Jamie Merida—soon-to-be featured designer on HGTV’s “House Hunters Renovation” and longtime owner of the Easton design studio and furniture boutique Bountiful—is always up for a remodeling challenge. It came in the form of a 19th-century Tidewater Colonial on ten acres, overlooking a scenic stretch of the Tred Avon River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. “It really needed some love,” recalls Merida. “It hadn’t been lived in for over a year.”
The potential for coastal charm was great in the 4,764-square-foot house, whose main entrance faces the waterfront, but there was plenty of work to be done. In addition to Merida’s interior design team, which included Denise Perkins and Amanda Friend, architectural designer Jon Braithwaite of Atelier 11 Architecture was also on board.
“I’d previously known the homeowner,” says Merida of the DC-based husband, who shares the house with his wife, three young boys and mother as a weekend retreat from their primary home in Washington. “It started with the husband thinking he could simply paint it and buy some furniture—until the mom came down and the project’s scope got a lot bigger. It became apparent that the property and the house deserved a major overhaul.”
Like many Tidewater Colonials with age on them, this home had evolved laterally, receiving a hodgepodge of additions over different eras; the latest one, a multi-columned family room, had been added in the 1980s. “We had to figure out how to tie this rambling house together,” says Merida.
“The side entry, kitchen and family room consisted of a warren of rooms at different heights and levels, with minimal connection to either the river views or to each other,” Braithwaite agrees. “It wasn’t functional.”
The architect created a plan in which all the choppy, non-weight- bearing walls and superfluous dated columns would come down, irregular floors would be leveled out and door and window openings refreshed and expanded. The cramped kitchen was opened up to the family room, creating a great room with vistas onto the water from every angle.
“We now have these areas with great water views that also relate to each other visually and socially,” says Braithwaite. “So even though there are concentrated nodes of family activity throughout the home, the spaces and people are still connected.”
The kitchen overhaul, by Easton-based Barclay Designs, incorporated smooth marble countertops, crisp, white cabinetry and a pair of furniture-like islands. The Viking stove is now a focal point, flanked by blue-hued, open hutches and boasting a backsplash of white and red brick. A rolling butcher-block island makes food prep easy, and an AGA stove offers more space for cooking.
“We worked a lot on consistency with architectural materials,” says Merida. Throughout the home, original heart-of-pine floors were restored and replaced where needed; all the brickwork and plaster was repaired; and the antique windows were salvaged or replaced with new ones in the same style.
When it came to decorating the interiors, Merida first conceived a color palette of soft grays, warm taupes and creamy beiges for walls and furnishings, adding punches of color in the accents. “As a unifying agent, color really made the whole house come together,” he says.
In the kitchen/great room, navy and other shades of blue interplay like ripples on water—a motif borrowed from the nearby river. Bright blue fabric covers the dining room chairs and there’s a powdery blue finish on the kitchen cabinets around the stove. Weathered wood furniture complements the home’s more casual spaces perfectly, while rich, lustrous mahogany takes over in the formal double parlors.
“We tried a fresh take on traditional East Coast style,” Merida explains. “We definitely have a nautical thing going. Why fight it? We live on the coast. Everybody sails. Folks fish, and shoot geese and ducks. It’s part of the culture.”
The designer subtly incorporates these waterside motifs, including the recessed wall of Audubon prints in one of the parlors and the triple pendant lights hanging above the great room’s dining table, which are reminiscent of those on an industrial freighter. The sign above the kitchen stove, which reads “To the Dock,” whimsically points the wrong way.
But there’s no getting lost in this coastal home now, where flow and consistency light the way. “I think when creating a house for an extended family, you need to be kid- and adult-friendly,” Merida says. “The home needs to be easy to live in, where no one feels like they can break something. But at the same time, it has to have a certain sophisticated and elegant feel for the grownups. I believe we achieved our goal.”
Writer Charlotte Safavi is based in Alexandria, Virginia. J. Brough Schamp is a Baltimore photographer.
Renovation Architecture: Jon E. Braithwaite, Atelier 11 Architecture, Ltd., Easton, Maryland. Interior Design: Jamie Merida, Bountiful Interiors, Easton, Maryland. Kitchen Design: Barclay Designs, Easton, Maryland. Contractor: West & Callahan, Easton, Maryland.