Everyone has a comfort zone. Whether indoors or out, in a book or on a hike, the key to this sanctum is knowing when you’ve arrived. For a couple with young kids looking to build a getaway an easy drive from their primary residence in Northern Virginia, the initial urge was to embrace their familiar stomping ground. Then they saw a house several hours away in Maryland—and the instinct to stay within their comfort zone went right out the window.
The couple had already chosen a Virginia lot on which to build when friends encouraged them to go see a newly constructed, modern farmhouse-style abode on Annapolis’ South River. The sprawling, 6,800-square-foot home comprised a main volume with a standing-seam roof, flanking wings and a swimming pool built into the rear deck just 10 feet off the central great room. Set on a knoll of lawn and woodland rolling gently to the water’s edge, the house was a stone’s throw from a little sandy beach and a private dock complete with boat slips and deep-water moorings. “We were blown away,” says the wife. “We didn’t know a ton about waterfront living in Annapolis but we immediately started thinking of ways to make this home a part of our lives.”
They purchased the house fully furnished, with every feature, fixture and finish customized. “It was incredible,” the wife marvels. “Everything blended so well together.”
Builder John Joy of McLean-based Joy Design + Build had originally conceived the house as a weekend spot for his own family. Midway to completion, he realized the project had grown too big and expensive for their needs. “I was having too much fun crafting the design using cutting-edge products,” he says ruefully. He decided to put the property on the market, but first turned to designer Arlene Critzos of Interior Concepts for help with architectural details and furnishings; these finishing touches would enable a turnkey sale.
“Arlene has the ability to collect pieces and personalize and install interiors fast,” Joy notes of the globally active designer, who has been practicing in Annapolis for 40 years. It was of paramount importance to him to finish this personal project with materials and workmanship as fine as those he started with. “I wanted it to be the whole package,” he explains. “So much love went into it.”
The home’s layout ingeniously projects its wings on either side of the pool to protect the south-facing interiors from harsh summer sun. One wing contains the garage and a sunroom on axis with a secondary entry. The sunroom boasts window walls opening on two sides to the pool and patio for alfresco dining. The other wing contains an owners’ suite that spills out to the pool, located a few steps away. A second story houses a guest suite overlooking the water, while two more bedrooms are located above the garage wing.
Joy and Critzos jumpstarted their collaboration in the two-story great room, housed in the center volume. Located opposite the gallery-style main entry, this vast space grabbed Critzos’ attention with numerous skylights and a 45-foot-long wall of sliding doors and black-framed, architectural windows. The room “is so powerful in scale that you see the water and feel the sky,” the designer relates. Living, dining and kitchen areas within the expanse are streamlined in style, but overhead, barnlike sapele trusses reassert the home’s farmhouse vernacular.
Brainstorming the finishes, Joy and Critzos established an envelope of alabaster-hued walls and lime-washed, white-oak flooring with slight variations on “pale, reflective tones,” says Critzos. The sunlit, shimmering whites create a stark contrast with the black-framed doors and windows.
To impart warmth and bring the outdoors in, Critzos selected pops of color from furnishings upholstered in green and midnight blue and a dining table clad in an eye-catching wood-grain veneer. While blue is an obvious accent in waterside homes, Critzos layered the hue with varying shades that resonate in artwork and rugs. “The colors are woven through the rooms,” she says. She furthered the scheme in the owners’ suite with the barest hint of sky on the bed linens and a rug of marine blue.
The team blurred the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces. “The view had to be continuous out to the water,” says Critzos. “We didn’t want anything to stop the eye so I determined how the deck would be furnished by looking from the great room outdoors.” No-color aluminum and mesh furniture outside the sunroom enhance the sense of continuity.
Landscape designer Charles Owen softened Joy’s trough-edged ipe deck with overscaled planters and a curving stairway down to the dock. Adjacent plantings, he says, “give the site more privacy and help the manmade give way to nature.”
The new homeowners couldn’t be happier with their weekend retreat. “It’s exceptionally designed, built and decorated, and it checked every box we had for a second home,” the husband observes. Like Joy, who pushed beyond his comfort zone to complete the project, the family is embracing their new, waterfront lifestyle. Boating is the next step—and they’re sure it’s going to be great.
Interior Design: Arlene Critzos, principal; Samantha Sopp-Wittwer, project manager, Interior Concepts, Annapolis, Maryland. Builder: John Joy, Joy Design + Build, McLean, Virginia. Landscape Design: Charles Owen, Fine Landscapes, Ltd., Sterling, Virginia.