We’d always hoped for a house on the water,” says the stay-at-home mom of four. Her kids, ages 11 to 18, delighted in waterside holidays, and with the eldest off to college, she explains, “the clock was ticking. We wanted to establish a vacation house that would keep them coming back home.”
In 2015, she and her husband, a financial advisor, purchased a five-bedroom, 5,800-square-foot home on the Tred Avon River in Easton, Maryland. Built in 1949, it had solid bones. Reclaimed heart-pine floors and bead-board paneling distinguish the main level, which boasts an open plan ideal for casual living. Banks of windows framed in natural wood take full advantage of the spectacular scenery.
Nonetheless, the place needed work. The kitchen had been updated in 1998 by Virginia architect Lori Arrasmith Quill, who added custom cabinets, a copper hood, and terracotta-tile countertops. But a heavy Tuscan palette of ochre with red accents made space feel dated, and the rest of the house was done in heavy-handed colonial style, with dark-painted walls and blue wall-to-wall carpets.
The couple hired interior designer Shannon Bieter, with whom they had worked before, for an overhaul. Bieter selected furniture, carpeting, lighting, window treatments and paint colors for the main house as well as a two-bedroom guest cottage, located close by on the three-and-a-half-acre property. “There are a lot of formal homes here,” says the designer, “but this family didn’t want anything formal. They wanted it to have a nice, casual lake-house feel—a place where family and friends could stay over weekends and take advantage of the water, whether boating, paddle boarding, water skiing or simply fishing or crabbing off the dock. There would be a lot of wet towels and damp swimsuits.”
Right off the bat, everything got a fresh coat of paint. Bieter crisped up the walls and beadboard in the main living spaces with Benjamin Moore’s White Dove. In the kitchen, she borrowed hues from the waterfront setting, repainting the ochre-colored shelf backs a pale blue. She traded dated pendants above the island for a clean-lined fixture and added hardy, practical pleather-seated bar chairs. A large trestle table for informal meals imparts fresh, farmhouse style to the room.
“The owner really wanted a huge table that could seat many people,” Bieter recalls. She selected one that, with its two extra leaves in place, can serve as many as 35. “I paired it with benches on one side so you wouldn’t lose much of the water view, and small X-back chairs on the other side,” she adds. In fact, water views take center stage throughout the house. “We made sure that the windows facing the water were unobstructed,” Bieter says.
“The layout is perfectly suited for our casual gatherings of friends and family,” enthuses the wife. “We wanted all the furnishings to be comfortable and durable, taking cues from the water as well as the farmland you see when driving here.”
The front door opens into the large living area, where Bieter created a sense of arrival via a custom, iron-based console table with a resilient travertine top. “All the occasional tables, including the glass coffee table, were given tops that wouldn’t require coasters for drinks and wouldn’t stain,” the designer explains of the practical choices.
The designer and her client took a similar approach to furniture throughout the rest of the open-plan space. The sofa is covered in a virtually indestructible gray Crypton fabric, while the rattan armchairs sport a medallion pattern that doesn’t show dirt. A chaise, strategically positioned by a bank of windows, is also upholstered in Crypton—this one with a subtle, textured pattern.
Though the home’s palette is neutral with touches of blue, red accents in the living area complement an existing Oriental carpet. The reds also carry over into the guest cottage, where Bieter painted the Dutch door and porch swing a bright, welcoming red and created a fun bedroom with twin red headboards.
But the most popular spot is the covered veranda, overlooking the river behind the main house. “The kids really love it,” says Bieter. “They hang out there and read or chat. We furnished it with a custom swing and Adirondack chairs in a blue that complements the water.”
As the homeowner observes, “It’s truly the perfect getaway. If we’re not on the water, we’re playing lawn games and taking advantage of the porch to hang out and watch the weekend go by.”
Charlotte Safavi is an Alexandria-based writer and stylist. Robert Radifera is a photographer in Charlottesville.
Interior Design: Shannon Bieter, ASID, Interiors By Shannon Bieter, LLC, Washington, DC. Landscape Design & Maintenance: Kerry Blockley, Silver Spring, Maryland.