Mid-Century Marvel Choosing the right house can be a matter of seeing potential where it might not be obvious. This was certainly the case for a homeowner in St. Michaels, Maryland, who happened upon a beat-up 1958 rambler for sale on Maxmore Creek, a scenic inlet on the Tred Avon River. Though he wasn’t looking to buy, he was captivated—not only by the waterfront site but by the house itself.
A passion for architecture led him to purchase the home and enlist architect Gregory Wiedemann, with whom he had worked on several other properties, to restore it to its original mid-century glory. “He wasn’t even sure what he’d do with it,” Wiedemann says. “But he knew it would be a good investment. Almost anyone else would have torn it down, but he saw a potential that was about to be lost.”
Wiedemann and project architect Barbara Sweeney collaborated with construction manager Steve Cahall on the project, which entailed restoring the home’s best mid-century features while updating and improving the interiors with a plan that would capitalize on openness, light and spectacular water views.
The house boasts a sloped roof 12 feet high at the center and a wall of sliders facing the water; clerestory windows admit light from both north and south. The original pine beams run from front to back, supporting the ceiling as well as the exterior overhang that rims the roof. “The beams in the house extend to the roof of the carport, which is suspended from them,” explains Wiedemann. “The roofs of the main house and the carport seem to hover above the structures.”
The original abode encompassed a main living area with a bedroom wing on one side and what was probably housekeeper’s quarters on the other. Wiedemann’s team restored the bedroom wing, where three bedrooms boast Frank Lloyd Wright-style built-in bedsteads and storage, all painstakingly duplicated from the millwork original to the house. The housekeeper’s quarters were gutted to create a master bedroom suite, borrowing from the main living area to accommodate a cozy but comfortable bedroom, closet, and spacious master bath.
One surprising feature interrupted the open central living area and adjacent kitchen: a long-abandoned, enclosed indoor swimming pool. “When we got here, there was a big hole in the floor, surrounded by what looked like an aluminum storefront enclosure,” recounts Sweeney.
“It was a pretty big pool,” Cahall says, “and created a sort of ‘L’ of leftover living space.” Once the pool was removed, he adds, “The goal was to create an open central area with room for everything.”
The team positioned walnut-paneled floating walls to delineate the kitchen from the front entry on one side and from the secondary entry and powder room on the other. “They’re peninsulas that flank the kitchen,” Wiedemann explains. “They contain appliances on the kitchen side and closets on the other sides.” Because they don’t reach the ceiling, these dividers maintain a sense of openness and light while still creating a contained kitchen area with lots of storage space.
Walnut panels, beautifully book-matched, adorn the walls in the central living area. The architects specified that they measure six feet, eight inches in height to preserve an existing “datum,” or line of trim, common in mid-century architecture. This line separated the sliders from the clerestory windows and dictated the height of the floating walls. “The constant datum was characteristic about this house,” explains Sweeney. “It makes the rooms feel taller and creates a sense of the roof hovering.”
The owner tapped California-based designer Shaun Jackson, who had completed prior projects for him, to furnish the interiors. “The idea was to bring the home back to the original flavor and style,” Jackson says. “But contemporary, relatable and functional for the modern living now, which is different from what it was back then.”
With the dark walnut paneling in mind, Jackson whitewashed the new oak floors to a light hue. She modernized the kitchen, which now centers around an island with a deep-blue cabinet base. Glossy, white peripheral cabinetry and the Carrara marble backsplash and countertops are bookended by the walnut-paneled peninsulas. Modern furniture, mainly from Poltrona Frau, is both chic and comfortable.
Glass expanses throughout have been replaced with glazed double panes that fit refurbished frames. A poured-concrete patio overlooks the water. The original dingy red brick has been painted light beige, but the home’s exterior is otherwise unaltered. “We tried to change as little as possible outside,” Wiedemann says. “It’s a wonderful example of a Mid-Century Modern home. It was the owner’s vision for it that brought this house back.”
Renovation Architecture: Gregory Wiedemann, AIA, principal; Barbara Sweeney, AIA, project architect, Wiedemann Architects LLC, Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Design: Shaun Jackson, Shaun Jackson Design, Inc., San Luis Obispo, California. Construction Manager: Steve Cahall. Landscape Consultant: Barbara Paca, B. Larch, MFA, Ph.D., ASLA, Preservation Green LLC, Oxford, Maryland. Landscape Installation: McHale Landscape Design, Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Anice Hoachlander is a principal at Hoachlander Davis Photography.