Second in a summer series highlighting dream homes on the water.

Off a tree-lined road in Berlin, about 10 miles west of Ocean City, a long paved drive leads to a stately home on Sinepuxent Bay.


Not unlike the beach "cottages" in New York's Hamptons or on Nantucket in Massachusetts, the property sits at the water's edge and boasts shingle-shake siding, white trim, large windows, a shaded veranda, an observation tower and a widow's walk.

Sheryl and John Atkinson, along with Apollo, their 6-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, greet guests at a side entrance to their three-year-old home with views of Assateague Island, just over a mile away.

Inside the raised first level of the home, a pair of glass-paned doors open onto a hallway leading to the bright kitchen with a large marble-topped island, a Wolf stove, a deep farm sink and a Sub-Zero refrigerator. From a window above the counter, the couple's guest house with its long pier — one of two on the 5-acre property — can be seen. Built of the same materials, it sits as a 600-square-foot "baby sister" to the main house.

"We have always wanted to live on the water after experiencing a lifetime of summer vacations at the beach," said John Atkinson, 52, a retired executive with Accenture Technology, who serves on the board of directors of Chester County Futures, a nonprofit organization helping students of limited financial means earn degrees. "Sheryl also grew up sailing regularly on Toms River in New Jersey and was hoping we could retire in a house that would facilitate this passion."

In 2008, the Atkinsons hired architect Jason Pearce, a senior associate with Becker Morgan Group Inc. in Salisbury, to design a traditional shingle-style home on waterfront property they owned in the South Point section of Berlin.

Pearce, after working from a long list of the couple's requirements, hired Joe Dashiell of Dashiell Builders to construct their "dream cottage."

"I spent more than a year designing this project with the Atkinsons, so it was critical that every thought that went into their home would become a reality," Pearce said.

With the idea that their summer home would be as much for extended family as for the couple and their children, John, 20, and Caroline, 17, the Atkinsons requested five bedrooms, each with its own bath and private deck. A large wrap-around porch was a must along with a living room filled with windows, an elegant, nautical-themed dining room, a den, a game room, a screened-in porch and a home theater that could accommodate 13 people comfortably.

For Sheryl Atkinson, a retired mechanical engineer with Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., her favorite room in the house is the great room, which includes a semicircular area with a wall of windows.

"From the swivel chairs, there is a 270-degree view of the bays — Sinepuxent and Chincoteague — marshes and Assateague Island," she said. "It is a beautiful view in any season."

The room, under its coffered ceiling, has walnut flooring, a marble fireplace, a grand piano and a grouping of sofa and chairs on a soft green sisal rug. Two sets of double doors open to the covered veranda where, Sheryl Atkinson says, "you can sit in the shade and enjoy a constant breeze, hear the wave action of the bay and watch the wildlife."

Central to the home's interior is an open tower of windows rising to the third level and culminating in an octagonal beamed wooden ceiling. A circular staircase within the tower stops at the second level, where four en suite bedrooms and a common area — a den-like room with a fireplace, sofa and wooden shelf made by a woodworker in Pennsylvania who specializes in reproduction historic pieces. Double doors open onto a private sun deck.

A separate staircase leads to a third-floor observation tower, where circular windows provide dramatic views of the bay and the marshes. A large telescope and two caned Adirondack-style chairs allow hours of contemplation.

In the third-floor bedroom suite, a staircase leads to a ceiling hatch and John Atkinson's favorite part of the house — a widow's walk.


"I can see clearly all three surrounding bays — Newport, Sinepuxent and Chincoteague — and the Atlantic," he said.

The perch overlooks the waterfront entertaining area with umbrellas, chairs, tables, fire pit and hammocks. Several boats, two of which were built by John Atkinson after taking classes in Annapolis, are tied up at the piers.

In tune with their love of the water, the couple personalized their home with nautical maps, framed Audubon bird prints and a variety of conch shells. Finishing touches were guided by Michelle Dashiell and Joy Conner of Beach Transformations (an adjunct of Dashiell Builders), who, Sheryl Atkinson says, "were instrumental in helping us select all the finishes, from paint color to light fixtures, cabinetry and tile work."

"This home and location is a special place for us because it serves as a gathering spot for extended family," she said. "We have hosted annual reunions for both sides of the family and a number of birthday celebrations."

"A lifetime of beach vacations ... along with the three houses we lived in over the last 25 years ... influenced this design," John Atkinson said. "We are finishing our fourth summer here on South Point, and it is truly a dream come true."