Midcentury Made Modern

Beach and woods offer a peaceful setting for this Frank Lloyd Wright- inspired home that was updated to suit a contemporary family’s lifestyle

Written by Kristen Hampshire  |  Photography by Halkin/Mason Photography – Todd Mason

When Jake and Beth Hollinger purchased their Henlopen Acres property in Rehoboth Beach, which had been on and off the market for years, they received a special treat as a welcome. It was a 1968 Better Homes and Gardens magazine article highlighting their midcentury-modern house, designed by renowned architect Richard Neutra, who had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright. 

“It’s not every day you get to see a historical image of your house in its original splendor, and we saw what the house had been before it was renovated over the years,” Jake said. 

When the couple first visited the home, “we knew we had to get it,” Beth said, relating that its bones could offer a midcentury aesthetic and eventually a floor plan that suited the lifestyle of their family, which includes children ages 9 and 6. 

But there was work to do. They enlisted in Adam Montalbano, partner at Moto Designshop in Philadelphia, whom they worked with on their primary residence and office. “The previous owner’s care package also included some original architectural renderings, and that really brought it all home for us,” Jake said.

Over the years, additions created a choppy layout and an overall closed-off, dark environment that compromised its integrity. For example, the characteristic mansard roof was outfitted with a traditional peaked roof as a stop-gap for leaks. It just didn’t suit the home. 

After buying their house in Henlopen Acres, the Hollingers were delighted to learn that it had been the cover story for a 1968 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

After living in the home for one summer, to get a feel for the way they would move about and use the spaces, the Hollingers embarked on a massive renovation, stripping the interior down to the studs. From shingles to tearing out walls to extensive landscaping, the property centered in an old-world Tree City neighborhood with a mile-long private beachfront evolved into an authentic nod to the original plan, with all the updates a modern family requires. 

Montalbano said, “While we were interested in restoring the midcentury feel, we worked to keep that spirit but in a more contemporary way.”

Stepped up style. The original staircase was a bit “clumsy,” Montalbano shared. So, it was redesigned to be functional and aesthetically aligned with the home’s midcentury style. “At first, you see a spiral staircase, but when you get closer, you see the detail and a level of nuance that makes it stand out in the way the treads meet the side stringer; it was a tricky piece to get into the house,” he said. “We had to bring it through a window and prop it up into place because of the size, scale and weight of it.”

Sleek inspiration. When the Hollingers spotted a Porsche-designed kitchen in all black, “we immediately said, ‘We want an all-black kitchen with glass,’ and we don’t have any silver in this house,” Beth said of brass and gold finishes and fixtures. The noir, clean-lined cabinets juxtapose the largely white and wood palette throughout the home. The couple selected richly stained stools with round seats and simple footrests, and pendant lighting by the designer Bulb Lighting in Philadelphia. “Lighting is another key feature of the home,” Jake said, adding that he and Beth did the interior design and furnishing of the home. 

Great outdoors. A poured-concrete driveway and patio in a sandy-brown hue complement the chestnut stain on the board-and-batten siding.

“They marry really well, and it creates a great aesthetic,” Jake said, adding that they chose a turf inset for the driveway and along the sides of the back deck. “It makes it look Bermuda style.” In fact, the couple gathered a great deal of inspiration from their travels. Beth said, “We have a meditation path in the backyard that we saw somewhere else and wanted to incorporate, and because we live in the city, we wanted the outdoors to be a big part of the house, so as much thought went into the yard as into the interior.” 

All told, the Hollingers tore out existing landscaping and installed about 500 plantings throughout the property. “I love sitting in the sunroom and being surrounded by the outdoors, with sliders throughout the whole room,” Beth shared, adding that Montalbano helped realize their vision with organic shapes and forms throughout the home. 

Jake added, “We have really made this a four-season house: We have a wood-burning fireplace in the living room, and it’s equally enjoyable in the off-season. We made this house into our home during the quarantine, and we enjoy spending holidays here.” CS

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