Sharon Kleinman fashions chic, carefree interiors for three generations sharing a Rehoboth Beach getaway

When Sharon Kleinman got to work on the interiors of a new Rehoboth Beach house, she had not one client—but 10. Architect Greg Hastings designed the contemporary nine-bedroom retreat; construction was underway when the designer came on board.

The owners, their two grown daughters with husbands and four grandchildren all had a say in the process. “You’d think with so many opinions involved that it might have been difficult, but we had a great time,” enthuses Kleinman. “We worked to incorporate everybody’s style and interests into their personal spaces.”

On the ground floor of the home, there are two guest rooms and a powder room. A great room and adjoining kitchen and dining room occupy the second level, along with a TV room, master suite and screened porch. The third floor houses six bedrooms: one each for the owners’ daughters and their husbands, plus one for each grandchild.    Throughout the house, the designer instilled a chic, clean-lined aesthetic. “They preferred a more modern look—nothing too cottagey,” she explains. A case in point is the sleek workhorse of a kitchen. “Everybody can gather around the big island,” says Kleinman, “because there are multiple cooks.”

How would you describe the look you were after?
They wanted it to be casual and fun but not to look like everybody else’s beach house. There are lots of touches that are almost whimsical throughout.

What drove your furniture and fabric selections?
The fact that you’ve got three families using the home at any given time meant that everything had to be durable. Except for some of the accents, we selected soil- and stain-resistant fabrics or indoor-outdoor fabrics throughout. On the dining chair seats, we used wipeable faux leather. But for the chair backs, we chose a less durable fabric that is really fun.

Name a surprising takeaway from the project.
The flooring is a luxury vinyl plank by Karndean. We chose it because my clients didn’t want to worry about their dogs. Vinyl has come such a long way. It used to look almost like plastic, but is now very realistic. Not only does it offer great durability, but it also comes in really good colors. It would have been difficult to get the kind of weathered-gray look we wanted in a hardwood.

Why was shiplap applied on the great room ceilings?
Because of the home’s rooflines, there are all sorts of peaks and valleys in the ceiling. We decided to embrace them and call attention to them with the shiplap. Drywall would not have had the same personality or character. My clients liked it so much in the main area that we ended up applying it in the master bedroom too. It’s a nod to beachy style, but sophisticated.

Explain why the natural stone quartzite is having a moment.
The clients wanted a white kitchen with a marble-look surface. I don’t recommend marble in kitchens. It’s a great look but it’s just not practical—even for people who are very careful. Quartzite is much more durable but has the same look as marble.

How did you hone in on decorative lighting choices?
The objective was to let the sunlight come through the main living space and create a light and airy feeling; we didn’t want anything heavy. The chandelier in the dining area is big enough to be appropriate to the space but it’s also very open. And the pendants over the kitchen island are glass, so you see right through them. These pieces are almost like sculptures and add to the overall ambiance of the project.

Describe furniture options that helped maximize space.
The idea was to utilize every room in a compact way. For instance, we needed a really big dining table that would seat the whole family, but I didn’t want it to overpower the space. We went with a table in whitewashed wood and I talked them into an elliptical shape. It’s a very updated look and a lot less heavy than a conventional table. It’s a trestle style, so you can fit more people around it. And the dining chairs are wide enough to be comfortable but their backs are narrower so they’re not overwhelming.

What’s your secret to combining patterns successfully?
It’s all about scale. It’s nice to have one pattern that’s a larger scale and you work down from there to a medium scale and then a smaller scale. For me, the larger-scale patterns are usually on accents such as pillows, though we used a nice Osborne & Little pattern on the living room chairs that worked really well.

How did you pay homage to the beach without the obvious shell décor?
We used elements that are beachy, such as the driftwood console at the entry and photos of the grandchildren near the ocean, but we used them sparingly. Otherwise, we emphasized natural materials including the whitewashed wooden dining table and the fireplace tiles that are kind of concrete-looking. The blues, the grays and turquoises are also a nod to the shore.

What new product are you dying to try?
I’m getting ready to try Phillip Jeffries’ new seamless grass cloth on a ceiling. It adds great texture and I love that there are no seams.

Can you share a favorite low-end find?
Vinyl floor cloths. They’re practical for kitchens, laundry rooms and mudrooms and add a little punch through color and pattern.

What object in your home is most special to you?
My father was an architect-turned-artist. He gave me a painting of Lake Como for my 50th birthday. I love the piece, but it’s also special because he painted it.

Name a trend that’s over for you.
I’m tired of gray. Though I used it in my house, I mixed it with orange and soft blues. Everyone’s tolerance for color is different; I need color.

Where do you go to relax?
We have a lake house in Virginia. The minute I walk in the front door and look out at the lake, I feel calm. There’s something about a house being on the water.

Architecture: Greg Hastings, G.A. Hastings &  Associates LLC, Ocean View, Delaware. Interior Design: Sharon Kleinman, Transitions by Sharon Kleinman, Potomac, Maryland.  Builder: Timothy B. O’Hare Custom Builder, Inc., Ocean View, Delaware. Landscape Design: Mike O’Hare, Princess Garden Inc., Severna Park, Maryland. 

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