Ellicott City residents Rosario and Maria Di Marco never lost their desire to have a second home by the sea in Lewes, Del. To this day, the quiet resort town holds happy memories of summer vacations at Fort Miles near Cape Henlopen Park when their children were growing up.
"Three years ago, while Googling for properties in the Lewes area, Rosario came across an abandoned home," Maria Di Marco recalled. "The house was in deplorable condition. The roof had caved in, snakes were hanging from the ceiling, and other creatures had decided to make it their home."
The house's previous owner had suffered a stroke, necessitating his move to a nursing home. Meanwhile, his family fought over the property, the Di Marcos said; consequently, no one took care of the home for almost five years.
Rosario Di Marco, a 64-year-old retired chief engineer at Fort Detrick, knew that very few properties on the ocean side of Route 1 went on the market. Moreover, this one-story bungalow was a mere three miles from the ocean.
"We finally drove up to personally see the house, [but] I was not able to set foot inside," Maria Di Marco said. "On the other hand, my husband took a tour of the place and [decided] to make an offer on the property. My first reaction was that he had totally lost his mind."
Still, Rosario Di Marco knew he would be able to renovate the house with a bit of time and patience. He paid $100,000 for the house, the property and most of the furnishings that no one wanted. Then he paid to have all of the furniture hauled away.
"This was an opportunity to buy myself a job," he said jokingly. "And I'd be able to do what I want."
And so he did. Without adding or taking away from the interior's original 2,475 square feet of living space, his architectural vision resulted in a completely updated home that is now beautiful, functional and spacious.
A large sunroom in the back of the 55-foot-wide house is now an open dining and living room, while the front door opens onto an entry area casually decorated in a wicker suite of furniture. Bedrooms flank either side of the home's central living area with the kitchen central to the floor plan. The couple says it symbolizes the heart of a home where Maria Di Marco cooks and bakes for her three grown children and two granddaughters.
Pleased with what she now calls her Cinderella home, Maria Di Marco, a retired chief of adjudication at Fort Meade, took over the interior decorating.
"The house today is just unbelievable," she said. "Everyone who has been [here] cannot believe it. It is now a four-bedroom home, each room having its own private full bathroom and theme."
Maria Di Marco worked with a $10,000 budget, buying a great deal of furniture online. Each room in the house is painted a different pastel shade calling to mind sunsets on the bay, the creamy beige sand underfoot and the various shades of blue and aqua that reflect the many aspects of the sea. Even her scented candles, lit throughout the home, are reminiscent of salt air and suntan lotion.
"One bedroom, the one used primarily by my granddaughters and their parents, is decorated with a ship theme," she said. "Of course, this theme was selected because their last name is Shipley. Our bedroom is done in pastel seashell theme. The other one is the flip-flop room. And the last one sports a dark seashell theme."
She said the joy of decorating the beach house was the hunt for each room's furnishings.
The flip-flop room, for example, features twin beds with a variety of colored flip-flops on the bed quilts, the material matching the curtains. The summer sandal is also seen on a cross-stitch picture hanging on the wall, a soap dispenser in the bathroom and on the bathroom towels. An acrylic occasional table features four carved and brightly painted flip-flops as its top.
Rosario Di Marco chose top-quality materials in the renovation, which are seen in the home's oak flooring, ceramic tile in bathrooms, granite countertops and stainless-steel kitchen appliances. He estimates the couple spent $190,000 on the makeover, which included a new roof.
"The kitchen we decided to do in a fish theme because we felt fish would be appropriate for a cooking area," Maria Di Marco said.
Two electric fireplaces keep the central rooms toasty in the cooler weather.
The Di Marcos love to entertain in their lovely home near the sea, their Cinderella dream.
"But please don't wear glass slippers — flip-flops will do," Maria De Marco said laughing.
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Making the dream
Dream realized: "I like to call our dream home the 'Cinderella Dream Home,' because, just as Cinderella's rags morphed to a beautiful ball gown, so did our home in Lewes, Delaware, go from an abandoned state to a fantastic, unbelievable beach home," said Maria Di Marco.
Personal touches: The Di Marcos have taken care with the front yard landscaping, where a statue of the Virgin Mary rests in a grotto of neatly planted shrubbery, and a winding slate walkway leads from the front door to the street.