Authenticity was the priority when renovating and restoring a characteristic log cabin in Bethany Beach
A burly taxidermy bear named Ted greets friends and family at the Graybeal log cabin in Bethany Beach, where a couple transformed the interior of a 1963 kit-build while retaining the authenticity of a characteristic spot on a wooded, wide lot where the Graybeals eventually plan to live full-time.
They happened upon the place by accident. “This wasn’t on our radar at all,” said Laura Graybeal, sharing how she and her husband, Frank, had been looking at condos on the bay. “We drove by this place, and it was super cool, right on the canal, and it sits on two lots, so there was plenty of yard.”
The Graybeals were immediately hooked, purchasing it in 2017 from an owner who had lived there since 1973. He had made a few improvements, like an outdoor shower and a side porch with an enclosed bathroom — ideal for coming in from the beach.
The couple saw potential, but most importantly, they envisioned updates while preserving the cabin’s authenticity as a truly unique property in the beach community. When they invited contractors to bid on a renovation project, all but one suggested a teardown. That was never their plan. “Even before it was renovated, it had such a good vibe to it: You could walk in, and it smells good because there is so much wood, and it has a nice aura,” Laura said.
Of course, the log cabin needed improvements, including updating a powder-room-size bathroom with a pink pedestal sink and tub that didn’t function for the family. Also, the kitchen required upgrades, including appliances and finishes. The couple also wanted to adda bathroom, making the footprint a two-bedroom, two-bathroom floor plan.
They enlisted in Ted Stephens of Morning Star Construction to take on the project. “He had grown up in a log cabin, so when he came to look at the property, I think he was very intrigued and agreed todo the renovation,” Laura said.
Stephens is the one who gifted Ted to the family, a bear his father, who built log-cabin homes with him, had made. Stephens’ father passed away during the Graybeal remodel, making their Bethany Beach cabin an especially sentimental project.
In fact, every aspect of the undertaking was personal for those involved, from the location itself — close to Graybeals’ three sisters and their families — to details like the Peruvian tile underneath the wood-topped bar and the pergola filled with the Graybeals’ plants.
“Nothing about the home is conventional, ”Laura said, summing up exactly why the family appreciates the property. “Nothing is level, and it’s a lot of work. Ted was great with the details, preserving some of the wood to use in other places in the home.”
Before they could begin focusing onpriority spaces, like the kitchen and bathroom, structural considerations were addressed, including lifting the home due to FEMA regulations for the flood zone. “It rained for weeks on end,” Laura said of delays that were out of the team’s hands. You can’t control Mother Nature.
Meanwhile, linoleum was peeled back to reveal original hardwood floors, which were refinished by the DiFebo Hardwood Floor Co.
In the kitchen, the Graybeals selected Belvedere granite with a honed, leather finish and bronze veining that complements the home’s rustic interior. A bifold “ice cream window” opens up to a side bar for entertaining. “When the window opens, you feel like you are outside even when you are in,” Laura shared. Her husband finished off the wood for the exterior bar top, which is a favorite hangout spot for the Graybeals and guests.
The bathroom includes a barn-style glass shower door that adds a sense of sleekness to the cabin while creating an open feel in a relatively compact space.
During the yearlong construction, the previous owner stopped by periodically and expressed his appreciation for the way they retained the property’s charm. “It was his family home, and it has been special to share the renovation with him,” Laura said.
Today, the Graybeals spend about 65% of their time at the cabin, which is two and a half hours from their home in Rockville, MD
“We had never seen a house like this at the beach,” Laura said. “We want to share it with family and friends.
Their children, ages 26 and 28, visit with friends, and extended family is in town too. “We entertain a lot, from having an oyster party at Thanksgiving to company on the weekends,” said Laura.
For the family, the quintessential beach cabin is a continuation of decades of making memories at Bethany Beach — with more to come. “We had never seen a house like this at the beach,” Laura said. “We want to share it with family and friends.” CS