July-August 2016 | BAPTISM BY FIRE




Creative Concepts’ Lead Designer, Gail Lednum, helped Charlene & Jim Dautenhahn turn tragedy into triumph

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

You’d never think for even a moment that your idyllic vacation home burning to the ground would be a good thing. Charlene Dautenhahn and her husband, Jim, sure didn’t. But that was before she and Lead Designer Gail Lednum of Creative Concepts rolled up their sleeves and set about the business of rebuilding the Dautenhahns’ dreams. Today, were you to ask her, Charlene looks at the disaster as a blessing in disguise.

“I’m actually lucky to be alive,” said Charlene from the comfort of her primary residence in a Maryland suburb of DC. “I was supposed to go down to the house that weekend, because Jim had a business trip out of town, but when his trip got cancelled, I decided to stay up here with him. Had I been down there instead, well…”

In April 2012, a spark from faulty wiring in the Bethany Beach home ignited a gas line, causing it to explode and leave a charred pile of rubble and ash in its wake. Charlene and Jim hired Evergreene Homes in Virginia to rebuild the house with some improvements, relative to its predecessor. “Evergreene Homes did a wonderful job rebuilding our home; it was definitely superior to the original.”

Before the construction was even complete, Gail and Charlene were spreading blueprints and floor plans across the dining-room table, scrupulously strategizing how best to put the Dautenhahns’ tragedy behind them and leave them even better off than they were before. When all was said and done, the project spanned the better part of a year, but Charlene and Jim feel the results were well worth the wait. “Working with Charlene and Jim was a pleasure,” said Gail. “Working with people like them is one of the reasons I love what I do.”

The three-level, 5,000 sq. ft. house set in the wetlands of Bethany was suffused with a Nantucket Coastal theme, one of Gail’s many décor specialties. “I think of it as ‘sophisticated coastal,’” Gail said. “It has the basic color palette of coastal but retains an elegant presentation, stylistically and architecturally, while offering comfort and livability. It’s a concept that is timeless.”

Gail sought an organic ambiance for the interior space, so there are rich Hunter Douglas woven-wood shades and wood shutters throughout the house. In the great room, a sandstone sisal area rug lies beneath the cushy, thistle-inspired Larren Gray sofas, which are made with pride in the USA. Gail selected them for their durability and comfort, which suits Charlene fine, considering her grandkids, who visit her often, love to swoop in and plop down on them. The room is completed with a rattan chair by Lexington, with upholstered cushions in Thibaut fabric. 

Behind the great room is an inviting conversation area, which is bedecked with four matching club chairs in blue-and-white hound’s-tooth fabric with nail-head detail — also 100% USA-made — over an octagonal custom Capel area rug. The look is capped with the addition of a distressed server/bar cabinet with driftwood finish by Hooker Furniture.

In the dining room sits Charlene’s favorite of Gail’s selections: a Champlain-style farm table by Canadel that seats up to 12 with the leaves inserted. Made of 100% solid birch, the table is as tough as it is earthy. The side seats are woven seagrass with Sunbrella chair pads, while the captain’s chairs at the ends sport Sunbrella slipcovers, as well.

In the master suite, on the upper level, crisp themes of blue and white for the spread and throws conjure classic nautical, while the Lexington and Stanley furniture combo in deep textural tones lays the foundation for a formal coastal application. To complete the space, Gail decided to deploy color-coordinated custom draperies, to complement the Hunter Douglas woven-wood shades.

Off the master suite is an amazing sitting room, which Charlene and Jim spend as much time in as possible. (“We think of it as our getaway space,” Charlene said with a laugh.) It includes another Larren Gray sofa, in a butter fabric with contrasting welts, complemented by striped custom-fabric chairs, but the room’s superstar is the irrepressible set of two matching Sanctuary chests by Hooker Furniture in distressed medium brown, sporting a series of square storage drawers with pulls. “They add an incredible dimension and atmosphere to the room,” praises Gail, adding that one must really experience them in person to get the fullest effect. 

With the home’s magnificent bayside views, the synergism that results is the only proof the Dautenhahns need that their decision to stick with their home on Ellis Point Road — and Creative Concepts’ Gail Lednum — is the best one they could have made.  “When I think about Gail and our experience with her, I can’t decide if it’s her creative vision, tireless customer attention or sweet disposition that makes me smile most. All I know for certain is, I’m smiling.”

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