Steve and Kris Appel, left, and his mother Myra Appel-Riddlemoser and her husband Jim Riddlemoser, right, pictured in the great room.
Steve and Kris Appel, left, and his mother Myra Appel-Riddlemoser and her husband Jim Riddlemoser, right, pictured in the great room. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

"Don't look for seashells and crabs on the walls of my beach house," said Steve Appel, of his Dewey Beach, Del., cottage, circa 1960 "modern."

The 48-year-old owner of Nouveau Contemporary Goods Inc., a home furnishings emporium in Baltimore, has made his home the repository of family hand-downs, memorabilia, unique accessories and fetching original pieces from his store.

"A second home is something you pull together from all of the things that don't fit anywhere else," he said. "You take the house seriously, but then again, you don't."

One block from the ocean, this single story, un-insulated house with cedar plank siding harks back to a day when cottages of this kind were for vacations only. Around September or early October, they were winterized against the elements and left to wait patiently for a new summer season. And so it was, from September to May — much like the resorts themselves 50 years ago, ghost towns with boarded-up storefronts, deserted hotels and silenced, seat-less amusement park rides.

Steve Appel wanted that very type of summer beach cottage, so he and his wife, Kris, 49, along with his mother, Myra Appel, and stepfather, Jim Riddlemoser, began looking around in Delaware at the side-by-side towns of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.

Soon after the search, the four buyers came across a gull-style beach cottage in Dewey. This type of home, quite common along the Delmarva Peninsula in the 1950s and 1960s, is designed with screened-in breezeways running through the house, splitting it in half. Not only does the breezeway cool the house down — imagine a center hall from front door to back, only without the screens — but it also renders the structure a bit more impervious to storms, since the wind will whip through the house instead of at it.

In 1996, the Appels and Jim Riddlemoser — all four names are on the deed — purchased the 1,400-square-foot cottage, which had been on the market for over a year, for $116,000. Another $25,000 has been put into its reconditioning with the addition of a new roof, paint, a stockade fence around the back yard, and window replacements.

"This house is low maintenance," Steve Appel pointed out. "We come down specifically to go to the beach."

What speaks of the beach is not only the exterior design with large windows, or pine needles on the front lawn, but most especially, the interior beyond the breezeway.

In a beach house with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living and dining area and a working kitchen whose appliances date to a much earlier remodel, the atmosphere is heavy with childhood vacation memories.

The knotty pine walls have been seasoned with years of salt-sea spray, and brightly colored fabrics draped on rods serve as closet doors. There is no pretense about the home, but rather a sense of its owners accepting the cottage for what it is.

"You cannot fabricate this," said Steve Appel, who makes his living helping others with chic interior design styles. "My favorite items in the house include my grandmother's red 19th-century kerosene lamp that was electrified in the '40s. When I was young, it sat on her record player/ TV console while Elvis sang from below.

"Another favorite piece is the 'Prohibition Ends' sign I just got from Mom and Jim this year for my B-day. It is amazing in style, impact and is great above the deco radio."

Myra Appel is quick to pick up the cue from her son.

"If I had to grab something quickly and run, it would be my deceased son Scott's bongo drums he had when he was in high school. They are sitting on the bar," she said. "Jim and I treasure the pictures of our family and friends and they would have to go with us as well."

Kris Appel happily puts in her two cents' worth, adding, "I like to sit on the porch in the morning and drink coffee from the coffee cups we got last year in Las Vegas at Jim and Myra's wedding."

For this family, the summer days are more about the real deal of a seaside refuge, as opposed to furnishing it according to a vague notion of what a seaside retreat should be.

"Our most favorite thing to do is sit on our porch in the evening with candles burning, having a drink," Myra Appel said. "And the guys like to smoke their cigars there."

Making the dream

Dream element: The summer cottage of Steve Appel and his family is located a block from the ocean in Dewey Beach. The family gathers here on most weekends for relaxing after hectic work weeks in Baltimore. Two motor bikes sit on the front lawn, ready to take off at a moment's notice to dining, shopping and other pursuits.

"We appreciate the diversity of this area where we're popped down between Dewey and Rehoboth in an actual neighborhood," said Steve Appel. "We feel like locals. We have the same neighbors as when we moved in."

Dream design: The circa 1960 home is located in a neighborhood of like homes with residents taking pride of ownership in their properties. The back yard features statuary, fountains and exotic plants. Lime green painted trim accents an exterior of cedar plank painted dark brown.

Dream interior: Early, untouched summer cottage-style furnishings make up the casual decor of the interior. These include everything from comfortable stuffed sofas and a deco bar with stools to wicker furniture and pub-style tables on the screened-in porch. "Our house is an accumulation of many family pieces," said Myra Appel.