Home & Design

Limestone-veneer tile surrounds the fireplace, flanked by sconces from RH. Behind the fireplace wall, clerestory windows bathe the front entry in light.

The kitchen presents an airy, clean-lined aesthetic with semi-custom UltraCraft cabinets and Caesarstone countertops. Shiplap adorns the ceiling where Schoolhouse Electric fixtures take the place of recessed lighting. A navy blue island base adds a punch of color.

The clay backsplash tile in glazed, gray-blue hues extends halfway up the wall, conveying a sense of lightness.

Benton installed the refrigerator and storage in the former breakfast nook, where a picture window faces the drive.

The kitchen flows into the dining room, visible beyond the island.

In the dining room, expansive picture windows and glass doors embrace water views. Beadboard clads the vaulted ceiling above an RH dining table and Masters Chairs by Philippe Starck for Kartell.

David Benton created a library feel in the living room, where a bay of windows overlooks Otter Pond. A seven-piece modular sofa from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams can be reconfigured to suit the moment.

Placid Perch

Architect David Benton masterminds a chic, clean-lined redo on Gibson Island

For DC-area residents longing for a quick getaway, Gibson Island has its allure. This private enclave fronting the Chesapeake Bay and the Magothy River near Annapolis is blessed by abundant woods, a bird sanctuary, golf and tennis—and nary a traffic jam. It certainly appealed to a DC couple with three young teenagers who were looking for a vacation house. “We wanted an easy-to-get-to retreat from city living that would make us feel far away,” the wife explains. “We also wanted access to family activities—and Gibson Island definitely offers that.”

Since the Maryland island harbors only about 190 residences, a dated 1980s abode perched above picturesque Otter Pond presented a real opportunity when it came on the market. The couple—he works in global development and she in education—quickly bought the house and tapped architect David Benton to overhaul its interiors. “David helped us realize what the house could be and how to make it work for our family,” the wife relates.While the owners initially sought a simple update, Benton recognized that to achieve their goals, a deeper dive was necessary. “They wanted to expand their livable space, so we needed to open the interiors up,” he recounts. “Their aesthetic leans toward modern so we embraced that—not sterile but with a lot of color and detail.”

Sited 30 feet above the pond on a steep bluff, the 2,900-square-foot home opens to a narrow rear yard via a lower level containing the kids’ bedrooms, a rec room and an in-law suite. Visitors enter the house on the main floor. The spacious living room is straight back, with the kitchen and dining room on one side and the owners’ suite on the other. The pond is visible through numerous windows on the main level, where rooms open out to a wraparound deck.

When Benton began, however, the layout was more compartmentalized. There was no dining room, and the closed-off kitchen and breakfast nook felt cramped. A two-season sunroom had one wall covered in exterior shingles while the other three took in views through “a hodgepodge of sliding doors and windows that didn’t line up,” recalls the architect. By removing the wall between the sunroom and kitchen, he created a vastly improved great room encompassing the kitchen and dining room. A row of clerestory windows remains, but lower doors and windows were replaced for a cohesive look; beadboard details the vaulted ceiling.

The revamped kitchen centers on an island with seating. The door connecting the kitchen and living room shifted to accommodate a new range wall; floor-to-ceiling cabinetry now lines the former breakfast nook, keeping the rest of the kitchen free of upper cabinets for a streamlined look. What Benton terms “a peekaboo window” overlooks the stair down to the kids’ rooms, maintaining a convenient connection to the lower level through which the owners can communicate with people downstairs and see who might be at the front door.

In the living room, extensive built-in shelving replaced a wall of outdated cabinetry. “The clients love reading so we created more of a library feel,” the architect says. “Shiplap shelf backs and picture lights above dress it up.” The fireplace surround—formerly a giant inset mirror—is now clad in variegated limestone veneer that picks up colors found in nature.

Additional updates include an overhaul of the primary suite and its spacious bath, a redo of the downstairs kids’ bathroom and the conversion of a storage area beneath the former sunroom into an ensuite guest room.

When it came to updating the aesthetic, Benton made a big impact by painting the orangey oak woodwork throughout the house white, including all the window frames. “Painting out those windows really brings the view in,” says the architect, who recently relocated to South Carolina. “That oak color was sort of in your face before; the crisp white allows you to see beyond the divisions in the window and makes the view the focal point.”

He also replaced a mishmash of tile and wood flooring with engineered white oak floors that streamline and unify the spaces. The owners selected furnishings and accessories in a palette of blue-gray and white inspired by fond memories of time spent living in the Pacific Northwest. Says the wife, “We wanted this house to be modern but warm, meant for family. And we aimed to honor the natural beauty outside our walls.”

Renovation Architecture: David Benton, AIA, Benton architecture + interiors, Bluffton, South Carolina. Renovation Contractor: David Stevens and Brad Stevens, David B. Stevens, Glen Burnie, Maryland.

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HOME&DESIGN, published bi-monthly by Homestyles Media Inc., is the premier magazine of architecture and fine interiors for the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia region.

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