Q&A: Shawn Evans on beach houses

Shawn Evans
Aug 02, 2018

Designer Shawn Evans is owner of P Four. The Alexandria firm does residential design and handles marketing, branding and model home merchandising for builders and developers. Shawn's career started in marketing and he has had senior positions at Pulte Homes and Del Webb. He is also a co-owner of Monument Sotheby's International Realty . The Rehoboth Beach home Shawn shares with his husband Joe Petrone and that P Four designed is the cover story of Local Living on August 2.

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Designer Shawn Evans is owner of P Four. The Alexandria firm does residential design and handles marketing, branding and model home merchandising for builders and developers. Shawn's career started in marketing and he has had senior positions at Pulte Homes and Del Webb. He is also a co-owner of Monument Sotheby's International Realty . The Rehoboth Beach home Shawn shares with his husband Joe Petrone has interiors that Shawn designed with his P Four team. The two are wonderful hosts and their seven bedrooms are often filled with family and friends. Read my story and see the photo gallery about their house which is centered around a pool and courtyard here. Ask him about beach house design and summer entertaining. 

Good morning.  I'm so happy to be here with you.

Hi Shawn. What's the best way to get a beachy color palette into an urban apartment? especially one that gets limited light?

If you don't want to paint walls, adding accessories such as pillows and artwork is a way to add a beachy vibe to any space.

I wonder if you would share the name of the paint color referred to as "beige" in the guest room featuring a print of an octopus above a tall-post bed, with what look like terra-cotta-colored throw pillows on the bed. The room has a wonderful color scheme, which I'm finding hard to achieve! Thank you.

Actually that room is covered in a natural colored grasscloth. The room is a layering of neutrals.  The pillows you are referencing are woven jute.  I love the texture of the grasscloth and the depth it provides.

We have a house overlooking the water with low ceilings. Every paint color I try seems to reflect off the ceiling and looks dull and takes on a greenish tint. What paint colors would you suggest to both heighten the look of the ceiling and lighten up the room?

That's tough without knowing more information, like what color floors you have and what your furniture is like. However, If you are on the water, I would let the water view be the star and paint a light neutral color.  SW Accessible Beige is one of my favorites.  

Our house has contemporary furniture. We have triple windows with duette shades. Above the shades we have a straight cornice that matches the gray/yellow in the furniture and area rug. Is the cornice over the top of the shades considered contemporary? Thank you.

A cornice is not typically a contemporary design element, however, it can be if it is kept simple which it sounds like you have done.  

Blue and white nautical never gets tired. Unless it is the winter holidays. How to make fabric and other choices that can transcend/transfer/transubstantiate the seasons? Obviously pillows and linens are easy, and maybe enough, but what about that blue sofa?

I lover the idea of a blue sofa. I actually have a navy blue sofa in my DC home.  Blue is one of, if not the most widely accepted color by people.  Making a bold statement with a blue sofa allows you to easily change pillows and accessories seasonally.

I have a pair of single-paned glass doors between my living room and library. Both rooms have lots of windows, but the library is on the north side of the house, so its brightness comes from the living room. However, it is a functional library, and the books are distracting from the living room. I'm thinking of replacing the glass in the doors with one way mirrors, to let light in to the library but also keep an open feel in the living room. Can this be done with aged mirror? Do you think it's a good idea? Where would one find it?

I like the idea.  I think an antique glass could be beautiful and add some light to your living room while hiding the books you don't always want to be looking at.  You should be able to find antiqued mirror at any glass provider.  I use Gaithersburg Glass in MD.

My husband and I are having a house built in Myrtle Beach, SC. We want to give the home a carefree beach feel, but still keep it a little elegant, or at least "put together." The builder will leave us with the standard beige walls, but I intend to paint as soon as I arrive. I have a large blue sofa, which will be the main piece in the living/dining area. What color/s should I put on the wall? I love the blue or gray tones, but want to make sure I coordinate the colors with the master bedroom, office, and kitchen. Any ideas?

