Set on a bluff overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, the home of Jason Claire and his husband tells a tale of evolution. Originally built as a weekend retreat from the couple’s DC-based life, it now serves as their primary residence—yet a sense of escape prevails. “We’ve created a relaxing space that almost makes us feel like we’re on vacation,” reveals the designer. “So much of it is the view. We’re fortunate to have a beautiful natural environment.” That panorama provides a pristine backdrop for Claire’s clean-lined, layered aesthetic.
After searching for a property with, as Claire puts it, “some sort of water situation,” the couple purchased the one-and-a-half-acre parcel in Chestertown, Maryland, in 2006. Five years later, they replaced a tired home on the site with a 2,300-square-foot modern cottage. “We wanted the interior space to be open and light, to have both glass for the views and walls for art,” he states. The kitchen, living and dining areas, and library flow in an L shape on the main floor; the owners’ suite lies to the left of the entry. Upstairs sit two guest bedrooms and a bath.
The pair also added a detached, two-story garage/guest house, originally leaving the upper floor unfinished. Not long after, Claire’s husband, a physician who specializes in global health, accepted a position in Switzerland. So they sold their house in DC and moved abroad, with the commitment to make Chestertown their full-time base upon their return.
While overseas for four years, Claire remotely orchestrated several improvements that, he discloses, “amped up some things we didn’t spend money on in the first round because it was a second home.” First, he asked architect Cathy Purple Cherry to devise a plan to finish the above-garage space. Her layout includes an open office, kitchenette, guest bedroom and bath. Downstairs, the architect also shaped a welcoming entryway. “We opened up that vertical space so light can shaft down through the stair to the first-floor foyer,” she explains. “That lower level engages the upper floor.”
Next, South Fork Studio enhanced the somewhat stark landscape, employing an array of native plants to add privacy and definition, as well as color and texture. The existing pool lying between the house and garage presented the biggest challenge. “The unique part of this project is that the pool is basically in the front yard,” notes principal Miles Barnard. “Anybody who comes to the house has to come through that area.” He devised a new bluestone path that fosters circulation around the renovated pool. A cedar pergola, installed after the couple’s return, offers shade and architectural interest. “It’s a really neat little oasis,” Barnard says of the finished spot.
Upgrades within the house included re-facing the kitchen cabinets, switching out some earlier lighting choices and installing a home-automation system. “We did those tweaks to make it feel more like a primary home,” explains Claire. “We wanted the spaces to be a little more sophisticated and less ‘beach house.’”
Claire also used the time in Europe “to feed my design curiosity and plant the seeds for whatever would come next.” Vastu, the DC furniture showroom he previously co-founded, closed in 2014 after both owners relocated. “In my head, I was collecting designs of hotels, restaurants, food, art—all the things that I was experiencing,” Claire recounts. “I was primed when I came back to start something new.”
That “something” turned out to be Interior Matter, the design business he launched in 2019 with former Vastu colleague Sarita Simpson. “We’re a modern firm,” Claire states. “We like clean lines and lightness, though the unexpected mixing of materials and periods is also a through line in our work.”
His aesthetic has evolved over the years from minimalism to a more layered approach, which he applies at home. White walls, warm woods and unfussy furnishings provide a timeless base, Claire maintains, for both “physical layers and layers of history, of experience.” He treasures “the stories behind the objects” gathered on the couple’s world travels. Original art plays a starring role in his meaningful tableaus. Along the guest-house stairway, for example, a charred-wood accent wall dramatically showcases pieces collected around the globe, plus one grade-school painting by Claire that won first place in a student art competition.
The designer works from home, thankful for the separation that “a one-minute walk down the path” to the guest house provides. He and his husband happily embrace the region’s low-key, outdoor lifestyle—lounging by the pool, dining on the deck and hosting crab feasts on the dock.
“When this was a second home and we’d come out for the weekend, our shoulders would relax once we got onto the Bay Bridge,” recalls Claire. “We’d be in the zone of being on the Eastern Shore. We’ve been very fortunate to make our lives work around that full-time.”
Interior Design: Jason Claire, principal, Interior Matter, Washington, DC. Renovation Architecture: Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED, AP, CAS, Purple Cherry Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: Taylor Loughry Construction, Chestertown, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: D. Miles Barnard, ASLA, RLA, South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture, Chestertown, Maryland.
