Pure Inspiration

Inside a serene Delaware beach house, every room is a blank slate

In Carole Lindes’ house, white is as soft as goose down, as crisp as a starched nurse’s cap, as comforting as mashed potatoes. “I never get tired of white,” she says. “It’s calm and peaceful, yet fresh at the same time.”

Her five-bedroom Bethany Beach house attests to that

In Carole Lindes’ house, white is as soft as goose down, as crisp as a starched nurse’s cap, as comforting as mashed potatoes. “I never get tired of white,” she says. “It’s calm and peaceful, yet fresh at the same time.”

Her five-bedroom Bethany Beach house attests to that, swathed in white from top to bottom, just like every home Lindes has ever owned—with a single exception. “In 1963, I got burnt-orange carpet,” she recalls. “I knew it was a mistake immediately.”

Today, Lindes hangs glossy English ironstone plates on the matte-vanilla walls of her home. Beds are dressed in pristine layers of cotton, vintage lace and matelassé. Curtains flutter at the window like bridal veils.

Lindes and her husband, Robert, built the two-story house a dozen years ago from silvery cedar. For the first five years, they vacationed there several weeks a year and rented the house for the rest of the season. When they decided to live there full time, Lindes, an interior designer at The Shop of the Four Sisters, a Millville store she owns with her three siblings, knew just how to decorate it.

White enhances the spaciousness of a communal second-floor gathering area, an open expanse of family room, dining area and kitchen. To create a seamless transition between the kitchen and the adjoining living areas, Lindes designed cabinets with the look and feel of furniture.

“We had an old, step-back cupboard and I asked the cabinetmaker to duplicate it,” she says. To enhance the vintage vibe, the cupboards were painted by hand with glossy oil-based paint in frosty white. “We wanted those brush strokes showing,” says Lindes. “It gives the finish more character.”

A pot rack above the counter dangles a mix of items that Lindes changes with the season, some useful, others merely fanciful: copper pitchers, pinecones, dried red peppers and a gunpowder horn
that belonged to her grandfather. Lindes made the rack herself,
drilling holes in a long, oval-shaped piece of iron she found at a junk shop and suspending it from the ceiling with chains. “The ceiling is so high it needed something to bring it down,” she says.

Standard white appliances melt into the design rather than make a statement. A small work table in the center of the kitchen is topped with milky Carrera marble. Lindes’ brother-in-law, Glen Wade, who also crafts furniture for her shop, fashioned it from bits of broken furniture. “They’re old table legs and chair legs,” she says. “You can’t tell they came from different pieces because it’s all painted white.”

To ground the rooms, Lindes chose a lower grade of oak with irregular graining and wormholes, imperfections she believes give a home an immediate feeling of age and character. She soon discovered oak is also a pragmatic choice for a beach house. “Sandy floors aren’t a problem for us,” she says. “We just sweep everything up.”

Wood chests and tables are a favored foil to white upholstered pieces and walls, which Lindes says creates a dramatic backdrop for the mellow colors of pine. The furniture she cherishes most was handed down through her family, who lived on a farm in Maryland. A softly glowing blanket chest in the downstairs den was rescued from her uncle’s chicken coop, where its beauty had been hidden under layers and layers of poultry droppings. “It needed a lot of very unpleasant scrubbing,” Lindes says. “As it turns out, the manure was a good preservative.”

Lindes embraces the variations in white, the warmth of a cream coverlet, the elegance of ivory chair skirts, the purity of icy-white linens. For walls, her choice is shell white, manufactured by Duron Paints & Wallcoverings. “It’s got a softness to it that I like,” she says.

She keeps primping to a minimum, relying on machine-washable slipcovers and gauzy curtains that look delicate but can be laundered at home. Her secret weapon against occasional smudges is a mild solution of bleach and water, spritzed from a spray bottle. “I use it on woodwork and durable fabrics, just about everything except fragile linens,” she says. “My kids call me the bleach queen.”

She exults in the nuances of texture, the geometric lines of a beadboard ceiling and the cool curves of white china glove molds that look like pale, waving hands. She appreciates sweet detailing, such as the pearl buttons and satin bows from a vintage wedding dress that adorn a hand-sewn lace pillow. “I love to layer an old chenille bedspread with lace pillows,” she says. “Putting together a house is a process, and I find myself changing things all the time.”

Early on, she brought in pieces from her ever-expanding collection of English ironstone platters and serveware to display on shelves mounted above the windows in the gathering area. Her favorite spot in her home is a niche set in an octagon-shaped turret, where a round oak table is flanked by armless chairs in white slipcovers. Her aunt and mother meticulously applied the tiny seashells that cover the chandelier. “It’s light but cozy, and you feel as if you’re in your own little world,” she says. “Every kid in the neighborhood has played games at that table.”

The long, weathered-wood farmhouse table in the dining area was a lucky find at the regular Wednesday auction in Crumpton, Maryland, Lindes’ preferred source for rustic antiques. “It was a bit of a gamble because the table was so rough and beat up,” she says. “We spent hours sanding it before we could run our hands over it without getting a splinter.”

Overhead, Lindes hung an antique pewter chandelier, dressed up with white silk shades. She is intrigued by the way the surface has worn over time so the base metal is exposed in patches.

“Every once in a while, someone suggests we get it resilvered,” she says. “I just smile and say I like it the way it is.”