A Traditional Facade Hides a Light-Filled Renovation in Delaware

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By Kelly Dawson
Modern additions and a restoration transform a 2,930-square-foot home.

When a Washington lobbyist sought a vacation house in the small coastal city of Lewes, Delaware, he wanted to relax and entertain in a modern dwelling. As soon as a centrally located address went on the market, one that had the added benefits of being close to shops and the shore, he took it. But, the house contrasted with his vision: it was a historic, 19th-century eyesore. So he turned to architect Robert Gurney and his namesake firm to balance the old with the new.

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"The existing house was an important house in the heart of the historical district," architect Robert Gurney said. To honor the property’s legacy, and fulfill the city’s requirements, the firm fully restored the exterior with cedar shingles.

"The existing house was an important house in the heart of the historical district," architect Robert Gurney said. To honor the property’s legacy, and fulfill the city’s requirements, the firm fully restored the exterior with cedar shingles.

"We were required to keep the existing wall, floor and roof framing in the historical house. Working to get the floors level and the walls plumb presented the biggest challenge," Gurney said. The windows are from Hope’s Windows Inc.

"We were required to keep the existing wall, floor and roof framing in the historical house. Working to get the floors level and the walls plumb presented the biggest challenge," Gurney said. The windows are from Hope’s Windows Inc.

"I feel very strongly that modern architecture can co-exist with traditional architecture," Gurney said. "In fact, the juxtaposition can make you appreciate the positive attributes of both."

Gurney and his client wanted the original two-story structure to be a prominent feature of the renovation. and they agreed on a design that built four new pavilions around the old structure. The pavilions are unquestionably modern—glass and stainless steel are reoccurring elements—but accompanying classic lines soften their details. Now, this home has the best of both worlds, including a brand new swimming pool.

Pietra Serena tiles unite the living room, dining room, and kitchen under a mahogany ceiling. San Siro Wall Lamps by De Majo surround a Monti sectional sofa by Dellarobbia.

Pietra Serena tiles unite the living room, dining room, and kitchen under a mahogany ceiling. San Siro Wall Lamps by De Majo surround a Monti sectional sofa by Dellarobbia.

"The client wished to more that double the size of the house," Gurney said. "The goal was to provide the additional space as a series of smaller pavilions to allow the original historical house to be the most important part of the composition." Steel swing doors by Hope’s Windows Inc. lead outside, and a custom standing seam metal roof slopes above the far end of the pool.

"The client wished to more that double the size of the house," Gurney said. "The goal was to provide the additional space as a series of smaller pavilions to allow the original historical house to be the most important part of the composition." Steel swing doors by Hope’s Windows Inc. lead outside, and a custom standing seam metal roof slopes above the far end of the pool.

A Douglas fir ceiling in the screened porch and red bricks are accented by blue Arizona modular outdoor seating by Barlow Tyrie.

A Douglas fir ceiling in the screened porch and red bricks are accented by blue Arizona modular outdoor seating by Barlow Tyrie.

Aside from the master bedroom, there are three additional bedrooms in the house. Gurney and his team used glass throughout to carry light into the home. A Copenhagen nightstand supports a Brazo table lamp in this third-floor guest room.

Aside from the master bedroom, there are three additional bedrooms in the house. Gurney and his team used glass throughout to carry light into the home. A Copenhagen nightstand supports a Brazo table lamp in this third-floor guest room.

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This custom glass structure by Ilex Construction allows for an abundance of light during the day. At night, Lightolier fixtures on the ceiling illuminate the Ella bed. Sherwin-Williams "Pure White" was painted on all interior walls.

This custom glass structure by Ilex Construction allows for an abundance of light during the day. At night, Lightolier fixtures on the ceiling illuminate the Ella bed. Sherwin-Williams "Pure White" was painted on all interior walls.

"In this project, the interior walls and ceilings in the existing historical component are white, and the walls and ceiling materials in the new pavilions are wood," Gurney said. In the master bedroom, a custom bed and nightstands by Baron Gurney Interiors sit across from an Eames molded plywood lounge chair.

"In this project, the interior walls and ceilings in the existing historical component are white, and the walls and ceiling materials in the new pavilions are wood," Gurney said. In the master bedroom, a custom bed and nightstands by Baron Gurney Interiors sit across from an Eames molded plywood lounge chair.

Italian Calacatta Gold marble tiles in the bathroom match an equally pristine Duravit bathtub. Vola fittings were installed in the shower.

Italian Calacatta Gold marble tiles in the bathroom match an equally pristine Duravit bathtub. Vola fittings were installed in the shower.

Outdoor lounge chairs by Richard Schultz sit on brick floors. The pool’s changing pavilion features a full bathroom.

Outdoor lounge chairs by Richard Schultz sit on brick floors. The pool’s changing pavilion features a full bathroom.