Chaises & Table: knoll.com. Sconces: flos.com. Water Feature Vessel: lunaform.com.
Wall Covering: phillipjeffries.com. Rug: perennialsandsutherland.com. Light Fixture: alliedmaker.com. Umbrella Stand: vintage through 1stdibs.com.
Paint: Simple White by benjaminmoore.com. Bar Cabinet: custom through klein.agency. Buddha Sculpture: owners’ collection. Floor Lamp: custom through danieldonnelly.com. Sofa: dellarobbia.com. Sofa Fabric: romo.com. Coffee Table: Gio Ponti through molteni.it. Matador Photo: joanlongas.com. Sculpture above Fireplace: vincentbeaurin.com. Rug: harcourtcollection.com.
Chandelier: mattermatters.com. Table: knoll.com.
Backsplash Tile: waterworks.com. Cabinetry: Signature Custom Cabinetry through kitchencreations.net. Hardware: rockymountainhardware.com. Stove & Cooktop & Range Hood: Wolf through adu.com. Light Pendants: tomdixon.net. Recessed Lighting: contrastlighting.com. Sink Faucet: Blanco through afnewyork.com.
Bench Below Stair: gebruederthonetvienna.com. Flooring: porcelainsource.nyc.
Wooden Desk: vintage through Reform Vintage Modern; 215-485-6698. Desk Chair: knoll.com. Desk Chair Fabric: designersguild.com. Desk Lamp: andtradition.com. Leather Lounge Chair & Ottoman: hermanmiller.com. Shelving: Dieter Rams through vitsoe.com. Rug under Chair & Ottoman: vintage. Rug under Sofas: custom through kylebunting.com. Sofas: Playground through theodores.com. Sofa Fabric: eilersen.eu. Floor Lamps: koncept.com. Coffee Table: rivoltahome.it. Credenza: bddw.com. Paint: Silver Satin by benjaminmoore.com. Sconces: circalighting.com.
Bed: custom through danieldonnelly.com. Bedding: matouk.com. Pillow Fabric: Zak + Fox through hollyhunt.com. Pendant: roostco.com. Night Chest: molteni.it. Rug: vintage. Bench: olystudio.com. Paint: Simple White by benjaminmoore.com.
Countertop: inhomestone.com. Mirrors: Robern through afnewyork.com. Sconces: schmitz-willa.com. Sink & Shower Faucets: Grohe through afnewyork.com. Floor & Wall Tile: annsacks.com.
Bed: Nathan Anthony through theodores.com. Bedding: sferra.com. Pillow Fabric: knoll.com. Pendants: vintage through 1stdibs.com. Night Tables: westelm.com. Art: vintage.
One storybook setting there entranced a pair of retired attorneys looking to return to the district after raising their children in Bethesda. “We saw the yard and said, ‘This is it,’” recounts the husband. “For being in the middle of the city, it’s very special.”
A 1930s Tudor-style abode occupied the parcel. Though charming, it lacked the entertaining space and modern amenities—a kitchen with elbow room being one—that the couple desired. Initially gearing up for a renovation, they enlisted architect Chris Snowber and builder Richard Zantzinger. The team explored the makeover option at length but ultimately recommended starting afresh.
Snowber planned the new home around a scenic, albeit somewhat restricting, stream running through the rear yard. As he reveals, the feature “was a constraint but totally drove and enriched the design.” To maximize the footprint, the back of the house progressively steps out to follow the path of the water. “Our plan grew out this way because we wanted to get as close to the stream as possible,” the architect adds. “The stream diverts towards the rear of the property; the plan does that as well. Much of the design was about orienting the house to its remarkable site and connecting it visually and physically.”
With stretches of glass opening to backyard views, the living room sits at the main level’s narrowest end, followed by the family room and eat-in kitchen. The owners’ suite enjoys a second-floor vantage point above the kitchen in the widest section. Lower-level spaces spill directly outdoors.
Following its predecessor’s lead, the 6,500-square-foot dwelling expresses a Tudoresque quality. The exterior’s mix of stucco, stone, timbers and brick speaks to the Old World aesthetic. “It felt like a natural fit to continue in the Tudor style since it had a connection on the site,” states Snowber. “We weren’t looking to make a Tudor house, which can sometimes feel sort of dark and heavy. The challenge was finding the balance between capturing the spirit and making the house feel open and bright.”
