Katy Durham, left, and Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan stand on their lower deck of their dream home on the bay side of Ocean City.
Katy Durham, left, and Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan stand on their lower deck of their dream home on the bay side of Ocean City. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

Where the salt air blends with the smell of tropical flowers, and the bay beyond the deck blooms with the masts and rigging of fishing and leisure boats, you will find the leader of Maryland's summertime playground.

"You know, Harbor Island is the home of the White Marlin Open each year," says Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, naming one the resort town's most popular traditions. "This community has everything — tennis courts, pool, tot lots [and] the Reel Inn bar and restaurant."

Indeed, the chief cheerleader of the resort town is in residence, along with his longtime partner, Katy Durham.

But the gated community of Harbor Island that Meehan calls home, just yards from the town's sandy beaches, is more like a remote fishing village than a bustling tourist destination.

The three-story townhouses and condo buildings sit in a small cove off of the Isle of Wight Bay. Most are vacation homes for residents seeking a summer respite. About 30 homes harbor year-round residents like Durham, 65, and Meehan, 62. Both work for as Coldwell Banker Realtors in Ocean City, making a permanent residence necessary.

The 1,600-square-foot townhome is the couple's second in Harbor Island. They had lived just a few doors down but wanted an end-of-group unit and the wrap-around porch that goes with it. The unit was not new when the couple purchased it for $650,000 in 2005, but a $100,000 renovation made it so.

The makeover included the addition of plank hardwood flooring, ceiling and wall molding, and a new kitchen. All of the windows and doors were replaced, along with six sets of sliders, bathrooms updated and an attic created. Finally, all the walls that separated rooms on the first level were removed to open up the floor plan. And since the couple sold their former townhouse with furniture included, they bought all new furniture.

"We [furnished] for comfort, not just appeal. I wanted it to feel like a house," Durham says. "If we were only going to do it once, we were going to do it right."

And so she called on local interior designer Kay Ayers to help her with paint colors and wallpaper as well as the furniture needed to achieve a warm, French country cottage feel.

A corner fireplace in the living room boasts a window box frame, achieved with multiple layers of molding. The molding is carried throughout the first level in the form of beige painted wainscoting on the lower half of the walls below chair rails. The upper sections of the walls are grass cloth in a warm, honey mustard shade. The living room suite is a neutral shade of microfiber, with the down-filled sectional sofa dominating the room while in perfect scale to its surroundings.

The kitchen features light-toned, bead board cabinetry alongside stainless appliances. Granite countertops and an ornately carved wood worktable, built into the wall that separates foyer from kitchen, complete the country look. Accessories placed around the home, such as framed prints of sea life and shells, allude to its marine location.

The wainscoting and sea grass motif works its way up the staircase to the second level with three bedrooms that include the master suite. A guest room is referred to as the "pink and pickle room," named for its colored walls, accessories and linens. The "red room," named for its boldly painted walls, has been outfitted with trundle beds for the visiting grandchildren. (Meehan and Durham have a total of six children and seven grandchildren from previous marriages.)

An airy and comfortable master suite features built-in shelving units, plantation shutters, and sliders to the deck overlooking the cove, the bay and beyond.

In a town neither plans on leaving, the couple is pleased with all of their renovations.

"We got to do this house the way we wanted and it was worth the wait," says Meehan. "I have a great job in a city I love being a part of."

Durham, who is deeply involved with social aspects of the city, such as the art league and the house tours, adds, "I'm never bored. I'm never not busy!"

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Making the dream

Dream element: The three-story townhouse of Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and his partner Katy Durham is in the secluded neighborhood of Harbor Island. Its location on Isle of Wight Bay allows for year-long breezes and water views. In addition, its proximity to heart of downtown Ocean City is a plus for the involved lifestyle enjoyed by the couple. "We love the downtown area," Durham says. "We walk to the boardwalk and ride bikes there."

Dream exterior: The couple refers to their townhouse as contemporary beach style. It has been constructed of gray cedar siding with white trim, multiple sliding doors, several decks and a ground floor garage and family room, with second- and third-story living space.

Dream design: The interior is spacious and open, thanks to the removal of all the walls that divided the second level. The rear of the unit is directly on the water, allowing for excellent views from the sliders and third-floor windows. The end-of-group, wrap-around deck, off the living room, is a lovely — and practical — summer extension of the main floor. Here, table and chairs cozy up to the railing, while hanging and potted flowers envelop those sitting outside.