It sounds like you have a blank canvas which is exciting, although I understand it can be overwhelming.  I think gray walls with a blue sofa would be stunning. You can paint a light gray in the living area and maybe go a little darker in the bedroom for more of a moody  vibe.  You can layer different blues in pillows and accessories to give it a beach vibe without being to trite.  

My white vinyl-clad kitchen cabinets installed 22 years ago are yellowing, gummy, and in some cases peeling. Is it possible to remove the vinyl cladding so that I could paint the pressed wood underneath?

That is a common problem with many aging laminated cabinets.  I am not sure I would recommend painting them.  You may want to consider replacing the doors with a paint grade door and then paint everything.


Shawn We recently bought a new home in a planned community -Potomac Shored in prince William county. Our home has a walk out basement We would like to build instead of a deck coming off the kitchen and main living area - a sun room where the walls can be pushed open in summer months - kind of like folding accordion glass doors Can you recommend how and whom we hire to achieve this? Thank you. sun room

That sounds beautiful and like a big project. I would start with a builder for a project like this. The builder and can facilitate the work needed with engineers and architects.

By the way, if you want to read about Shawn and Joe's stunning Rehoboth Beach weekend house that we featured today in Local Living on the cover, here is the story. Shawn designed it with the team from his firm PFour.

Hi Shawn, If you want to undertake designing a beach house with a welcoming vibe, where do you start?

I would start by talking with the owners to understand how they want to live in the space.  Ensuring that a home is both beautiful and functional is critical in good residential design.  I encourage clients to share some personal stories, photos, artifacts that often help with inspiration and determining what direction we go in.  Asking the clients what existing items (furniture, art, etc) are important to them is also necessary.  Then it's about creating a space that reflects the owners personality and ensuring comfort and style prevail.

My husband and I, 70 and 68, have enjoyed our beach house in the Outer Banks for several years as a second home, summer use, plus Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are considering making it our permanent home, but the biggest issue is that like most homes in the area, it is not friendly for "aging in place." We would need to install an elevator if possible, and figure out more storage space. It is a three-level home, with most of our living (kitchen, living room, master bedroom and bath) on the middle level. Do you have any specific ideas for making such a home more elderly-friendly? We have made some improvements like grab bars in the bathrooms, but nothing more complicated than that,

The Outer Banks area is spectacular so I understand your desire to make it your permanent home.  Certainly adding an elevator can be done although it can be difficult from a structural perspective. I would recommend consulting a builder who can help facilitate the structural engineers etc.  An in-home chairlift or "stair lift" may also be a possibility and be much simpler to install than an elevator.  

For years, I've brought the beach to suburbia, in what I hope is a tasteful way: seascape paintings, shells displayed in vintage shadow boxes, wicker furniture on the porch, a steamer trunk for a coffee table, etc. It's subtle but it makes me happy. I am moving to the beach full time; will my decorating style be too much when I am actually AT the beach?

That is something that is very personal.  Personally I try and be subtle in my beach house design and bring the beach vibe inside in some non-traditional ways.  I think its whatever makes you happy and if you are living at the beach why not celebrate it in your home.  I love shells and beach art so perhaps it's selecting a paint color that doesn't make it too much!

What is a good host gift if you are going to visit someone for a long weekend at a beach house?

I love this question.  We have a lot of guests at our beach house and our guests are typically overly generous with gifts.  We have friends stop by farm stands on their way to the beach and pick up some fresh corn, a homemade berry pie or a bouquet of fresh cut flowers.  I recommend bringing a host a board game or a beach game like badminton. You can never have enough games and it's a lot of fun to enjoy them together with your guests.  Of course, I never get tired of a nice bottle of wine or champagne, however, putting together a basket of mixers and ingredients for a specialty summer cocktail is a fun idea as well.

Having a pool must mean people are running around in wet bathing suits. Do you ask them not to sit on the indoor furniture?

