Owners Joann and Phillip Burnstein
Art in Tv Room
Mid-Century Modern Do-Over
Original 1960s structure provided a template for this North Shores rebuild
By Lynn R. Parks | Photographs by Carolyn Watson
From the October 2021 issue
When Philip Burstein was a child, his parents brought their family every year from their Falls Church, Va., home to Dewey Beach for summer vacation. “My mother always wanted a beach house,” Phil recalls, and in 1961, Lenora and Robert Burstein bought an oceanfront lot in the brand-new North Shores development just beyond Rehoboth Beach.
Two years later, they built Lenora’s beach house, designed by noted Washington, D.C., architect Charles M. Goodman. “It was mid-century modern completely through, from the building to the decoration and furniture,” says Phil’s wife, Joann, who started visiting the house in 1967, a year before the couple were married.
Lenora died in 2000 and Robert a few years later. After Phil and Joann acquired the house in 2011, they discovered that the ungalvanized steel pillars used in its construction were rusting. Architect Susan Frederick, of Rehoboth Beach, advised them to build new, as repairing the damage, as well as replacing single-pane windows and updating the heating and air conditioning system, would be more costly. So that’s what they did.
Even so, in designing the home, “we went back to the old house and its wonderful plans,” Joann says.
As did the old house, the current one faces the sea. A wall of windows overlooks the beach, as was the case in Lenora’s house.
The new house is slightly wider than its predecessor and is elevated a bit more. It has a second story, something that Lenora always planned to add. And while the original kitchen was all enclosed, with a swinging door that led to the oceanfront dining room, the new kitchen is open to a great room.
Floorboards throughout the house are black walnut, harvested from a Virginia farm that Joann and Phil owned, and bleached as light as possible.
In the great room, three walls are medium gray. The end wall in the living area is a darker shade of gray, tending toward green. “I didn’t want white walls,” Joann says. “But I wanted a gallery-type look, so we could put any type of art on them and it would look nice.”
Two sofas, covered in soft blue leather, face each other in the living area. Along the gray-green wall are two Barcelona chairs, covered in cream-colored leather; in between them is one of the chair’s matching ottomans, serving as a table. The gas fireplace behind the chairs is flush with the wall and surrounded by shimmery blue and green tile.
The square pedestal table in the dining area is made from the same wood as the floors, but left unbleached. Two side tables, also black walnut, can be secured to the dining table with brackets to make enough room for up to 18 people. The tables, as well as an octagonal games table on the second floor at which Phil is teaching his grandchildren to play poker, were custom-made.
Oak cabinets in the kitchen are stained gray; the granite counter, with a pattern that resembles waves, is black, gray and white.
Also on the first floor are the TV room, library, and master bedroom — where a door in the back wall gives access to a catwalk along the north side of the house, leading to stairs to the second-story deck. The library rug, which is blue, red and tan, as well as thick and heavy, is Phil’s favorite of the several Turkish tribal rugs he and Joann have. An aluminum ladder, fabricated by welder Nate Landis of Lewes (who makes boat railings) rolls on skateboard wheels along a track in front of the eight-shelf bookcase.
On the second floor are four bedrooms and four bathrooms. “Not any bedroom wall touches another bedroom wall,” Joann says. “I wanted privacy; in the old house, you could hear everything that was being said in the other bedrooms.”
Throughout the Burstein home are works of contemporary art, including several pieces by Washington painter and printmaker Jack Perlmutter, whose works also hang in the National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, where he was a teacher; by Jack Lewis, who lived in Bridgeville and was active in the Rehoboth Art League; and by Rehoboth-area artist Rebecca Raubacher.
He says that there’s a commonality between admiring his and Joann’s art collection, and sitting on the deck and watching the ocean. “I find it all very calming,” he says. “Looking at the art and looking at the ocean — both inspire reflection.”