While her work is intertwined with the controversy and strife of the day's events, home is Rieger's reprieve. On a recent visit, Rieger described how she unwinds on a typical evening after work. Friends may invite her out for dinner at Pirate's Cove,
a waterfront restaurant. As they pull up to her dock to pick her up by boat, off go Rieger's power shoes and on the slide the beach sandals. She dashes out the back door and leaps on board, off for a relaxing meal over re-runs of the Wednesday night boat races.
Rieger's house brims with a zest for life, and the color is everywhere. She repaints her interiors and exteriors with the same ease that many would move chairs around the living room, rattling off names of paint colors as others do brands of clothing. The house was painted a "dingy white" when she bought it seven years ago. "I painted it a pretty, creamy, linen white and the doorways were a pretty lavender-purple. I tried so many color schemes on those doors…my painters had to paint those doors three times. I went from Mermaid Green to this wild, pinkish, hot Caribbean Pink." It was clear that she needed to take the intensity down a step—so again, she called the painters.
Once inside, visitors are greeted by a purple foyer. Violet Bouquet, to be exact. "This is an eco-paint," she explains. "I do a Tuesday series called ‘Going Green' and I was at Amicus Green Building Center up in Kensington and saw this paint chip and said, ‘Give me a gallon.' When I came home the first night after the painter painted this, I got scared. Then, as I saw it in the light, I really loved it," she recalls. Made by American Pride, it contains no toxins and is odor-free, she reports.
A knee wall separates the foyer from the kitchen, and Violet Bouquet gives way to Melon Popsicle. The kitchen also contains one remaining stripe of Mermaid Green—the hue that once adorned the front of Rieger's house. "I put a little dash of it here because I do love the color, and then I hung my mermaid there," explains Rieger. Mermaids, seashells—she attributes her affinity for all things associated with water to her upbringing in Norfolk, Virginia.
Seven years ago, Rieger had just finished renovating a home in Bethesda. But something was missing. "It was 1999, and I was doing a stand-up in front of the State House in Annapolis," she recalls. "The wind kept blowing my hair in my face and we had to keep waiting for it to die down. It was February 27th and all of a sudden I got a gust of the briny air in my face and I had an epiphany: I said to my cameraman, ‘I am going to sell my house in Bethesda and I am moving out here… I have to live near water!'
"One week later, on a rainy weekend, I opened up the paper and saw an open house for a house in West River. I got in the car on Sunday, drove out here," she recalls. Her former boyfriend was with her and, with the rain, the trip seemed to take forever. His negativity was wearing on her. Once inside, she announced, "It's perfect." The day she moved in, the two broke up. ("It was time," says Rieger. "Now we're great friends.")
Today, Rieger loves the laid-back allure of the waterfront lifestyle as opposed to the more buttoned-up existence that prevails inside the Beltway. The Living is easy in Wendy Rieger's house. "The beauty of a place like this is you really don't want to fiddle, you don't want things to be perfect," she says. "You want things to be tossed and thrown and to look like somebody's been sitting on the couch. You want things to be rumpled a little bit, so people aren't afraid to relax, sort of like a beach house."
The former owner had made some changes to her home that were left unfinished when she bought it. A stair rail was missing; Rieger had her carpenter build a stair rail and balustrade of knotty pine.
Years ago, a sleeping porch on the side of the house had been enclosed. It is now a white room with a comfy sofa, television, and desk. "I thought I needed a calm room…you need to rest the eye after a while if you have a lot of color coming at you," she smiles. Over the sofa hangs a photograph of a hurricane-ravaged church and cemetery with a statue of an angel in the foreground. Rieger purchased it while covering a story about a fundraiser for artists devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Many of her off-work hours are dedicated to fundraising for charities, among them Children and the Arts. She likes biking and has participated in DC AIDS Rides, cycling through the Anne Arundel countryside to train for the events. She also enjoys kayaking and being a part of the laid-back repartee of her neighborhood on the Bay. "I used to come home…put the kayak in the water and have a sunset kayak. I would go around the point and see my neighbors on the other side. People are out on their piers. So you just kayak up and hang out and talk to them."
Two boats are now docked at the end of Rieger's pier, a smaller one for dashing about and going to dinner, and another, much larger one for overnight excursions to St. Michaels. That one belongs to her current boyfriend, a physician working in Ireland, who's obviously a water lover, too.