Where they go to get away from it all


Carnmore, the Ireland vacation home of John Connelly, built by his father. (Courtesy of John Connelly)
July 8, 2012

The arrival of July doesn’t just herald miserable weather, it is the start of summer vacation season for Washington’s busi­ness­peo­ple and professionals. And for many, that means weeks — or just weekends — at their vacation homes, near and far. ¶ We talked with several who shared their stories of the places they call home when they get away from it all. ¶

Massanutten Mountain, Va.

Olivia Kibler, a property manager at District-based Crescent Property Management, is 23 years old.

And while many Washington area professionals in her age group are just beginning to think about buying a first home, Kibler already owns a vacation home: a 1,500-square-foot cabin atop Massanutten Mountain near Luray, Va.

The house has two bedrooms, one bathroom and separate living and dining rooms. An addition to the front of the house sports a great room.

She inherited the mountain getaway, along with a home in Mount Pleasant, when her father, Keith Kibler, president and owner of District-based roofing company Skyline Improvements, died after a work-related accident on Oct. 14.


Olivia Kibler’s mountaintop vacation home, near Luray, Va. (Courtesy of Olivia Kibler)

“When my dad bought the mountain house in 1984, it was more of a cabin. And over the years he transformed it into a fully functioning, year-round house and added on to it,” Kibler said. “He grew up in Luray, and it was always one of his dreams to one day have a house on top of the mountain. There are only seven houses up there. The rest is national forest, and nothing else can be built up there now.”

Since inheriting the house last fall, she has stayed there about 10 times and said she will spend some time there this month.

“I love the view up there. And the fact that my dad put so much work into it and put so much of himself into the home. I feel like have a connection to him when I’m up there, Kibler said.

The view, she said, is a panorama of the Shenandoah Valley with Luray in the center of it.

Even though the house belongs to her, Kibler hasn’t been left on her own in maintaining it. An aunt was left money to be spent on the home on Kibler’s behalf.

“My aunt and I are redoing the wraparound deck, making it nicer and bigger so we can sit outside and eat dinner out there,” she said.

Kibler said being responsible for a mountaintop home two hours from Washington is “daunting,” but she has family members that live near the house who provide a support system for her.


Frog Hall, Darrel Rippeteau’s vacation home on Wellesley Island on the New York side of the St. Lawrence River. (Courtesy of Darrel Rippeteau)

“Thanksgiving was my dad’s favorite holiday to host at the house. I have decided to keep his tradition going for his side of the family,” Kibler said.

— Shawn Selby

Wellesley Island, N.Y.

It stands to reason that someone who designs buildings for a living would have a hand in designing his own place.

Darrel Rippeteau of District-based Rippeteau Architects certainly used his considerable knowledge of residential and commercial real estate to create a spacious summer home in the Thousand Islands-Seaway region of New York.

Built over the course of seven years, Rippeteau began working on the house in 1990, when his parents gave him the land on Wellesley Island. It has been in the family since 1957, but remained undeveloped.

Rippeteau and his wife, Judy, wanted to design a place where they could host parties as well as relax with their three children. The five bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home accomplishes both goals with 3,600 square feet of room to play and unwind. The architect said there is even a designated “men’s room” and “ladies’ room” to accommodate partygoers.

More than anything, the house is a place for the family to reconnect. Rippeteau’s son and two daughters live in Brooklyn, but frequently head up north to spend time with their parents.

“We swim in the clear St. Lawrence river, scuba dive, row, fish, garden … all of the stuff which makes life seem eternally blissful,” Rippeteau said.

The native New Yorker does not wait for the summer to head to Wellesley Island. “In the darkness of winter, in the snow, with ice jamming the grand river, it is still a dreamy place,” he said. “It is thrilling to arrive in deep snow, and hike through frosted woods.”

— Danielle Douglas

Renvyle, Ireland

When John Connelly wants to get away from it all, he heads to a remote part of Ireland.

The president of the National Fisheries Institute in McLean owns a four-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath vacation home on 16 acres along Ireland’s west coast, near a town called Renvyle in County Galway.

The traditional Irish house, like many homes and cottages across Ireland and the United Kingdom, has a name: Carnmore. The home was built by Connelly’s father, Jack, in 1973 after Jack began visiting Ireland regularly after his first trip there in the early 1960s to meet his Ireland-born parents’ relatives.

“My father was a public health doctor, and he needed a place to relax, so he built the home in a very remote part of the country,” Connelly said. “This place in the ’70s was so remote, the bus would come only once a week. There were no cars, no telephones.”

Connelly, who spent every other summer there while growing up, stays at the home at least once a year. His next trip there will be for a weekend this month.

“We bring our four children every other year. I don’t want our kids thinking that what you do is go to Europe every summer. And bringing the family over can be expensive,” he said.

When he’s not there, a local farmer takes care of the home, which Connelly rents out to vacationers.

“I get a fair number of Americans, but Germans really love this part of Ireland,” he said.

Even though Carnmore sits along the beach, Connelly — the head of the industry group that represents the seafood industry — doesn’t go fishing there.

“I only enjoy the salmon, mussels, plaice or rock crab that others have caught for me,” he said.

— Shawn Selby

Rehoboth Bay, Del.

At least once a month, Colleen Evans, director of public relations for the Ritz-Carlton Hotels in D.C., packs up her family and heads to Rehoboth Bay.

She and her husband own a three-bedroom, three-bathroom beach house there that they try to use at least 60 days a year.

“Once we cross the Bay Bridge we can feel the stress level drop,” she said. “We have a great country club with a fantastic golf course; the area is safe and there’s lots for our two girls to do.”

When the couple purchased the home in 2008, the beach town was mainly a vacation hot spot. But over the years, Evans said there has been an influx of new residents making the town their permanent home.

“We have many friends who have left the crazy hustle and bustle of Washington and New York and have moved there permanently,” she said. “It’s now a year-round destination with many festivals, activities.”

Despite the growing popularity, Evans says the “vibe really hasn’t changed since college.” Back then, she and her husband used to spend their time off from school at the beach. They loved the area so much that owning a second home there came naturally.

— Danielle Douglas

Fisher Island, Fla.

Raul Fernandez gets away from Washington’s summer heat by heading south — to sunny South Florida.

Fernandez owns a five-bedroom on Fisher Island, near Miami and Miami Beach.

“It is actually cooler here than at home. The breeze here is always good in July,” he said last week as he and his wife and three children were spending the Fourth of July holiday week there.

Fernandez, the chairman and chief executive of Reston-based video software company ObjectVideo, said he began looking for a warm-weather vacation home in the late 1990s, first considering the Miami Beach neighborhood of South Beach. But a few nights spent in a hotel on the nearby Fisher Island led to a purchase of a two-bedroom condo there in 1999, and then a three-bedroom condo before his current five-bedroom home as his family grew.

“We overlook the ocean and palm trees. This is a really neat island. You have to take a ferry to get here, so you have privacy and safety. There are lots of activities for the kids. There are endless places for swimming, pools as well as beaches,” Fernandez said.

But he doesn’t go to the island to get away from Washington. Fernandez, who is a co-owner of the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics teams, frequently sees Sergei Gonchar, former defenseman for the Capitals, who has a place nearby, as well as other people from the Washington area.

“You run into people here involved in part of your day job as well,” he said.

— Shawn Selby

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