We don't ask guests to not sit on the indoor furniture with wet suits, most of our guests respect the home and furnishings.  However, I did design my beach home with fabrics and finishes that are very durable. The home gets a lot of use with large groups so selecting appropriate fabrics and finishes was important.  

How did you choose lavender as your accent color?

The lavender accent color is soft, subtle, and soothing.  I wanted to introduce a little color but wanted it to be very minimal.  The particular lavender I used has a bit of a gray tone to it.  The lavender is beautiful against the grays and charcoals we have on some of the walls.  The lavender is only introduced in pillows and large jars of actual lavender (for the color and the scent).  I have a lavender pillow on each dining chair and a few on the sofas.... just enough!

How do you clean your sisal rugs?

Using a little  warm water and a toothbrush on stains or spills! The brush is needed to get into the  natural fibers.  Be careful not to use too much water as it can cause the natural fibers to warp and stretch.  Dry and water quickly.  

For everyday cleaning the vacuum does the trick!

I was really excited to see the grasscloth used. My mom had that in our living room, but only below the chair rail. I remember being a kid sitting on the couch and running my hands over the textures----something I'd forgotten all about until today! What are your thoughts on using grasscloth in a home that isn't at all "beachy"? I tend to prefer gray and white to beige, and sometimes incorporating beachy stuff can look a little forced.

I love grasscloth wall-coverings and use them frequently in design - not just beach inspired design.  The grasscloth provides wonderful warm texture and depth.  Grasscloth wallcoverings come in so many wonderful colors today.  We recently completed a design project in Baltimore where the dining room had a neutral old grasscloth wallcovering.  We Painted it navy blue which allowed us to transform the space, maintain the beautiful texture and provide the client with an updated, sophisticated dining room for very little money.

Will you share your favorite shops and restaurants in Rehoboth?

There are so many....

My favorite restaurants are Amuse, La Fable and Blue Moon.  Rehoboth has a wonderful food scene.  The chef at Amuse is very creative.  He has been a James Beard nominee several times. Amuse offers wonderful locally sourced ingredients and wonderful service.  

Shops.... Scott Spahr is a talented clothing designer located on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth.  He designs for men and women and rarely miss an opportunity to stop in and see what great new shorts or shirts he has designed.  

Where can I purchase one of these? I got one from Wayfair but the glass has a green tint.

Im not sure.  I purchased mine from a vintage, antique dealer in NC. 

Just curious. Do you have a summer wardrobe in your beach house so you don't have to pack every weekend? Also do you schlep stuff and supplies from DC or buy it there?

We keep a closet full of clothes at the beach house to eliminate the hassle of moving clothes back and forth. Plus, our beach attire is not always DC appropriate so it makes it easy.  When we travel to beach destinations we will typically pack from the beach house closet.  Other supplies such as food, drink, and everyday household items we buy in Rehoboth.  A Fresh Market recently opened which improved the grocery quality so we shop there often.  We do have some things delivered via Amazon and Costco.

What's the best formula for a bed in a beach house? Duvet? Comforter? Light matelasse cover?

I really enjoy bed linens and tend to layer a lot of bedding so our guests have everything they may need as people like to sleep at different temperatures.  I often use a light cover and roll up a big fluffy duvet at the end of the bed.  Since we have seven bedrooms and lots of guests selecting fabrics that are easily laundered is important and the laundry at a beach house never ends!

Everyone is talking about your fab beach house today Shawn. Thanks for answering questions from our readers. Next week we'll have Orion Creamer from Big Chill chatting about the vintage look in kitchens and other appliance topics. Until then, enjoy August.

Thank you all for chatting today. I've had fun!  I've got to run out to a client meeting.  Enjoy your day.

In addition to making your home age-friendly I think you should consider where on the Outer Banks the home is and what you would do if ordered to evacuate due to a hurricane. Also consider health care facilities nearby. No one wants to think something bad is going to happen, but be prepared!

Thanks for these tips.

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius or follow her on Instagram @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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