Surf House, New Rules

A bold, new concept is bending classic craftsmanship to reshape coastal homes into vibrant and soulful living environments that are move-in ready

Written by Kristen Hampshire | Photography by Svetlana Leahy

Walking into a Surf House space, “people just smile,” says Matt Covell, owner of Structure in Bethesda, who grew up spending summers on 89th Street in Ocean City. Living on beach time ultimately inspired a coastal venture called Surf House, a bold concept infusing a fresh and fun offering of properties along the Eastern Shore.

Surf House purchases existing beach homes and transforms them through highly stylized renovation projects that are artful, soulful and simply relaxing to exist in. By giving new life to old bones, Surf House renews the vibrancy of long-loved family homes to live on for the next generation.

“People are turned on by the idea of making something old new again and doing it in a way that is vibrant, fun and embraces the beach,” Matt says. “It’s an opportunity to access a higher level of sophistication and aesthetic but maintain the whimsy and accessibility of living on the beach. And the best part is: It’s turnkey.”

Surf House properties are for sale or for rent complete with premium furnishings, original artwork, curated décor and thoughtful detail. Not a corner of these homes was overlooked, not a single surface brushed aside when reinventing every space.

But while curated, Surf House properties represent creativity unleashed.

It’s a truly livable experience and true to place.

“There is a vibe to it,” Matt agrees, relating that the ultimate validation that Surf House is filling a much-desired untapped niche along the coast is the way people respond upon entering one of the homes. “What you hope for as a builder and designer is capturing a level of excitement, and the feedback from people has been so positive and immediate — ‘That’s so cool!’”

IT’S A VIBE “People are turned on by the idea of making something old new again and doing it in a way that is vibrant, fun and embraces the beach,” says Surf House owner Matt Covell.

Living in Art
An all-in energy and passion for living with art shapes the way Surf House approaches every surface in its collaboration with local artist Evan Fitzgerald and other local partners that create custom furnishings.

The fresh, funky-modern and equally complex artwork in Surf Houses is fully integrated into the interior design. An example is a focal point piece in the main living area that opens into the dining space and kitchen. An arch-shaped splash of pink paint was brushed to the wall and over window frames and trim. “I held up a piece of white oak plywood for this application and painted the pink arch over it, then gave it to Evan to take back to his studio,” Matt says of the process.

So, the art piece started as a white oak plywood base (matching the floors) hung on a blank wall, where Matt splashed the flamingo accent color. The wood piece became Evan’s canvas, removed from the wall and hauled to the studio so he could create the painting and return it to a cohesive stage for the work.

Similarly, Matt found a vintage skateboard photo he blew up to position as a bedroom headboard. The artwork connects to the space with a tapered ribbon of pink paint that swoops diagonally from a high corner, crossing the photograph’s frame to draw it in, and landing caddy-corner past the bedframe.

“The idea is you are living with the art,” Matt says. 

Trim Tabs, Modern Style
“Trim detail is second to none and completely unique in the Surf House aesthetic,” says Matt, pointing to ribbed detail throughout the house.

The main body of the home’s ceiling structure offered an avenue for running lanes of trim down the center that fan out and fall to the floor, encasing the fireplace. “It reads well because the vaulted ceiling flattens in the middle, so we were scratching our heads,” Matt relates. “Do we install faux beams? Do we do paneling detail? Ultimately, we decided on this more linear look.”

Matt’s architectural foundation stems from traditional construction with characteristic paneling. “As I have evolved in my career, this has developed into something much more modern and unique,” he says.

As a result, this Surf House’s millwork displays rich craftsmanship with playful sophistication.

Beadboard treatment scales a vaulted ceiling connecting a deck space equipped with a passthrough bar and seating for indoor-outdoor access to the kitchen. The master suite includes a variation of the living room’s linear trim effect, arching from floor, across the space’s head room and waterfalling down behind the bed.

“It acts as a continuous headboard for the bed creating a huge canopy effect,” Matt describes.

Always a Story
Each tabletop conversation piece tells a story and has a past—a reclaimed fishing reel spool, a winking Popeye bobble-like figure, dock line thoughtfully arranged into a basket form. These aren’t found pieces designed for staging. They stay with the home.

Matt points out the vintage swim fins he collected with a headboard in mind. They hang from a steel pipe like a beachy mobile. These were designed for body boarding, he points out.

Surfboard accents are bold. A pink-painted plank with brushes of black that appear as a half-eye looks into the hallway gallery. The boards are also subtle and serene. In the master, a lotus assemblage of five boards in ivory framed in black that present above a slider to a deck overlooking the water in Ocean Pines.

Matt says, “It’s bohemian funky while still being sophisticated and classy. Surf House is an opportunity to bring high-quality and cool-looking finishes to the Eastern Shore’s beach houses.

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