The right waterfront property is hard to come by near Annapolis, where lots lining the Chesapeake Bay and its picturesque tributaries are always in demand. This was certainly the case for John and Deborah Kontor, who searched long and hard before finding a spot they liked in a charming enclave of older homes. The small lot contained a circa-1940s Colonial overlooking a scenic curve of Spa Creek.
“As soon as I stepped in, I said ‘this is what I want,’” recalls Deborah, a kindergarten teacher. “It needed extensive work, but we fell in love with the lot and the neighborhood.”
The couple was ready to renovate immediately after buying the house—but discovered it was in worse shape than they’d thought. “It didn’t make sense to remodel,” relates Deborah. “There just was not much to work with—tiny house, expensive baseboard heat and no air conditioning or ductwork.”
She and John, a doctor, decided to build anew. They tapped architect Marta Hansen and Bayview Builders to spearhead the project, requesting a modern house that would fit the traditional neighborhood. Hansen conceived a 4,300-square-foot, two-story residence with a master suite and two bedrooms upstairs; the original basement was renovated to feature a family room and guest suite. A great room/kitchen dominates the main floor, which also contains a mudroom, office and spare room—plenty of space for when the Kontors’ three grown daughters come to stay.
However, the design was limited by a couple of factors. “The previous structure was positioned sideways on the lot,” Hansen explains. “Since we worked within the original foundation, the new house had to be oriented the same way.” The couple also opted to retain the existing garage, which sits between the house and the street; Hansen added a pitched roof onto the garage so it matches the new architecture and she connected the buildings via a breezeway.
In fact, the steeply pitched roofline is what gives this modern abode a classic sensibility that harmonizes with it neighbors. “It’s the prototypical house form,” Hansen explains. “This pitched roof is purposefully a little exaggerated, almost playing a game with the geometry.”
Inside, a streamlined aesthetic prevails. The open-plan kitchen/great room spills out to a spacious screened porch with a fireplace. While the home largely stays within the previous footprint, an additional living-area volume sits perpendicular to the structure. A vaulted ceiling sets it apart from the rest of the great room; a fireplace at one end is flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows that create transparency from the front yard to the back and bring the outdoors in. “We wanted contemporary style and also to embrace nature,” John says. “These are things Marta intuited right away.”
While attracted to modernism, Deborah also embraced the popular Danish concept of hygge, which translates to a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being. When Kerry Hoffman of Johker Design joined the team to help with the interiors, Deborah asked her to meld modernist straight lines with warmth and coziness. “I call it soft modern as opposed to stark modern,” Hoffman says. “Colors, warm woods, not a lot of cold surfaces.”
The designer selected a soft, greige-and-cream palette. She commissioned architectural-finishes company The Artists Republic to apply lime plaster to both the porch and living-area fireplaces; in the living area, the plaster is all pale grays and creams. “I wanted it to be focal, but not in your face,” Hoffman says. A mix of new and existing furnishings in serenely neutral tones is sleek yet comfortable. Hoffman collaborated with Hansen and Kitchen Concepts Plus on a mid-century-style kitchen combining rift-sawn, white-oak cabinetry and creamy quartz countertops.
Hansen also made choices with hygge in mind. Pine Windsor window frames were sealed in their natural hue, as were birch interior doors and white-oak floors throughout. A lowered ceiling panel in birch delineates the kitchen island, adding warmth and interest.
For the Kontors, the process of building anew was easier than they had expected—largely because of the team they assembled. Says Deborah, “I feel like our house was built with love and friendship, and that is wonderful.”
Architecture: Marta Hansen, AIA, LEED AP, Hansen Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Interior Design: Kerry Hoffman, Johker Design, Annapolis, Maryland. Kitchen & Bath Design: Kitchen Concepts Plus, Salisbury, Maryland. Builder: David Carlisle and Tim Mowry, Bayview Builders, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Heike Nolker, ASLA, Landscape Architect, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Installation: Environmental Landcare LLC, Millersville, Maryland. Home Automation: Electronic Home Environments, Annapolis, Maryland.