As part of a new generation of designers, New York City-based Matthew Caughy is bringing a fresh perspective to classically elegant interiors. With an innate sense of color and ease, Matthew strikes the perfect balance of polish with panache. He recently struck out on his own after cutting his teeth at the renowned design firm Foley & Cox for more than a decade—and he’s been swiftly on the rise since.
His eye for combining the relaxed and the refined is nowhere better showcased than in his own beach house, which he shares with husband Zane Jones, a fashion executive, in quiet Rehoboth Beach, DE. The decision to escape south for a weekend home was a conscious one. “Every time I go back, it reminds me of my childhood and great times,” says Matthew, who, like his husband, grew up in Maryland and spent endless summer days on the nearby beaches with family. “I think that’s part of what our main goal of the house was: to have a place where we could go to make memories with our family.”
That became foundation for the airy, sun-splashed coastal home that the couple now steals away to nearly every weekend, where they host a revolving door of friends and family. Matthew has filled each room with his signature casual sophistication: Relaxed upholstery mingles with finds picked up from jaunts to local antiques shops; rich natural textures abound, from easy sisals that pave the floors to a sumptuous woven bed; his grandmother’s blue-and-white china is mixed with cherished books and mementos collected with Zane. “With this house, because it was new, my desire was to bring in history and to bring in pieces that had a story,” Matthew says. “I like that feeling of some things are new, some things are old, and always mixing it up.”
The light-suffused entry at Matthew Caughy’s beach house sets off the home’s welcoming, at-ease vibe with soaring ceilings, a natural-fiber rug, and an antique bench, found at a local shop, that holds board games often brought out for little ones in the family. The sconces are by Visual Comfort.
“I want you to feel like you can come and go and grab a hat and run to the beach,” says Matthew of the sun hats and woven totes always at the ready for family and guests to bring along to the Rehoboth shore just a 10-minute bike ride away.
I think that’s part of what our main goal of the house was—to have a place where we could go to make memories with our family.
The open-floor family room is the core gathering space with its soothing palette of neutrals and natural textures, sumptuous seating, and gigantic brick fireplace. Until recently, it was also an internet dead zone. “It really forced people to talk, have a cocktail, and enjoy each other’s company. I loved that about it,” Matthew says.
The family room is anchored by an old worktable salvaged from a barn and “cut down to cocktail-table height,” while the large seascape is one of several paintings in the home by Matthew. “I’m the oldest of three, and we all painted growing up,” says Matthew, adding with a smile, “My father always wanted a fine artist in the family, but he still hasn’t gotten one.”
“The challenge of one large room is how do you make it work all together but also have separate intimate spaces,” says Matthew of the inviting, casual dining and lounge areas facing the family room. The setup is perfectly suited to his laissez-faire approach to the home and entertaining—informal family-style meals and seafood feasts that are “casual, comfortable, nothing fussy at all.”
The lush corner lounge area is planted with ferns and other leafy greenery by Matthew’s husband, Zane, an avid gardener. “We have it set up almost to feel like a sunroom with plants,” says Matthew, who upholstered the settee in a pretty floral print and surrounded it with antique tables found locally.
Most mornings when Matthew is at the beach house, he kick-starts his day in this warm corner with a cup of tea.
The bar is always self-serve, says Matthew, who fancies sidecars and, in summer, mojitos. The Serena & Lily bar cart is enlivened with a repurposed vintage ginger-jar lamp and a print by Ron van Dongen.
The living room, located behind French doors just off the entry, is dressed in a beachy palette of blues, whites, and woven textures. Because it’s where movie nights take place, polished practicality was top of mind. “The sofa is a dark color because I wanted it to be durable and not be afraid of popcorn spills,” Matthew explains. “And a leather ottoman is very durable and forgiving. If there’s a mark, it just gives it a story and a new life essentially.”
A china hutch that belonged to one of Matthew’s grandmothers has pride of place in the living room and is filled with blue-and-white porcelain from his other grandmother, antique books, and shells he and his husband have amassed over the years.
I grew up with the love of blue and white. I grew up with those actual pieces of blue and white in my grandmother’s home. I think that has always influenced me in terms of gravitating toward that aesthetically.
With the beach house being a revolving door for family and friends all year round, the guest room is occupied just about every weekend with adults or kids. As a “bright and happy” counterpoint to the rest of the home, Matthew brought in cheery hues, slipcovered headboards, and Pendleton blankets “so that anyone could feel comfortable here at any age.”
A colorful movie-poster print of one of Matthew’s favorite surf documentaries, The Endless Summer, hangs above a vintage Paul Frankl dresser in the guest bedroom.
In the master bedroom, woven textures take center stage, from the Merida carpet and the Ralph Lauren wall covering to the luxurious woven bed (“How can I not be happy about that?”), while black-and-white paintings by Matthew are displayed just above. “I really wanted a shot of black. That’s something that wasn’t anywhere else in the home,” he says.
In keeping with the notes of black, a vintage dresser is topped with a painting by Matthew and a favorite photograph taken in Hawaii by husband Zane. The prayer beads are an antique find from Hudson, NY.
I love woven rugs, sea grass, caning, beautiful baskets. I think it’s the artistry of it. I love pieces that you see the workmanship in, that doesn’t look so new that you lose sight of the human hand that made it.
Just off the master bedroom, the attic living space brings together Matthew’s love of blue and white and his husband’s love of greenery. “We really wanted to finish off the attic space and make it like our own private living room,” says Matthew. “It’s funny, coming from New York, where space is a luxury: It’s one of the things we enjoy about the home, but even in that spaciousness my favorite room is probably the smallest room in the home.”
Matthew reupholstered the rattan chair and ottoman in a lush Christopher Farr floral fabric (“It’s one of my favorite prints”), which is nestled alongside a Ralph Lauren floor lamp and a midcentury dresser by John Widdicomb.
“The room just called for a little spot like that when you enter the space,” laughs Matthew, who tucked away a painted metal desk that was his husband’s and a beloved BDDW mirror just off the doorway. “We try not to do any serious work in here. Maybe writing a letter or a thank-you card.”
The city is hectic. As much as I love being a New Yorker, there’s also a part of you as a New Yorker that needs to escape a little bit. When you come back you appreciate the city even more. You’re recharged.