Interior designer Skip Sroka came on board early, bringing his interpretative lens to everything from architectural details to decorative touches. “We took a few design liberties,” he admits freely. “We wanted to create a ‘new old’ house, with the wonderful quality and bones of an older home but one that has been updated to be part of this century.”
Wrapped in hand-painted wallcovering, the elegant foyer serves as a harbinger of what’s to come. “The Chinoiserie wallpaper, with its glowing gold background, sets the tone,” Sroka explains. “This home is a joyful balance of past and present with an easy dollop of glam.”
Fresh approaches throughout energize the residence’s traditional bones. The designer dialed up the drama in the library, coating its millwork in a deep-green lacquer. Across the hall, celadon-hued faux finishes enliven the dining room’s paneled ceiling and walls.
Sroka’s attention to detail is evident at every turn. The library’s teal hue reappears on the sofa trim and chair upholstery in the adjacent living room, establishing visual flow. The kitchen cabinets sport back-painted glass doors, while the pantry near the breakfast area showcases antiqued-mirror doors. The velvet-upholstered headboard on the owners’ four-poster bed extends to the sloped ceiling.
The furnishings constitute a mix of new and old finds, repurposed pieces from the owners’ collection and bespoke creations of Sroka’s design. A livable yet elevated look prevails. “It’s a beautiful, happy house that has some sophistication, but it’s not off-putting,” asserts Sroka. “Balancing what you need to have for comfort with what you want to have for delight is very important in a home.”
Before covid struck, the empty-nesters threw their daughter’s wedding in the garden and held a fundraiser for the DC-based Latin American Youth Center. “We built the house because we like to entertain and hopefully we can again someday soon,” says the wife. “This is a great house for hosting events. There’s lots of space for people to roam around.”
Indeed, guests can stroll outdoors, where four gathering areas await. Campion Hruby Landscape Architects refreshed and augmented the surrounding scenery. For improved access, the team added stepping-stone paths and a bridge to a respectfully restored terrace across the stream. “There were relics of a past garden,” recalls Kevin Campion. “It was clearly meant to be a garden of exploration. [The owners] wanted to follow through with that idea and to be able to move through their garden in a graceful way.”
The couple credits the project’s success—inside and out—to a close collaboration. “The team worked together so beautifully,” marvels the wife.
Her husband concurs: “The ensemble was just great.”
Architecture: Christopher R. Snowber, AIA, principal; Michael P. Rouse, AIA, NCARB, project architect, Hamilton Snowber Architects, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Skip Sroka, ASID, NCIDQ, ICAA, principal, Sroka Design, Washington, DC. Builder: Richard Zantzinger, Zantzinger, Inc., Washington, DC. Landscape Design: Kevin Campion, ASLA, principal; Lindsey Tabor, project manager, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland.
Flooring: Rift-cut oak through twperry.com. Cabinetry & Millwork Fabrication Throughout: zantzingerbuilt.com. Drapery Fabrication: fabriccreationsstudio.com. Upholstery Fabrication: designerworkroom.com.
FOYER & HALLWAY
Wallpaper: paulmontgomery.com. Console by Door: williamyeoward.com through jonathancharlesfurniture.com. Rug: designsurfaces.com. Gilt Demi-Lune & Mirror: antique. Settee: Custom by srokadesign.com. Fabric: architex-ljh.com.
Sofa, Coffee Table, Art over Fireplace & Rug: Clients’ collection. Sofa Fabric: kravet.com. Trim: houles.com. Blue Chair & Ottoman by Fireplace: kravet.com Kravet Furniture. Chair & Ottoman Fabric: Lee Jofa through kravet.com. Trim: fschumacher.com. Skirted Armchair: leeindustries.com through americaneyewdc.net. Fabric for chair & Throw Pillows: Duralee through robertallen.com. Wall Treatment: robsonworldwidegraining.com.
Sofa: highlandhousefurniture.com. Fabric: norbarfabrics.com. Trim: fschumacher.com. Coffee Table: Custom by srokadesign.com. Faux Leather: pindler.com. Rug: cavancarpets.com. Fabrication: jrsflooringpa.com. Club Chairs: centuryfurniture.com. Club Chair Fabric: kravet.com. Cording: jlambeth.com. Console by Fireplace: modernhistoryhome.com. Shade Fabric: Fabric: jab.de. Tape Trim: scalamandre.com. Floor Lamp: reginaandrew.com.
