Fronting San Domingo Creek in St. Michaels, Cindy and Bob Hurley’s second home is all about the Chesapeake Bay. The house was created to fit into the flat, watery landscape, and its low-key décor echoes both the essence and the history of the region’s most dominant feature.
“We are close enough to the water that we feel a part of the creek,” says Cindy. “The house is designed and positioned to allow a broader view out on the water.”
The Potomac residents—Cindy, a homemaker and amateur photographer, and Bob, a corporate financial officer easing into retirement—had enjoyed visits to the Inn at Perry Cabin and St. Michaels, Maryland. One weekend, they peeked into a model home in the nearby enclave of San Domingo Cove, and that inspired thoughts of owning a weekend retreat in the picturesque community. Would the model be spacious enough, or would a bigger house with new amenities be a better draw for their three young-adult kids? Did the surrounding land have potential? Was there even water back there?
There was. And ultimately, the Hurleys opted to build a house in San Domingo Cove that would suit their needs. Their four-bedroom abode in Coastal farmhouse style is clad in brick and low-maintenance, clapboard-look HardiePlank siding. It offers light-filled spaces for hosting family and friends while showcasing its almost-two-acre waterfront setting.
The community’s developer, Brent Paquin of Paquin Design/Build, designed the home to maximize natural light and landscaped the property with creek views in mind. Paquin and his team accommodated the Hurleys’ preferences; for example, though the original design called for two guest rooms and a small living area above the garage, at Cindy’s suggestion they built one large room instead, which meant shifting the HVAC system downstairs.
“Brent did so much custom work and knows the region so well,” Cindy says. “I found a lot of inspiration for the modern-farmhouse concept online, and he was willing to go along with that. It reflects the history of the area.”
Having worked with Anthony Wilder Design/Build on a kitchen renovation in their primary home, the couple turned to the firm’s Keira St. Claire to create a level of customization in the house that would reflect their taste and lifestyle. “‘Less is more’ definitely applied to this design,” St. Claire says. “We are most calm in spaces with little clutter to distract us from relaxing. Our aim was to be welcoming, warm and understated.”
St. Claire selected furnishings that marry a rustic sensibility with clean, modern lines, and chose a subdued palette to avoid competition with the grand outdoor setting. Layers of texture and natural materials speak to the landscape; for example, the organic design of the dining-room chandelier by France & Son brings to mind seaweed or driftwood.
The owners requested a streamlined and serene kitchen. St. Claire obliged with custom cabinetry, poured-concrete counters and a glossy, hand-cut, porcelain-tile backsplash that reflects light and “mimics the movement of water,” the designer says. Heavy, wrought-iron pendants sound an Old World note above the island.
And then there are the touches of blue. Calming robin’s egg blue shows up on the front door, the Lacanche stove from France and the underside of the loft bathroom’s vintage farmhouse sink. St. Claire took the sink to Maaco, the collision-repair franchise, to custom-match the paint to the stove.
Such creativity was essential to the project, Hurley says. Adding a breezeway to connect the garage to the house was St. Claire’s idea. So was spacing out some patio flagstones to avoid one monochromatic expanse.
The Hurleys see the house as a weekend retreat for hosting and entertaining their growing family—the kids are now married and a grandchild is on the way—and perhaps a retirement destination. Designed and installed by Paquin, the pool and pool house are a gathering spot, the latter boasting nautical décor and an outdoor shower. Chester River Landscaping devised the simple plant palette, relying on native species that accentuate the water vista.
The rumpus room over the garage is another gathering spot. Window seats were designed with extra-deep cushions for overnight guests. A beverage fridge, sink, leather daybed, and plenty of room make the space ideal for movie or game night. The wooden ceiling beam and lantern fixture evoke a rustic vibe. An antique ladder for hanging towels in the bath was a lucky find at a salvage yard.
The project was a success, with all team members—including the homeowners—working well together toward their shared vision. Which is good, because Paquin and the Hurleys now live three doors apart. “They’re great neighbors,” Paquin says. “They helped me take this community to the next level.”
Architectural Design & Construction: Brent Paquin, Paquin Design/Build, Grasonville, Maryland. Kitchen & Interior Design: Keira St. Claire, Allied ASID, Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Cabin John, Maryland. Landscape Design: Stormy Gibbons-Neff, Chester River Landscaping, Chestertown, Maryland.