When Cindy Tippett told the designer for her new family beach house that she wanted to use a lot of blues, she didn’t know how deep a dive it would be. “Blues just speak to me,” Cindy says. “It’s always been my favorite color.”
Blue is in every room of the house the Tippetts built in the low-key Delaware resort town of Bethany Beach — and on their shutters and in their driveway, too. Fortunately, her husband, Jim, likes the color: He bought an “ocean blue” Jeep to match.
“Blue makes me happy, and I think it makes others happy as well,” says the Tippetts’ designer, Erin Paige Pitts, who swatched her way through the three floors using 10 shades of blue paint and dozens of fabrics with blues from aqua to cobalt. There’s a turquoise beaded chandelier over the dining table and a pale blue vintage quilt in the bunk room. Set against lots of fresh white walls and neutral upholstery, the blue pillows, tiles, bedcovers, dishes and wicker tie the rooms together and relate the house to the sky and sea.
Since 1982, Cindy’s parents had owned a home in Bethany Beach that was walking distance to both the town and the water. Jim and Cindy, both 63, who live in Olney, Md., and daughters Caroline, 20, and Julie, 27, had savored summers there. “I like its small-town feel, and it’s quiet,” Jim says. “During holiday weekends when there is a lot of traffic, we can walk everywhere.” When a property across the street came up for sale in 2014, they bought it and built a 7,000-square-foot house with a two-car garage and an L-shaped saltwater pool. Both retired, Jim from the cable TV business and Cindy from her job as a Montgomery County Public Schools speech pathologist, they were looking for a house where family and friends — and everyone’s dogs — could have a relaxed getaway.
It’s already been the site of memorable family times. Last July, they gathered there when Julie wed Robert Olsen, 27, in nearby Long Neck, Del. The bridesmaids’ dresses, appropriately, were aqua, jade and turquoise.
The house has places for congregating as well as hideaways to sit and chill in away from the crowd, which on the Fourth of July has swelled to as many as 23. The main floor has a large, open living-dining-kitchen space, a screened porch, a powder room, Cindy’s office and an outdoor room with a wood-burning fireplace, gas grill, sink and fridge. There’s also a “sand room” where beach towels are rolled up in cubby holes. The second floor’s master bedroom has an adjoining sunroom, bathroom and office for Jim. There are also two guest rooms (blue/white and blue/yellow) that share a bathroom.
Julie and Caroline got cool spaces upstairs for hanging out. Julie’s, and now also Robert’s, spacious bedroom on the second floor has an airy four-poster bed (under a Sherwin-Williams Quench Blue ceiling), a window seat and a sectional sofa plus adjacent bath. The third-floor suite belongs to Caroline, who attends Auburn University in Alabama and spends summers working in Bethany. One room has bunk beds and a place to lounge; Caroline’s bedroom has a floating bed suspended by jute. There’s also a bathroom and roof deck.
It all began when Cindy found a Pinterest photo she loved of blue sea glass. This sealed the color palette for inside the house, as well as outside, where the white siding is set off by Caribbean blue shutters customized with cutouts of waves.
“They found me because I do a lot of coastal houses with a lot of blue,” says Pitts, who has offices in Annapolis and Delray Beach, Fla. “But I don’t think any one single house I’ve done has had so many versions.” She worked the palette for each room until it “felt good.” She says some blues are serious (navy), some are moody (bluish gray) and others are cheerful (marine and pale blue).
Pitts sought out finishes with a beachy vibe. She chose Cambria polished quartz kitchen counters from the Waterstone Collection in the swirly Montgomery pattern, which has a watery look with a hint of sparkle. There are kitchen backsplash tiles in three colors of blue glass from Waterworks’ Repose line. The shapes of the blue handmade ModCraft tile around the living room fireplace reflect waves and water. In the master bedroom shower, a Vetrazzo resin wall in Floating Blue is embedded with recycled glass that reminded Pitts of sea glass in the sand.
The bedroom colors were inspired by Cindy’s vintage quilt collection, which is displayed throughout the house. Pitts took the stack to her studio and used the quilts as anchors for the color mixes.
Jim says that when they were planning the house, they were also looking ahead. They installed an elevator that goes from garage to third floor, ideal for Cindy’s 92-year-old mother, who still stays at her nearby house. The elevator has a handrail and a telephone. In one bathroom, the shower and a wall-mounted sink can accommodate a wheelchair. One of the two outdoor showers can be reached by wheelchair as well.
There are family heirlooms all around. Cindy’s late father’s fishing hat hangs in the foyer. Julie’s great-grandmother’s 1930s white-and-orange chenille bedspread was used to upholster a window seat cushion in her bedroom. Cindy’s sister Nancy Mornini, a Montgomery County art teacher, came up with the idea to frame a navy-and-white vintage bathing suit they found at their mom’s place to put in a guest-room bath. And the flags that the Tippetts hang on their porch for the Fourth of July once belonged to Jim’s dad.
Now that the Tippetts are known for their blue love, everyone wants to help. Cindy’s friends text her from stores to report sightings of blue plastic Solo cups or blue paper plates. Mornini keeps her eyes peeled for artworks with a nod to the sea and secondhand books with blue spines.
“We built this house for now and for the future,” Cindy says. “But the future is now. Julie is pregnant.” Fortunately, the bedroom where Julie and seven of her friends once hung out for the weekend, and where her bridesmaids got dressed for her wedding, has ample room for a crib. Forget pale blue or pink. The baby will hang out in stylish turquoise and orange.
Jura Koncius covers style, home and design for The Washington Post. She and designer Erin Paige Pitts will host a live Q&A on Thursday at 11 a.m. Submit questions at live.washingtonpost.com.