Creating a Safe Harbor

Missi Rothenberger singlehandedly navigates a shared dream to create a shipshape home in The Moorings

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Missi Rothenberger renovated and expanded her Cutlass Cove home in The Moorings into a 5,000-square-foot family haven. Photography by Molly Bartels
Missi Rothenberger renovated and expanded her Cutlass Cove home in The Moorings into a 5,000-square-foot family haven. Photography by Molly Bartels

Missi Rothenberger has owned at least eight properties in The Moorings, but there is something special about the one she now calls home. 

Missi Rothenberger keeps reminders of her late husband, Rick, throughout the home. This photo of the couple with daughter Samantha was taken in the 1990s. Photo by Kelly Rogers
Missi Rothenberger keeps reminders of her late husband, Rick, throughout the home. This photo of the couple with daughter Samantha was taken in the 1990s. Photo by Kelly Rogers

“Rick and I always loved this house,” reflects Rothenberger of the property that caught her and her husband’s attention more than 15 years ago. “We would pass by it on our boat or drive by it in our car. The owners probably thought we were stalkers,” she chuckles, “but we admired the home’s location, with its gorgeous river views from Cutlass Cove. We even asked our Realtor to inquire whether the owners wanted to sell, but the answer was always no.”

When the home eventually came on the market, years later in 2019, much had changed in Rothenberger’s life. Rick, her beloved husband of 32 years, had succumbed to a brain tumor in 2008. Their three children were off on their own, and Rothenberger was dividing her time between a home she and Rick had shared in their hometown of Mohrsville, Pennsylvania, and the 6,000-square-foot waterfront property she had lovingly remodeled on Binnacle Point in The Anchor. 

The master bedroom overlooks Porpoise Bay and the Moorings golf course across the water. Photography by Molly Bartels
The master bedroom overlooks Porpoise Bay and the Moorings golf course across the water.

“I kept myself busy buying and renovating homes after Rick died,” says Rothenberger about the hobby that morphed into a full-time job as a project manager for Read Construction Inc. 

“Flipping houses became my fun thing to do, and I worked with Randy Read on most of them,” she explains. “One day he said, ‘You have a good eye. I could use someone like you working for me. You’d be great meeting with clients and going on jobs with me.’ I said I’d give it a try, and five years later we’re still working together.” 

“Everyone loves Missi,” says Read, who established his Vero Beach-based construction company in 1994 after relocating from New Hope, Pennsylvania. “The clients, the subcontractors all love her. She’s great to work for when she’s doing her own renovations, as well as great to work with when she’s assisting clients in making decisions about their projects. She knows what she’s doing, and she has a great sense of humor.” 

The formal living and dining area opens up to wide expanses of outdoor entertainment space. Photography by Molly Bartels
The formal living and dining area opens up to wide expanses of outdoor entertainment space.

When the four-bedroom, five-bath Cutlass Cove property finally became available, Rothenberger had the experience and confidence to go through the process of making it her own—although it seemed bittersweet without Rick. 

“I called our kids and they said, ‘If you really love it, go for it,’” she recalls. “The only downside was it needed so much work.” 

Built in 1998, the 3,233-square-foot home was tired, the landscaping was overgrown, and it required a complete overhaul, according to Rothenberger. “Fortunately, by that time, Randy knew what I liked in a home and could guide me through what was possible in terms of physical renovation. Although it had good bones, I wanted to bring it up to today’s standards with bigger bedrooms, bigger bathrooms, and a kitchen/family room that would become the heart of the home.” 

Missi Rothenberger has several paintings of cows throughout her home, a nod to Rick’s family-owned dairy business in Pennsylvania. Photo by Kelly Rogers
Missi Rothenberger has several paintings of cows throughout her home, a nod to Rick’s family-owned dairy business in Pennsylvania. Photo by Kelly Rogers

After purchasing the property in August 2019, she immersed herself in a year-long renovation, utilizing trusted tradespeople with whom she has worked both personally and professionally. 

