An 18th-Century Waterfront Estate Undergoes a Renovation for a Modern Family
Interior designer Jess Weeth writes a new chapter of an old love story at a historic Maryland home.
In interior design, as in life, true love requires commitment, and no one knows that better than Jess Weeth of Weeth Home. Coming up the tree-lined path driveway to meet her new clients for a site visit, Weeth was face to face with sweeping water views – and a 250-year-old brick Georgian. Where other designers might feel intimidated, Weeth was inspired, taking her cues from her childhood in nearby Rehoboth Beach, from the home’s good bones, and her clients’ wish to create a gathering place for generations to come. In this renovation diary, Weeth shares her account of celebrating original architecture, leaning into layers of patina, and laying the groundwork for memorable moments.
All images by: Keyanna Bowen
After that initial site visit stole her heart, Weeth spent two and a half years tackling a full-scale renovation in every sense of the word, overhauling every major system from plumbing to electric. Once the underpinnings were in better shape, the designer could turn her attention to the details – the original structure dates to the late 1700s, and every generation added onto it. By the time Weeth arrived on the scene, some elements were in rough shape, and everything needed better function and a bit more polish. Weeth worked with architect Charles Goebel to honor the soul of the home while bringing clarity, coherence, and flow to the floor plan. “When you’re taking a house apart and putting it back together with care,” she says, “it just takes time.”
“We decided to approach preservation from a story standpoint, maximizing the architecture already there,” Weeth says. “For instance, the dining room’s original mantel had a bit of reeded trim, which informed the reeded millwork we designed throughout the house.” Context clues borrowed from the past imbued the home with character and life before any piece of furniture was placed. While Weeth and her team invested in fresh cabinetry and millwork, they used original fir and pine beams, old flooring, and fireplaces to keep the budget on track and the soul of the house intact. “In the primary suite, we actually carried the wood flooring into the bathroom and just used marble under the tub where we needed it,” Weeth says. “It was a great way to get a lot of look without draining the budget.”
Inspired by architectural elements (both inherited and reimagined), Weeth began thinking about the lighting plan early in her design process, as soon as she had a sense of the sightlines. “When the house was gutted, I walked through and got chills. I’d notice where my eye landed, looking from one room into the next, and think, wow, that’s a moment right there.” Her next step was choosing lighting fixtures that reflected the home’s artful juxtaposition of history and modern living.
With their raised-panel wainscoting and thick original casings, the hallways allowed Weeth to create some of her favorite lighting vignettes in the house. “We didn’t always have the highest ceilings to work with, but playing with scale helped us to achieve that feeling of grandeur in a way that felt appropriate.” In a small space, throwing every idea at the walls is tempting – but sometimes, Weeth says, “it’s good to embrace restraint and let the lighting shine.” Even though most of the lighting fixtures were new, they had to feel patinaed and collected -- nothing too shiny or matchy. After all, when you’re working on a house that’s 250 years old, you don’t want it to look like you just went and bought everything in one fell swoop. “For this project, it was all about the mix of aged brass, aged iron, and oil-rubbed bronze,” Weeth says. “Finishes with that living quality really made the house sing.”
For Weeth, the renovation prompted her to turn the page in her paint deck, leaning into this home’s deep history with a color palette one step muddier than she’d typically gravitate toward. Even rooms that look white in photographs are painted an off-white hue with considerable depth to it. “Pulling back the brightness kept things approachable,” she says. “It allowed us to play while paying homage to all the old wood and other characterful elements already there.” Once the palette was established, bringing a sense of place to the interiors meant creating a laid-back mood that could embrace a bit of rusticity and get better with time. As Weeth (a Delaware native) knows well, there’s an inherently romantic quality to life on the water. Still, she says, “more than a palette of blues or stripes everywhere, coastal living is about a feeling of effortlessness.”
This was not designed as a primary residence but as a primary gathering space for holidays, summers, and weekend getaways. Therein lies the silver lining: it is a magical escape, a spot to celebrate and unwind. With almost as many living rooms as bedrooms, it’s a place long on possibility and short on-screen time – to wit, there’s only one television in the whole house. “I got to know the family so well through this project, and the house is every bit their point of view. Weeth says. “That’s what makes me happiest: to think about them enjoying life in a place that reflects who they are.” At the moment, Weeth’s clients keep a busy schedule of sleepovers and pool days, yet it’s not a stretch to imagine the property hosting a wedding one day.
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Interested in working with the Weeth Home Team? Visit www.weethhome.com
About The Designer
Jess Weeth is the founder and principal of Weeth Home. With roots in coastal Delaware, her work has been featured in esteemed publications including House Beautiful, Business of Home, MyDomaine and Coastal Style Magazine.
Prior to leading her design firm, Jess spent seven years as a buyer for a global fashion retailer. Overseeing a $300-million business, she travelled to London, Paris, Los Angeles and New York for design inspiration, and worked hand-in-hand with vendors in Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Turkey.
When Jess returned to her hometown of Rehoboth Beach to start a family, she made the decision to follow her true calling in interior design. After taking design classes and completing projects for dozens of clients, she opened the doors of The Studio at 419 Rehoboth Avenue in 2019.
Jess loves working side-by-side with her husband, Alan, who formally joined Weeth Home in 2022. They love being back in the beach town Jess grew up in while raising their three children.