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DIY TV star helps Glenelg family create their dream beach house in South Bethany

Pete and Tricia Chancellor of Glenelg had been searching for a vacation house in Bethany Beach, Delaware, that they could renovate. As they searched, an empty corner lot in South Bethany appeared on the market in 2017. They took that as a sign to scrap their initial plans and build anew on the lot, which had one lone pine tree.

The result of the couple’s change of heart is a fully customized, approximately 3,000-square-foot residence that looms over Jefferson Creek in the popular beach town.

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The home blends many of Tricia Chancellor’s ideas with those from homebuilder and television personality Marnie Oursler, who stars in the DIY Network show “Big Beach Builds.” The collaboration worked well.

A sleek and modern exterior hints at the meticulously furnished, multi-level interior of the home that’s a perfect getaway spot for the couple, their two children, Luke, 10, and Bridget, 6, and their 1-year-old miniature schnauzer, Kirby. And for extended family and other guests.

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“[Marnie Custom Homes] started building in October of 2018 and finished in May, which was awesome because we were in a weekend or so before Memorial Day," said Tricia, 40. “It was fantastic, we came down June 13 and we went home Labor Day Monday.”

Pete Chancellor plays tic-tac-toe with his children, Bridget, 5, and Luke, 10, on the screened in deck at the family's beach house in South Bethany.
Pete Chancellor plays tic-tac-toe with his children, Bridget, 5, and Luke, 10, on the screened in deck at the family's beach house in South Bethany. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

Flooded with natural light from lots of windows, the home’s decor reflects its natural surroundings, with accents of beige and wood, calming blues, whites and other beach tones.

Tricia Chancellor, a former teacher who now stays at home, said she relied heavily on social media sites Pinterest and Houzz in executing her vision.

“Our house at home is farmhouse rustic, so we wanted light and bright here,” she said, noting that she sought to combine beach and boho vibes indoors.

Oursler, who said she’s worked on about 100 homes in the Bethany Beach area, applauded the couple for having a good sense of what they wanted in their beach home.

“Tricia and Pete both knew what they wanted, so it was just about taking their inspiration and making it a reality,” she said.

Oursler’s contributed ideas including building a kitchen with a completely transparent backsplash, an attached outdoor grilling space and a roomy screened-in porch with ample seating.

“The house isn’t that big, so I had to get the proportions just right, and try to maximize the space as much as possible,” Oursler said.

Tricia and Pete Chancellor enjoy a view of the creek from the deck of their bedroom at their new beach house in South Bethany.
Tricia and Pete Chancellor enjoy a view of the creek from the deck of their bedroom at their new beach house in South Bethany. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

An outdoor gathering place

Tricia Chancellor said most mornings begin with the family sprawled on the spacious porch, with coffee for the adults and milk or juice for the children. They often watch as Luke fishes on the deck below, sometimes from dawn until dark.

The ground-level wraparound deck invites the family to spend much of their day outdoors. They own a small skiff as well as paddle boards and kayaks, and the children often travel by water to see their neighborhood friends.

The Chancellors prefer boating and biking over driving while at the beach.

“It’s nice to be bike distance from places,” Pete Chancellor said.

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For instance, Luke enjoys riding his bike to the bait shop to re-up his supply, his father said. He added, last summer, Luke caught crabs, rockfish and eel, among other critters, and became something of a community fixture.

“What’s really cute is [with all the boat traffic] everyone stops and asks Luke, ‘So, what did you catch today?’ ” Tricia said. “He’s gotten to know people that way.”

After a day of fishing, boating or beaching, the family usually gathers back on the porch to relax. Or they head to their respective bedrooms.

Siblings Luke, 10, and Bridget Chancellor, 5, have custom built bunk beds in their room at the family's beach house in South Bethany.
Siblings Luke, 10, and Bridget Chancellor, 5, have custom built bunk beds in their room at the family's beach house in South Bethany. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

A place for everyone

Luke and Bridget share a room on the first floor that features two sets of bunk beds plus an additional trundle bed — ideal for when friends or cousins stay overnight.

Their parents’ master bedroom, on the same floor, is fashioned with all-white bedding and minimalist wood accents. It includes a balcony that overlooks the water.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted,” Tricia said of the bedroom extension. “With the view, it’s something we couldn’t pass up.”

At dinnertime, the family typically gathers in the kitchen/family room for a home-cooked meal that can consist of colorful farmers market vegetables, fresh seafood [occasionally caught by Luke and Bridget,] corn and potatoes. Tricia, who enjoys cooking, said she makes good use of the outdoor grill. The family hardly eats out, she said.

“When [the weather is] nice and it can be all opened up into one big space, it’s definitely my favorite spot,” she said.

The kitchen is located on the second floor of the home and features a mixed white-and-wood counter plus an additional table and chairs to match. Specks of blue add color to the sleek space, which also includes a couch, television and a washer and dryer.

The third floor kitchen in the Chancellor family's dream beach house offers stunning views of the canal in South Bethany.
The third floor kitchen in the Chancellor family's dream beach house offers stunning views of the canal in South Bethany. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

The family can take the stairs or the elevator to the kitchen with the latter helping when the family brings home groceries or when visitors arrive with luggage.

“On move-in day, we used it quite a bit,” said Pete, adding that his father used it to go up and down when he came to visit over the summer.

Oursler said most of the homes she builds now feature an elevator.

“It makes sense to have the house built for all ages,” she said. “There’s often three generations spending time together in the house.”

While the Chancellor family aims to spend as much time as they can together, the house also offers multiple areas for private escapes.

After finding on of the few open lots in South Bethany, the Chancellor family built their dream beach house on the creek in South Bethany.
After finding on of the few open lots in South Bethany, the Chancellor family built their dream beach house on the creek in South Bethany. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

The kids have a playroom, adjoining the garage on the ground level, for their toys and for arts and crafts. The room can be opened to the deck.

A winding staircase from the second level’s screened-in porch leads to a rooftop terrace that overlooks the neighborhood, the water extending as far as the eye can see.

Pete and Tricia said they could hardly believe how smoothly the building process went.

The once-empty lot transformed before their eyes into a second home that they say feels less like a vacation house and more like an outward expression of their personalities.

And that lone pine tree? It had to be removed but the Chancellors saved some of its pinecones — and plan to enclose them in a frame that will hang in their beach house.

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