“We’d go over there on a Saturday, walk around and discuss her ideas,” says Read, whose business is dedicated exclusively to renovations. “We started out making the bedrooms 8 feet bigger, then 11 feet bigger. Missi even got into the demo work, helping to rip out bathrooms and tear down drywall. That’s what’s amazing about her. She’s willing to get in there and do it to see progress.” 

Roy’s Electric replaced the home’s wiring. Quality Plumbing installed all new water pipes. A new cedar shake roof was added, courtesy of Eric Black from MB Enterprises Roofing. Several interior and exterior walls were knocked down and rebuilt. Windows were widened to capitalize on the home’s sweeping water views. 

Rothenberger created a den where family gathers when visiting. The space is complete with comfortable furniture and family mementos from years past. Photography by Molly Bartels
Rothenberger created a den where family gathers when visiting. The space is complete with comfortable furniture and family mementos from years past.

Floors, windows, interior and exterior doors, bathrooms, the kitchen, patios, pool decking, and landscaping were replaced and upgraded. Rothenberger’s vision and the team’s collaborative efforts resulted in a stunning 5,000-square-foot main house with four bedrooms, four en suite baths, and one half-bath as well as a beautifully appointed one-bedroom, one-bath guest house. 

“I love making a house a home,” says Rothenberger, who, along with her three Maltese dogs, delights in welcoming friends and extended family to share her comfortable surroundings. “It’s my mouse nest,” she smiles, referring to the nickname she earned due to her petite size.

A mouse nest with a giant view! Paned mahogany double entrance doors open to large, sun-drenched formal living and dining areas, offering wide vistas of backyard entertaining spaces and the open waterway beyond. One hundred fifty-year-old pecky cypress adds visual interest to the ceiling and textural balance to white walls, white oak floors, and an eclectic, artfully arranged assortment of antique furnishings and accessories, consignment shop finds, and newer custom purchases. 

The family room next to the kitchen takes on a nautical vibe with tones of blue and accents of brass. Photography by Molly Bartels
The family room next to the kitchen takes on a nautical vibe with tones of blue and accents of brass.

Off the large space, Rothenberger created an intimate deep blue den by removing a fireplace and adding an overstuffed leather chair, comfortable oversize couch, and a large writing desk. “I like to add rich colors to small, cozy rooms,” she explains. “The kids end up hanging out here, on the floor or the couch.”

Another favorite gathering spot is the crisp white chef’s kitchen, designed by Rick Klipstine of Indian River Cabinet Design. Featuring floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, the space exudes a distinctly nautical vibe thanks to a navy island, bar, hutch and pendants—all accented with satin brass hardware.

In the adjacent family room, a pecky cypress fireplace takes center stage, flanked by blue-and-white-checked chairs and vibrant coastal artwork. “We ordered all that pecky cypress for the living room ceiling and then had some left over,” Rothenberger says, “so we decided to use it on the fireplace.” A vintage French pastry table, mercury glass bottles, whimsical art and accessories, and comfortable navy sofas offer a warm blend of old-world charm and modern sensibility to the space. 

White oak floors run throughout much of the house. Photography by Molly Bartels
White oak floors run throughout much of the house.

Although the home is very much her own, Rothenberger couldn’t resist infusing touching tributes to her late husband. A walking stick here, a photograph there, and vintage model cars that pay homage to Rick’s passion for collecting and racing vintage automobiles. Two bright watercolors of cows, painted by local artist Mara DePalma, adorn walls in both the den and the family room—a nod to Rick’s family-owned dairy business in Pennsylvania Dutch country, where he and Missi both grew up. Missi fondly remembers getting regular deliveries of milk from the Rothenbergers’ dairy throughout her childhood. 

Aside from his many talents, Rick had an amazing eye for interior design, Rothenberger reveals. “I used to call him Pierre, my decorator,” she says. “In fact, when I was choosing fabrics for this house, I’d jokingly say, ‘So, Pierre, what do you think?’ If the fabric slid off the chair, I knew he didn’t like it,” she laughs. “Still, I think he’d be proud of the way it turned out.”

Despite navigating uncharted waters singlehandedly, Rothenberger says she feels totally at home in The Moorings. “I guess I’m anchored here. This is my forever home … with memories to preserve as well as many more to come.” 

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