Sofa & Fabric: highlandhousefurniture.com. Chairs: Clients’ collection. Chair Fabric: jimthompsonfabrics.com through hinescompany.com. Trim: Lee Jofa through kravet.com. Coffee Table & Rug: Custom by srokadesign.com. Rug Fabrication: juliedasherrugs.com. Shade Fabric: jab.de. Trim: Lee Jofa through kravet.com. Chandelier: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Bookshelves: Custom by srokadesign.com. Bookshelf Paint: Mallard Green by benjaminmoore.com
Table: Clients’ collection. Side Chairs: charlesstewartcompany.com. Side Chair Fabric: jimthompsonfabrics.com through hinescompany.com. Host Chairs: hickorychair.com. Host Chair Fabric: architex-ljh.com, scalamandre.com. Chandelier: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Sunburst Mirror: wildwoodmirrorco.com. Rug: crystalcarpets.net. Rug Fabrication: jrsflooringpa.com. Drapery Fabric: scalamandre.com. Console: modernhistoryhome.com. Abstract Art above Console: Morris Schulman. Iron Door to Ceramics Collection: williamyeoward.com through jonathancharlesfurniture.com.
Cabinetry: Custom by srokadesign.com. Countertops & Backsplash: Quartzite through rbratti.com. Pendants: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Counter Stools: woodbridgefurniture.com. Breakfast Table: bernhardtfurniture.com. Chairs: janusetcie.com. Hall Settee: highlandhousefurniture.com.
Bed: hickorychair.com. Upholstery on Headboard: Lee Jofa through kravet.com. Bedding: sferra.com. Window Treatment Fabric: rubelli.com, clarke-clarke.com, robertallen.com. Rug: maslandcarpets.com: Rug Fabrication: jrsflooringpa.com. Chairs by Fireplace: highlandhousefurniture.com. Fabric: scalamandre.com. Ottoman by Fireplace: Clients’ collection. Ottoman Fabric: jab-de, Tape Trim: cowtan.com.
David and Margaret Condit had more social pursuits in mind, however, when they purchased the property in 2015 with the intent to build there. Their recently completed getaway near the Chesapeake Bay grew out of a desire for a gathering place. It often teems with activity, as the couple’s adult children and young grandkids congregate. “I’m a nester,” reveals Margaret. “I like to have our family there with us.”
When David hung up his hat as a DC corporate attorney years ago, the couple downsized to a condo in Florida, where they still happily reside. Yet they yearned for a spacious second home in a waterfront setting that would cosset their whole clan on holidays and summer breaks. With friends and relatives in the greater Washington area, they agreed on Annapolis and snapped up the scenic, two-and-a-half-acre swath. The red-brick house it came with was ultimately deconstructed and its materials donated to the Baltimore non-profit Second Chance.
The Condits had gathered inspiration for the new roost on trips to New England over the years. “We like the homes on Nantucket,” says Margaret. “So we knew that we wanted a Nantucket-style house from the beginning.” They asked architect Cathy Purple Cherry to channel their aesthetic vision and to devise a plan that would comfortably accommodate owners and visitors alike.
“We developed what I would call a classic Shingle-style, gambrel home,” states Purple Cherry. “It utilizes the hand-split wood-shake roof, cedar-style shingles on the walls and stone at the base. It’s classically Nantucket.”
Bespoke details—from curved balconies and bays to transoms with diamond-patterned grilles rather than standard rectangular grids—elevate that island’s coastal-cottage vernacular. “Those elements contribute to the beauty and sophistication,” notes Purple Cherry. “They help to refine the home.” Later in the project, she similarly polished the interiors by installing extensive millwork throughout, with ceiling treatments being the most dramatic examples.
“The molding,” David asserts, “is one of the house’s most distinctive features.”In terms of space programming, the Condits took the long view. They prioritized a ground-level owners’ suite and six bedrooms upstairs for frequent guests.
As Purple Cherry explains, they sought “an aging-in-place home in which they could live on the first floor but, at the same time, one that would support their three grown children and the spouses and grandchildren to come.”
