photographed by Erik Kvalsvik
While on an early morning jog through Lewes, Del., Vince Walsh spotted a couple hauling furniture out of their front door and onto the curb. “I knew it meant they were moving,” recalls Walsh. “The next day, we put in a contract. I have spent more time picking out tomatoes than I did this house.”
It was the property’s view that Walsh found immediately irresistible. The circa-1840 house, owned by a Delaware Bay pilot during the early 1900s, overlooks the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, a narrow arm of the Intracoastal Waterway that bustles with a year-round parade of boats. But despite its waterfront location, the structure took little advantage of the vista and surrounding green space. So Walsh and his partner hired Washington, D.C.-based interior designer Michael K. Bell, and spent two years remodeling the property. “They wanted the house to have a casual, informal feel,” says Bell. “They didn’t want it to feel like people couldn’t come in wearing bathing suits.”
Neutral tones coupled with traditional English and Caribbean-style furnishings lend the living room a British Colonial air. Vintage pieces, including a set of chocolate-brown wicker rockers and a large-scale model boat discovered in local antique shops, bring character to the space. Personal pieces from the couple’s travels dot the living area, including an abstract seascape marine painting that Walsh found in Paris, which now hangs above the Chesney mantel.
The adjoining dining room, also a study in neutrals with a sea grass rug and celadon linen drapes, is home to a 10-foot-long Irish sideboard found in Kensington, Md. “We hoped it would fit,” recalls Walsh, a partner at Tilton, Bernstein and Walsh, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate firm. “Six of us hauled it in with a quarter-inch to spare!”
The great room connects to the kitchen via an expansive colonnade marked by a 16-foot-tall vaulted ceiling accented with beams salvaged from an Austrian farmhouse. A wall of towering French doors introduces an inviting view of the pool while slate floors and oversized furniture make the space pleasantly low maintenance. “Between us, we have 43 nieces and nephews,” says Walsh. “So we wanted the home to be a kid-friendly place.”
Winding along the exterior of the 5,800-square-foot house are four distinct garden spaces created by Arlington, Va.-based landscape designer Scott Brinitzer. Directly off the kitchen, Brinitzer created a dining garden, lushly planted with vibernum ‘Summer Snowflake’ and assorted peonies. A fireplace and large table create an inviting gathering place for al fresco meals. A roofless pergola floats above the path of the adjoining herb garden, which intermingles with boxwoods, ‘New Dawn’ roses and Ladies Mantle. Bordering the pool and the gardens beyond are Italian Cypress trees, crepe myrtles, four types of hydrangeas and fall-blooming camellias, which create a lush privacy screen.
With the remodeling complete, the couple takes every opportunity to spend weekends lounging poolside, in the garden or sailing with friends in Delaware Bay aboard their custom-built, 36-foot wooden sloop, Ceili. “We enjoy our home year-round,” says Walsh. “We’ve nicknamed it the ‘Holiday Inn’ because we designed it specifically to share holidays and birthdays with family and friends. It has become a central gathering place for the people we love.”
Interior design Michael K. Bell,
Landscape design Scott Brinitzer Design Associates,
Arlington, Va., 703-892-0266, http://www.brinitzer.com
Custom-built boat Renaissance Yachts,
Queenstown, Md., 410-991-0213, http://www.renyacht.com