The 1980s beach house—with walls and ceilings paneled in cedar and a gargantuan stone fireplace—felt like “the one” the minute Sue Weber walked in the door: “I knew immediately.” The retired attorney and her trial-lawyer husband, Paul, had searched for a place on the water for years. Finally, they found exactly what they wanted on a sleepy stretch of Delaware coastline called Broadkill Beach.
The place needed updating, of course, and Weber knew she’d have to open up the layout to take full advantage of its dazzling Delaware Bay and ocean views. But it was clear the house had been well loved—plus, she says, it was built “like a fortress,” with hurricane glass and an excess of pilings.
Though they couldn’t have known it then, the Webers found the house in the nick of time. They closed at the end of 2019, allowing them to start a top-to-bottom renovation by March 2020—just as the pandemic was about to turbo-charge demand for second homes in rural locales. Though the town is only about 20 minutes from the crowds of Rehoboth, social distancing is easy in Broadkill Beach, which has a single main road. A general store is the only business. “If you’re really comfortable with your own company, being by yourself, the people around you respect that,” says Weber.
By the end of 2020, the median home price in Broadkill had rocketed more than 26 percent. In 2021, prices were up another 17 percent. Throughout the pandemic, Weber says, she’s fielded “an inquiry at least once a week” from interested buyers. Unfortunately for them, with the house now fully transformed, she can’t imagine ever parting with it.
Designers Jamie Merida and Leigh Mayhew of Easton’s Jamie Merida Interiors, along with Kent Island–based general contractor Todd Valentine, helmed the remodel. The team opened up sightlines so that nearly every room in the house looks out to the water. After all, says Merida of his clients, “they bought the view.” Most of the cedar paneling was stripped away. The little that was left got painted white to resemble shiplap. The oversize wood-burning fireplace was knocked down; a much leaner gas one was installed in a different area.
Like the rest of the home, the new kitchen, with its crisp palette of white, blue, and brass, is what Merida describes as “coastal”—but not beachy. “There are plenty of people that want the sign that says ‘This way to the beach,’ ” he explains, “but really, this is a very sophisticated house.”
That doesn’t mean it’s precious. Most of the furniture—all from Merida’s shop in Easton, Bountiful Home—is upholstered in performance-grade fabrics. The rugs are indoor/outdoor. Accessories are relatively minimal. It all adds up to an aesthetic built for relaxing with family. Weber’s mother and twentysomething daughters are frequent guests, and her brother- and sister-in-law loved the house so much that they’re building their own home nearby.
“You can retreat to Broadkill Beach,” says Weber, “and feel like you’re on the other side of the world.”
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Deep Creek Lake
Broadkill Beach by the Numbers
2021 median home price: $680,500 (+17%)
Beach length: 3 miles
Drive time from DC: 2.5 hours
Drive time to Rehoboth: 20 minutes
Photographs by Robert Radifera for Stylish Productions; styling by Charlotte Safavi.
This article appears in the January 2022 issue of Washingtonian.
Values reflect the median price for homes sold from January through October 2021. All locations had at least 20 sales during that period. Data courtesy of Bright MLS.