Seaside Modern

By Elizabeth Heubeck  |  Photography by Julia Heine



While traditional architecture continues to dominate the residential landscape in Bethany and other area beaches, modern aesthetics are finding their place among more classic-style homes. 

For much of their marriage, this Washington, D.C.-based couple searched for the perfect spot for their vacation beach house—one where they could host family and friends and revel in the outdoor lifestyle they both deeply appreciate. They thought they’d found it in a Cape Cod-style cottage fronting a canal on Bethany Beach’s bayside. 

One summer night about five years ago, while at their Bethany beach house, their dear friends’ house caught on fire next-door. Devastated, the displaced owners chose to start over elsewhere. But before the displaced family put their property on the market, they asked their good neighbors, who had come to their rescue the night of the fire, if they’d like to buy it. The couple debated for two years. Eventually, they said yes. Now, they’re so glad they did. As it turned out, the horrific event had a bright side. In a bold leap forward, they built a spectacular get-away house in its place with the help of architect Mark McInturff.

McInturff feels fortunate to have worked with the family to build this special house. The husband, a well-reputed home builder in the D.C. area, understood the complexities behind the effortless grace exuded by a handsome and well-crafted home.  And, because the clients had spent countless hours in their friends’ home, they shared an intimate knowledge of how to best showcase the landscape’s natural elements. 

“They knew everything about how the land was going to behave. They knew where the sun was, where the wind was,” McInturff observes.  

This pre-existing knowledge allowed them to make informed decisions, like where to position the pool. Many people would have built the pool in the back of the home overlooking the bay, for privacy and water views. But this couple had a different plan. 

Putting the pool in the front, the owners realized, would allow them to enjoy a wonderful afternoon breeze and welcome poolside shade after a hot day at the beach. And because it’s tucked behind a privacy wall in a courtyard of sorts, the pool isn’t visible from the road. 

Had the homeowners built the pool in the back of the house, poolside loungers would get scorched by the afternoon sun. They might also disturb the serene vibe on the back deck, where they enjoy ospreys, eagles and the estuary’s infinite life forms. Fortunately, the home’s well-positioned expansive windows allow someone to be in the pool and see straight through to the water views on the other side of the home. 

Together, several features of the home’s modern design frame the surrounding nature: clean lines, an open floor plan, ample windows, and outdoor views on all four levels—including a rooftop deck that affords breathtaking, panoramic visibility. 

“People want houses that are open and light-filled. It’s hard to do that in a saltbox,” McInturff observes. 

While traditional architecture continues to dominate the residential landscape in Bethany and other area beaches, modern aesthetics are finding their place among more classic-style homes. 

This unique residence intermingles elements of both. Its traditional vernacular shape fits in well with the other homes in the neighborhood. But, as McInturff points out, the roof’s classic gables bookend a very modern middle. 

“The middle speaks to the way they want to live,” McInturff says. 

On the main floor, the maximally open design creates an exceptionally airy feel. But the living area’s intentionally minimalist appearance doesn’t spill over into the austere, thanks to subtle “warming” touches like a wood ceiling. Other home details add intrigue and depth to the overall aesthetic: cedar shingles, black windows juxtaposed against white siding, exterior spiral stairs, and stainless cable deck rails, to name a few. 

Another deliberate design decision was to direct all external views toward the natural landscape. “From the inside, you can’t see another house,” McInturff says. 

What you do see from the home, which fronts a canal, is a view of the inland waterways, namely Beach Cove and the Indian River, as well as the ocean’s horizon. McInturff believes it offers the best of both worlds: water views, but with more depth than if you were simply staring out onto the ocean. “Here, there’s no ‘black hole’ syndrome at night, where it goes dark, and that’s it,” he says. 

The couple regularly indulges in the simple pleasure of gazing upon the water views. She delights in the gentle rocking of their old-fashioned rowboat at the water’s edge. They both gauge the wind with regularity:  she’s checking to see if conditions are right for a row; he, for a bike ride. If not, they can always choose to stay at home and enjoy nature from one of several vantage points—inside or outside the house, in front or in back. 



ARCHITECT: Mark McInturff,, Bethesda, Maryland  |  CUSTOM BUILDER: Hugh H. Hickman & Sons Inc.,, Bethany Beach, Delaware



Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 11, No. 4 2020