into the home. In the loft, for example, the roof was boosted up so that that one small window could be replaced with a large two-light, pentagonal window. Now, “it’s a great place to sit in the evening, have a glass of wine and watch the sunset,” Kevin says. A pair of binoculars sits on a coffee table in front of the window — “we get lots of wildlife, including birds, deer and fox, out there,” Brian notes.
Also in the loft, a half wall was replaced with a cable banister. That allowed light flooding through the new window to make its way downstairs to the kitchen. In addition, a wall that separated the stairway from the living area was torn out, allowing light into the great room from upstairs. “The change was really dramatic,” Brian says.
To shift the views toward the creek and marshland, Quillin’s design added a short wing on the back of the house, changing what was a straight line into an L. At the end of the new wing, next to a porch (downstairs) and deck (on the second story) is a wooden-slat privacy screen that blocks the view of the neighboring house.
“The new rooms are quite open in the direction parallel to the back of the house, which is where the views out to the [creek] are, so they create a strong visual axis in that direction,” Quillin says. In addition, the area on the inside corner of the L is now a deck with “cascading stairs” that also pull the eye toward the view.
The home’s new dining room “was pretty much designed around our table,” Kevin says. Ten feet long and able to accommodate 12 people, the table is made from old boards said to have been salvaged from the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk after the destructive Great Storm of March 1962. Like the table, the room is long and narrow, with enough space for guests to walk comfortably but snug enough “to keep people close together.” The chandelier, with a row of clear light bulbs, their filaments exposed, is long and narrow “to mimic the shape of the table.”
In the remodeled kitchen, the counters are gray quartz with white veining. Custom-made wall cabinets are walnut, cut from one piece of wood so the grain “really just flows around the room,” Brian says. The island is 11½ feet long, with plenty of space around it. “The kitchen is designed with entertaining and the flow of people in mind,” Brian notes.
Also perfect for entertaining is the new screened porch. It overlooks the deck, tiki bar and pool — its fence now gone — and is separated from the dining room by a wall of glass (including a door). The porch is furnished with stuffed sofas and chairs and is large enough to accommodate nearly a dozen people.
Quillin has visited the house once since the renovation was completed. “I was thrilled with how they had furnished it,” he says. In addition, “I was particularly happy with the feel of the dining room and porch … and with how the kitchen and living room now feel so much more expansive, yet still comfortable.”
“David Quillin did a phenomenal job,” Kevin says. “He turned what was already a nice house into a spectacular place. It really is our dream house.”