May-June 2015 | SHOWING OFF

SHOWING OFFCELTIC CHARM: One of this home's jewels is the backyard patio, inspired by the homeowners’ Celtic roots.SHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFECLECTIC TASTES: Each of the upstairs bedrooms features its own style and color palette.SHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFCREATIVE COALITION: Fourteen designers worked for months, some for more than a year, to make this home singSHOWING OFFCOME & GET IT: The kitchen is inviting to even the most discriminating gourmet.SHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFSHOWING OFFLITTLE TOUCHES: Curated favorites include a tortoise-shell writing desk.The Village Improvement Association Designer Show House in Rehoboth Beach returns May 5-22SHOWING OFF



The Village Improvement Association Designer Show House in Rehoboth Beach returns May 5-22

Written By: Robbie Tarpley Raffish | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

Unsuspecting. That word may come to mind when driving up to 52 Rolling Road in Rehoboth Beach. The landscaping is lovely; the 1960s-built beach bungalow is cute. 

But walk up the path and open the door, and there’s no escaping that the home is, well, a real showstopper.

Every room and outdoor space is tastefully designed by an interior or landscape designer — and don’t confuse tasteful with boring. The home is alive inside and out, with creative, smart design that is (mostly) attainable for the “average” homeowner. No one designed this for Beyonce and Jay-Z. It is full of realistic, relaxing and rejuvenating work that can spark the imagination.

Fourteen — yes, 14 — designers have been working for months, some for more than a year, to make this home sing. And the 25-person VIA committee — ably led by co-chairs Carolyn Billingsly, VIA’s immediate past president, and retired Johnson & Johnson executive Mary Jane Deets — has been at it even longer. 

“This is a labor of love,” said Deets, whose logistics background has been well-utilized these last two years. “We’ve worked hard to create a home with a theme that we think of as ‘current nostalgia,’ by which we mean that the designers recognize that the home was built in the 1960s. They have lovingly worked to bring it up-to-date while respecting the home’s origins.”

Billingsly, who has served on all three show-home committees, not only appreciates the “lovely flow” that has been created in the home but also the fundraising that the home will accomplish.

“Last year, the VIA donated more than $50,000 to organizations in our community. The Designer Show House is our largest fundraiser, so it is extremely important. Each ticket sold helps our charities while bringing inspiration to the guest who attends. Win-win.”

Funds are raised a number of ways, including ticket sales. “Group Thursday” luncheons are hosted at the VIA Clubhouse; a private “soiree” is held at the clubhouse for members on opening night; and a VIA Boutique — new this year — is where guests may purchase items made or provided by the designers. In addition, each designer may sell the furniture, art and décor pieces in their designs. Docents will have a list of pricing at the home.

Here, a preview of what to be on the lookout for on the home tour.


First-Floor Jewels

There are interesting and exciting things to learn in every space. Ed Albers of DCOR married what he called “traditional beach” contemporary pieces to curated favorites, like a tortoise-shell writing desk and a Mad Men-inspired liquor cart in the living room. He merged that room into a West Coast-inspired (read: white, crisp and timeless pieces) adjacent sunroom, for a subtle flow. 

Steps away, Mark Polo of Urban Dweller created a master bedroom in a “subtle regional” style that is soft and inviting with layered textures. The faux-Italian plaster hombre wall finishes (which took a week to paint) and gentle lighting collectively sigh “rest, reconnect… come relax” from the moment one enters the room. The smallest item is not neglected: Look for the leather-and-pearl decoration on the drapes.

One of the true jewels of the first floor is the backyard patio, inspired by the homeowners’ Celtic roots. When Bella Terra Landscape’s Erin Walls and Justin Bartels initially saw the backyard, they were faced with old, dingy squares of flagstone. When they began to pull it up, they realized that these were rare two-foot-thick pieces that could be cleaned and cut into curving pathways, to connect three “rooms” for relaxing and communing. The center room features a large Belgian block granite Celtic-knot design encircling a bubbling fountain. Carefully selected plants offer good shade and are deer-resistant, including the Irish moss bordering a steppingstone path. Comfortable adjoining spaces designed by T.K. Novikoff of Creative Concepts complete the flow with peaceful dining and conversation areas.


Upstairs: Casual Elegance

Venture upstairs, and behold guest bedrooms that offer different styles and color palettes. One, designed by Brenda Carder of blcINTERIORS, offers subtle twists on classic nautical blue and white with pops of yellow (including a life-preserver mirror that can’t help but bring a smile), while Cindi Oronzio of Dreamweaver Interiors hand-sewn headboard, pillows and window treatments — in trendy coral, blue and white — offer a very contemporary yet soothing escape.

A surprising upstairs family room by Mary Stewart of M. Stewart Interiors is whimsical, styled, she remarked, “as a place to get creative and hang out. You wouldn’t bring guests here; it’s your family’s little secret.” Art from Nadia Zychal (look for the bicycle painting) lights up the space.

The hallway has been transformed by Boardwalk Builders into an art gallery. The addition of handcrafted wainscoting and crown molding is the perfect backdrop for art curated by Libby Zando, whose little artist nook with her own work, down the hall, makes the most of the natural light. “When people remodel, they can overlook the smaller spaces or the simple hallways that really can serve, when treated correctly, as ‘connectors’ to create flow and link rooms that may not look much alike otherwise,” explained Zando.


Sit & Stay Awhile

Back downstairs are two rooms of timeless elegance: the connected living room and dining room, by Kate FitzGerald-Wilks of Timeless Design. FitzGerald-Wilks, the first designer selected, more than 15 months ago, took on two very out-of-date rooms with a dividing step. Here, she and her team created a gathering space in sandy tones (“a nod to the beach”) with a “well-traveled feel.” It features collected pieces, vintage chairs and a bar that “makes you want to sit and stay awhile.” The focal point of the dining room: an enormous bookcase repurposed as a wine rack and set on a 104-inch-long breakfront piece. Casual directors chairs encircle a bamboo dining table set under a chandelier made of sea glass and shells — perfect for a long summer dinner.

When the show is over, only the wallpaper, paint, installed carpet, wainscoting and patio will stay; such are the rules of a show house. In the kitchen that means the lucky owner keeps the cheery fish-patterned wallpaper and bright spacious highlights installed by artist Lynne McKay.

“Ours is a young show-home program,” said Billingsly. “We have grown so much in six years; we interviewed nearly 50 designers for this show. It is becoming more prominent with each iteration. Every designer has made such a difference in this home, and we are really looking forward to people seeing all of these spaces.”


Editor’s note:

The VIA Designer Show House will be open May 5-8, 12-16 and 19-22. For more information about the Designer Show House and designers who contributed, and to purchase tickets, visit To learn more about the important work the VIA does in the Rehoboth Beach community, visit


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