Big Beach Builds: Q&A with Marnie Oursler

I’ve spent practically my entire life vacationing on the Delaware shoreline, from Fenwick Island, where my parents had three different places over the years (including this one), up to Bethany and Rehoboth beaches. That’s why it’s fun to watch Marnie Oursler, a home builder based in Bethany, as she heads into her second season on the DIY Network’s Big Beach Builds!

Marnie Oursler

Her second season airs on Monday, April 9, and she graciously agreed to talk to me about her work and her show.


Where in VA and MD did you grow up?
I was born in Southeast DC and grew up in Prince Georges County until I was 5, then we moved to Fairfax VA until I was 10, and then we moved to Calvert County MD.

What percentage of your second-home clients are from the DC area, would you say?
Ninety percent.


How is making a show about building beach houses different from your day-to-day business of building beach houses?
It is much faster! It is different because it is just a snapshot of what I do every day for a living; it highlights the action—not the day to day with budgets, walking job sites, designing on the computer, meetings, etc.

What was the biggest surprise that came from taping your first season?
How much time it takes to make a 30-minute episode and how many outfits I would need!
Any lessons that you take into your second season?
Season 2 was much more organized, I found better ways to manage my time and I kept my clothes more organized! I designated an entire room in my house for “show clothes”.

I grew up going to the beach at Bethany and Fenwick Island. Home sizes have exploded since we had our small condo at Fenwick Towers in the ’70s. Is that because families are bigger? Needs are bigger? Egos are bigger? Or building technology can enable it in a flood- and storm-prone environment?
Probably the last one. Technology in general has changed the environment at the beach. People are spending more time at the beach, because they can work remotely. Building technology has enabled us to use products that withstand the beach environment better than ever before. And with the amount of baby boomers retiring, why not retire to the beach!? Low taxes and a great environment for the multiple generations in a family to spend time together. And the house size is larger because of just that. We are building houses that will have three or four generations living together at the same time. Grandparents, their children, the grandchildren and sometimes great grandchildren. So to accommodate everyone, the houses are bigger.

In your opinion, what beach-design trends are played out, and which ones are you loving right now?
Ha, I’m not sure which ones are played out, but I’m not a huge fan of the super cottagey and colorful look. I think that one is over. I love the more streamlined organic look. A lot of natural elements and a blend of the rustic with the clean. We have been doing shiplap and barn doors for about 10 years, and both are still gaining in popularity. I don’t think they will go out.


This is Marnie’s own foyer.

What I do love is blending the exterior elements into the homes. Beach grasses, natural white counters, lighter colors on walls, a lot of glass (windows and doors) to really bring the ouside in! The colors and the authenticity of the Delaware beaches are unparalleled—I love it when those colors and elements of nature are brought inside!


What is something that’s a must-have in new beach homes that may not have been as important when you were starting out?
Barn doors and shiplap. We have been doing them for about 10 years, but now they are a must! Cubbies for beach storage is also a must!



I think every home we build has some type of bed we build. Bunk beds, hanging beds, beds with storage, etc. We build a lot of beds!



And we do a lot of custom front doors, 4-foot-wide front doors is our signature. That has become a must.


Can you name some DC-area interior designers or architects you’ve worked with on your projects?
Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen and Baths, who designs many of my kitchens, likes the ones here:


[I remember running into Jennifer one evening a few years ago as we waited for tables at Bluecoast in Bethany, one of my favorite restaurants! Maybe she was working on one of Marnie’s houses.]

How would you say beach-house design in this mid-atlantic area differs from destinations farther north (NJ shore, Hamptons, Cape Cod etc.) or down south (Outer Banks, Hilton Head)? Is there a DelMarVa signature?
I’m not sure… we have an eclectic mix in DelMarVa but most of our homes are influenced by New England/Nantucket more than anywhere.

Marnie’s home



And finally, can you share any hints for what’s coming up in season 2?
Season 2 is fun! I do personal projects for all of the families, so it is special. Season 2 has a little bit of everything, all of the episodes are very different!

Well, I’m definitely tuning in on Monday.


And In Other TV News…
How cool is it that this area has not one, but two budding home-show stars? My friend Lauren Liess and her husband David did a pilot for HGTV last year, and Best House on the Block got picked up for a full season. They just started filming Season 1, so stay tuned!


  1. Pat Chabot says:

    Do you do home renovations that are not quite as extensive as i’ve seen on your shows? We have a kitchen and 2 bathrooms that need your wonderful taste and expertise.

    • Jennifer Sergent says:

      Pat, I can’t answer that question for you, unfortunately. There is a link to Marnie’s website in this blog post — and her site has a contact form and phone number that you can call to inquire. Good luck!

  2. marydale love says:

    My husband and l are older and love all that you do and watching your show….

  3. marydale love says:

    Where is Chris this year……. you have a beautiful home….. are you married…. love the show

  4. So beautiful. I love seeing these gorgeous homes. I want one!