At the heart of the plan lies an L-shaped entertainment space, flanked by the owners’ suite to the left and a bar area to the right. “The kitchen is tucked around the corner in the L yet still open to the great room,” the architect points out. A wall of windows and doors across the back showcases the South River panorama. Soirees often spill out onto a screened porch spanning the width of the living and dining areas. “Obviously I’m a big proponent of views and natural sunlight,” asserts Purple Cherry. “And of indoor-outdoor living.”
Starting at the threshold, the owners wanted to pay homage to their waterfront locale. “They were in full support of moving the stairwell off to the side, which allowed for that great nautical feeling in the front entry hall, with the barrel-vaulted ceiling,” recounts the architect. “You can see all the way through the home to the water. That view-through was so important.” The hall opens to a cozy den on one side and the kitchen on the other.
Margaret took cues from the setting as she determined a color palette. Watery blues run through most spaces—the upstairs bunkroom and grandkids’ bedrooms being vibrant exceptions. “I didn’t want a lot of color everywhere,” she explains. “I wanted the interior to fade to the outside.”
When it came time to select finishes and furniture, she took advantage of Purple Cherry Architects’ interior-design service. During a close collaboration, Cathy Purple Cherry and Margaret even trekked through North Carolina showrooms to find the perfect casually elegant pieces. “The layering of millwork, furnishings, fabric, artwork and accessories is the difference between the shell of a house and a home,” posits Purple Cherry.
A water-facing outdoor oasis, conjured by Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, adds to the home’s allure—and the family’s fun. A travertine terrace boasts a pool and fire pit, as well as areas for lounging, grilling and dining. The landscape plan balances the architecture’s New England genesis and its Chesapeake environs by combining classic plants, such as boxwood and hydrangea, with ornamental grasses and native Maryland perennials. “The goal was to make it feel like a Nantucket garden but without the heavy maintenance,” reveals principal Kevin Campion. “There’s a blending of formality with coastal living.”
Though relatives flow in and out, the Condits steal unhurried moments to take in the tranquil scenery. When asked to name the best vantage point, each reels off several contenders, encompassing indoors and out. “Just about anywhere, really, you can sit and watch the view,” concludes Margaret. “It’s particularly beautiful when a sailboat goes by or the sun is setting.”
Realizing their 7,300-square-foot gathering-place dream did not come without challenges. The picturesque property borders the site of a 17th-century trading post. Given that history, Anne Arundel County ordered an archeological dig before greenlighting construction. In the end, though, the couple’s patience paid off. “It was a labor of love,” says David. “It takes a lot to build a house like this.
Architecture & Interior Design: Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP, principal, Purple Cherry Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Builder: GYC Group, Westminster, Maryland. Landscape Design: Kevin Campion, ASLA, principal; Lindsey Tabor, project manager, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland.
Chandelier, Sconces & Side Table Lamps: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Sofas & Coffee Table: highlandhousefurniture.com. Sofa Fabric: centuryfurniture.com. Rectangular Ottomans: crlaine.com. Round Ottoman & Fabric: bradington-young.com. Rectangular Ottoman Fabric: Kravet.com. Side Tables & Blue Chairs: vanguardfurniture.com. Four Center Chairs & Fabric: bakerfurniture.com. Wall Paint Color: White Dove through benjaminmoore.com. Ceiling Paint: Silvery Moon through benjaminmoore.com.
Cabinetry & Stained Maple Countertop: lyndonheathcabinetry.com. Caribbean Mist Marble Countertop: gramaco.com. Lanterns: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Backsplash Tile: chesapeaketileandmarble.com. Dacor Cooktop: adu.com. Faucets: brizo.com through fergusonshowrooms.com.
All Furniture & Fabric: kingsleybate.com.
Bed & Chaise: bernhardt.com. Bedding: legacylinens.com. Night Table: kingsleybate.com. Table Lamp: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Wall Covering: thibautdesign.com. Paint: Topsail through Sherwin-williams.com. Rug: bostancarpets.com. Chaise Fabric: vanguardfurniture.com. Side Table: dovetailfurnitureonline.com. Drapery Fabric: thibautdesign.com/af.
Polished Carrara Marble Flooring: chesapeaketileandmarble.com. Tub: vandabaths.com. Tub & Faucet Source: fergusonshowrooms.com. Cabinetry: lyndonheathcabinetry.com. Carrara Marble Countertop: gramaco.com. Sconces: johnrichard.com. Faucets: grohe.us. Paint Color: Rarified Air through Sherwin-williams.com. Shutters: sewbeautifulwindows.com.
