October 2, 2023

wall papers

Your Dream House

Three Bethesda-area couples share their dream vacation homes

Three Bethesda-area couples share their dream vacation homes

When the Hemmersbaughs first toured this property, they loved the quarter-acre lot on Solomons Island with a view of Mill Creek. Photo courtesy of Angela Newton Roy photography

Seaside vibes

Great things can happen when you’re willing to keep an open mind and explore new places and possibilities. Diane and Paul Hemmersbaugh always dreamed of having a home on the water. He grew up going to lakes in Minnesota, and she spent summers at the Maryland seashore. Over the years, the pair, who have two daughters and live in Potomac, had visited many of the popular vacation spots in the region, including Lake Anna, Deep Creek Lake, the Delaware beaches and the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

When they got serious about searching for a second home of their own, their top priorities were being near a small town with easy access to shops and restaurants, and being on a sheltered inlet or creek so they could have a pier and a boat. They were unfamiliar with the Western Shore of the Chesapeake, but Paul had some colleagues with homes there, so they decided to consider it. With help from a local real estate agent, they explored several towns and picked Solomons Island in Maryland. “We were drawn to its charm, as well as the proximity to our primary residence, which is just an hour and a half drive door to door,” Diane says.

New hardwood flooring, fresh paint and an updated light fixture changed the look and feel of the Hemmersbaughs’ dining room. The new sliding doors allow views of the water and plenty of natural light. Photo courtesy of Angela Newton Roy Photography 

When they first toured the house that would eventually become their weekend retreat, they were not impressed. “We were in and out within about five minutes,” Diane says. The 1970s split-level was in its original state, with old carpeting and dark paneling, very few windows and little natural light. On the drive home, they talked about what a shame it was that the place was in bad shape, because the site was great, a quarter-acre lot overlooking Mill Creek with a beautiful water view from a covered rear porch. 

They started to brainstorm about changes and improvements they could make to the 2,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-bath house, and got excited about the prospect of making it their own. After all, their home in Potomac had been a fixer-upper, and Diane learned a lot about the process by overseeing the room-by-room renovation. They brought a trusted contractor down to see the waterfront house, and he agreed that their ideas were doable and affordable. They made an offer, bought the place, and the contractor got to work. 

The first and most important order of business was making the most of the water view. They removed two walls on the main floor, opening the small kitchen to the living and dining spaces. Then they installed two sets of sliding doors that lead to the rear deck, essentially creating a wall of glass overlooking the water. “We truly spend most of the day out there,” Diane says. “It’s beautiful to watch the local wildlife and the changing light on the water.”

Diane Hemmersbaugh kept it simple in the bedrooms, with painted white floors and cottagey furniture, and added texture with grasscloth wallpaper and a natural fiber area rug and window shades. Photo courtesy of Angela Newton Roy Photography 

Diane served as the general contractor on the project and the interior designer. She’d always had a passion for design, and several years ago, when the decorator she’d been working with on her Potomac house moved away, she finished the project herself. Family and friends were impressed, and she started to take on jobs, eventually becoming certified through the New York Institute of Art and Design. She transitioned from a career in public policy and launched her own company, Theo & Co. Design, in 2019.