Gary McFall and Rob Ramoy spend a lot of time on the front porch of their home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Photo by Ivana Biela.
ON JULY 4 LAST YEAR, Rob Ramoy, Gary McFall and 125 of their closest friends and relatives sipped cocktails on the second-floor deck of the couple’s Rehoboth Beach house overlooking Silver Lake. Around 9 p.m., Ramoy cued up Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture just in time for the start of fireworks exploding over the Atlantic Ocean.
For more than half of their 40 years together, Ramoy, 66, a real estate broker and former theater teacher at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, and McFall, 63, a former Yves Saint Laurent buyer for Saks Jandel, have owned houses in Rehoboth Beach. They discovered the Delaware community in the late 1980s, when the rental market on New York’s Fire Island, where they had rented a beach house every year, got too expensive. One summer, a friend recommended that they check out Rehoboth Beach on their way home to Bethesda. They were charmed by the small-town feel and persuaded by the two-and-a-half-hour drive—no plane or train reservations necessary.
They soon bought a classic 1940s cottage on Norfolk Street in South Rehoboth, which they stripped down to the studs and renovated. In 1990, they sold that home and bought another property on the shore of Silver Lake, where they built a 2,000-square-foot house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a floating gazebo. After 14 years there, they decided they wanted more room to accommodate visiting family and friends, and looked into renovating. “According to a city of Rehoboth ordinance, we could’ve only added about 300 square feet, and it would’ve cost us a fortune to do it,” Ramoy says.
In the summer of 2011, Ramoy saw a “little tiny” real estate ad in the Cape Gazette and ripped it out. “I said, ‘Gary, it’s impossible for them to offer a house on Silver Lake with a pool and detached two-car garage with an apartment above it for this price.’ We just had to go look.”
At the southern end of Silver Lake, a large waterfront lot on Silver Lake Drive was being subdivided into four parcels. Echelon Custom Homes was building one house on spec to attract the interest of other potential buyers—and offering it at the bargain price Ramoy had seen in the ad.
McFall (left) and Ramoy say when they arrive at the house, they ditch their car since they can bike or walk to downtown Rehoboth. Photo by Ivana Biela.
The Echelon agent put Ramoy and McFall in the bucket of a cherry picker and lifted them up so they could see the view of the lake and the ocean beyond from what would be the second story of the house. “The view, the view, the view,” Ramoy says. “We decided to go for it.”
The couple put their house on the market, and a woman approached them almost immediately. “She walked by all the time and was evidently in love with the house,” McFall says. “We basically named our price.”
Meanwhile, when another Bethesda buyer wanted to build a larger home that required two lots, Echelon asked Ramoy and McFall if they would trade their chosen lot for another. But the new lot was deep and narrow. They were hesitant.
“We didn’t want a squished town house feel,” Ramoy says. Echelon designer Tim Tice laid out the parameters of the house with tape, and the couple saw that it could work. Plus, Echelon agreed to honor the original advertised price.
During the winter of 2011-2012, McFall spent hours in front of his laptop working with Tice and 3-D software that allowed him to “walk through” the three-story, five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom house plans, which included a one-bedroom guest apartment above the garage. “I’d say, ‘OK, let’s take out that wall, move this wall. And make this a little higher,’ ” McFall says. The construction began in early 2012 and took about 10 months.
To take advantage of the water views, Tice placed the great room and master bedroom at the front of the house. He also made sure that there were clear sight lines in the house to the front and back. That meant views of the ocean, lake and backyard pool from every floor.
The black-and-white foyer provides a wow factor when guests enter. Against the far wall is an old chest sprayed silver with a pair of gray marble 19th-century cassoulets on top. Photo by Ivana Biela.
During the planning, Ramoy and McFall thought a lot about their future life in the house, where they plan to retire. They knew that eventually they may have a master bedroom on the first floor, so they put in an elegant full bath with marble tile and a shower bench, and also installed an elevator.
In the foyer, the couple laid dramatic—and expensive—black and white marble tile diagonally for impact, and used more affordable tile in other parts of the house. “They wanted a grand feel in the foyer,” Echelon designer Matt Adler says. With its eye-catching floor, silver console table and oversize print of Greta Garbo, the entryway sets a whimsical tone for the rest of the house.
The living room carries over the foyer’s black and white theme. Photo by Ivana Biela.
The couple splurged on the great room fireplace, which Adler calls a “Rolls-Royce of gas fireplaces.” An oversize unit made by Heatilator, it doesn’t require a glass front, can be converted to burn wood, and is lined with real brick.