Marnie Oursler, CEO of Marnie Custom Homes and host of DIY network’s Big Beach Builds, is no stranger to coastal homes. From following her dad around construction sites as a little girl to saving up every penny to buy her first fixer-upper on the Delaware coast, she now has over 100 custom homes under her belt.
Oursler has faced trials and tribulations as a woman in a male-dominated field, but it hasn’t stopped her from rising above the pack. “In the beginning, there were naysayers who believed I couldn’t build a house because I was a girl—that certainly stopped when I hosted a national TV show that showcased me physically building homes,” says Oursler. Now, she loves the variety her job brings, and the satisfaction of a job well done.
She’s always specialized in using locally sourced, sustainable building materials, which is more essential now than ever before. “We’ve felt the effects as our supply chain has been disrupted since places were shut down,” says Oursler. “What is clear from this experience is now more than ever, it’s important to support local brands and adjust our methods to rely more heavily on sustainable building.”
“I’ve lived at the beach for more than 20 years, so I recognize and plan for the small details involved in coastal living,” says Oursler. Here, she shares with us six tips for how to make the most of your outdoor space this summer. As we spend more time at home than ever before, use these tips to help you revamp your space for a staycation or for the outdoor entertainment of small groups.
1. Treat outdoor area space design as you would any indoor open floor plan. I like to create different zones or rooms. This outdoor “living room” was created using a large, freestanding brick fireplace as the focal point—perfect for cool summer nights (I chose brick for its ability to stand up to water). To make the dining area feel like a complete room, I covered it with a pergola strung with lights and candleholders to give it the effect of a ceiling.
2. Simply screening in a porch can provide year-round entertainment options. Get creative and setup a game area or outdoor bar (or both).
3. A new deck can transform an outdoor space. A few decking materials I recommend include cedar, which weathers beautifully and maintains its toughness for many years of harsh elements (it can last about 15 years without being power-washed or resealed). I also use a lot of IPE decking made from Brazilian hardwood because it’s naturally resistant to rot and decay and can last up to 50 years without replacement (it must be sealed every year, but it also stays cool in the hot sun). For a zero maintenance decking option, I recommend composite decking like Wolf—as shown below—made of wood fiber combined with recycled polyethylene which can last 25 years (the wood can hold mold so it needs to be power washed every three to four years).
4. Outdoor lighting is key to relaxing beach evenings. Hanging lanterns, string lights or pendant lighting truly enhances an outdoor space.
5. Don’t forget the outdoor accessories that complete a space. Rugs soften and anchor any room, especially an outdoor area. My favorite are striped rugs that are soft and washable, and great for bare feet. And pillows are not only comfortable, they add necessary color. Choose pillows that have removable covers, so you can interchange them and more importantly wash them.
6. Sometimes outdoor areas call for privacy from neighbors. Here we created a custom privacy screen using vertical IPE boards. These boards are built at a slight angle to provide privacy from the neighbors while still allowing sunlight and a breeze to pass through.