After a two-year overhaul of their waterfront home, a friend walked onto its deck and reminded the owners why they poured so much effort into the project. “I think my blood pressure just fell 20 points,” he said.
The allure of this 11,000-square-foot perch on the Severn River was so great that the couple with three young kids committed to a scenario that would cause most people’s heart rates to skyrocket. The husband, an executive with an international consulting firm, had accepted a temporary position in Australia. He and his wife decided to purchase the Annapolis home just before their departure and entrusted interior designer Beth Kittrell to orchestrate everything from design to construction during their 18-month absence.
“It was a very unique situation because we hadn’t really worked together yet,” recalls Kittrell. “We had a one- or two-hour meeting at the house. I presented as much as I possibly could in one fell swoop and they were gone. They actually did the settlement from Australia and I got handed the keys.”
The changes the owners had in mind were structural and complex. As it stood, the house did little to show off its phenomenal river views. Its small, closed-in rooms and overall lack of detail begged for what Kittrell calls a “gut job.” So she and her clients launched into design discussions that spanned continents and time zones, communicating via email and the occasional FedEx package.
In conjunction with architect Mark J. Bandy, Kittrell reworked every inch of the interiors. Her goals were to improve flow, define rooms with architectural detail and maximize water views with more open spaces and larger windows and doors. During the process, major upgrades or replacements would be made to the plumbing, HVAC, electrical systems, decks and landscaping, though the footprint of the home did not change.
The family returned from Australia in time to see the drywall go up. “All of the major skeletal work was done, but we were able to participate in a lot of the decisions that made the house just what we wanted,” says the husband. The family moved in during the summer of 2008 and has received a steady stream of overnight guests ever since.
In contrast to the walled-in foyer that once greeted visitors, arrivals are now dazzled by the view right at the threshold. The entry opens to a family room where a row of rocking chairs in front of oversized arched windows overlooks the river. In the foyer, a new floating staircase leads to a second-floor gallery that displays photography and art collected during the family’s stint in Australia and a previous one in Japan. Asian art and mementos also figure prominently in the formal living and dining rooms, which flank the foyer.
In the reconfigured kitchen, a multi-level eat-up island makes casual meals a breeze. New doors lead from the kitchen to the sunroom—a rustic dining area with slate floors, reclaimed beams and breathtaking river views.
Kittrell designed coffered ceilings in the kitchen as well as in the family room, study and sunroom, working with carpenters on site to “hammer out the details.” This attention to detail was also lavished on custom moldings, trim and intricate tile work throughout the home. “I was given a lot of artistic freedom,” says Kittrell. “It was a responsibility that I embraced.”
The second floor boasts a new master suite adjoining the husband’s study, children’s bedrooms and a laundry room. The third floor houses another guest room and bath plus a fabulous playroom with a view—perfect for crafts, games and homework.
The lower level revolves around the home’s many outdoor amenities, including a pool with stairs leading down to a private dock and the family boat. A comfortable seating area with a custom river-rock bar opens onto a large outdoor room complete with a fireplace. There is also a media room, a changing room with sauna and a gym. Linking all of the levels is an elevator with a three-story mural painted by the wife’s mother depicting scenes of Annapolis, the house and the owners’ three kids at play on the water.
Despite its size, guests marvel that the home feels intimate and warm. And the owners are thrilled with the outcome. “I wake up in the morning and think, ‘I can’t believe I live here,’” says the wife.
Kittrell attributes the project’s success to her clients. “They are interesting people, they’ve led interesting lives and they have interesting objects,” she says. “It makes my job easy if I’m inspired by my clients. From a style standpoint, it was all about them.”
Photographer Bob Narod is based in Herndon, Virginia.
INTERIOR DESIGN: Beth Kittrell, Kittrell Interiors, Fulton, Maryland. ARCHITECTURE: Mark J. Bandy, Mark J. Bandy, Inc., Ellicott City, Maryland. RENOVATION CONTRACTOR: KPK Construction, Columbia, Maryland.
To see before & after photos click here.