Headboard & Footboard Fabric: Kravet.com. Bedding: legacylinens.com. Night Table: Owners’ collection. Lamp: reginaandrew.com. Drapery Fabrication: greenhousefabrics.com. Chandelier: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Rug: maslandcarpets.com. Paint Color: Silver Mist benjaminmoore.com.
“I always like to get a lot of information in the beginning about my clients’ lifestyle, hopes and dreams—what they are looking for at this time in their lives,” the designer explains. As she recalls, a single nugget the wife shared with her established a framework for the entire project: “I want to smile when I walk in.”
The couple previously lived in a rambling Potomac home set on several acres. Having launched their two adult children, the empty-nesters were looking to downsize and move closer in, where they could enjoy Washington’s walkability. The 5,500-square-foot, Federal-style abode situated in the heart of the Georgetown Historic District, which they discovered in 2013, aligned with their vision. Its dreary, dated interiors, however, didn’t quite stack up.
Last renovated decades before, the house needed a refresh throughout—and a few spaces warranted complete overhauls. Martens recommended BarnesVanze Architects for the collaboration. “It was mostly an interiors project, bringing the house up in standard and finish,” reveals founding principal Ankie Barnes. “The owners wanted to be sure that the core of the lifestyle that they enjoyed [in their previous residence] could be delivered by a much smaller house. They wanted it to feel intimate, yet at the same time have room for the children to come back and to entertain at a very high level.”
As Barnes notes, the home’s “general arrangement was very strong,” so the team kept its existing layout intact. In that floor plan, a long entrance hall opens to double parlors (a living space followed by a piano room) on the right. Beyond the curved staircase are located the dining room, butler’s pantry, breakfast room and kitchen. The second floor comprises the owners’ suite, a study and a guest room; the top level boasts two additional bedrooms. A staff suite, media room and exercise zone populate the lower level.
The renovation plan focused on transforming three areas: the pantry/breakfast room/kitchen; the owners’ dressing area/bath; and the study. It also addressed the couple’s request for an elevator to accommodate their aging parents.
Before, the kitchen and breakfast room sat closed off from one another. According to architect Ellen Hatton, that outmoded design “didn’t fit the way the owners wanted to live.” The team retained the wall delineating the two spaces but strengthened their connection by widening the opening. Now, conversation carries from the breakfast banquette to the kitchen. The expanded opening also invites more natural light into the kitchen, Barnes adds, “so you don’t feel like you’re buried in the bowels of the house.”
Martens’ design and selections amplified the kitchen’s glow. Lighted cabinets display decorative plates from the owners’ collection. As the designer notes, “When you dim the lights, the cabinets are so attractive and make the kitchen feel more homey.” Luminescent, back-painted glass tops the island.
Harkening back to the wife’s “I want to smile” edict, Martens wove a palette of lively yellows and calming grays throughout the house. To start, she scoured far-flung sources for antique rugs. A buying trip to New York unearthed an Agra rug in her ideal colors. That fortuitous find became the “cornerstone” of the front parlor’s scheme; its hues flow into the adjacent piano room. Window panels crafted of silk in a sun-kissed shade add verve and unite the two spaces without blocking the light. As the designer explains, her client “wanted a happy house, so we kept everything feeling warm and sunny.”
The goal, she adds, was to create “elegant but not formal” interiors for a couple who regularly host charitable events (or will resume doing so post-covid) yet crave a relaxed home life. Presented with a largely blank canvas on the main floor, Martens deftly mixed old and new across a spectrum of styles. An Art Deco cabinet, marrying ebonized wood with vellum panels, graces the entrance hall; a pair of sculptural, cast-bronze chairs sits companionably with two transitional-style sofas in the living space.
“It’s totally fine to mix and match as long as it works well together,” asserts the designer. “You don’t want everything to look alike. It’s more interesting to have a bit of surprise and a little tension between pieces. You want stopping points.”
To furnish the second-floor guest room, Martens pulled from the owners’ existing collection. A coat of soft-yellow paint on the walls and tonal Roman shades at the windows reinvigorate the beloved pieces.With the final touches installed, the designer orchestrated a big reveal for her clients. As Martens reports, the wife’s reaction affirmed the project’s success: “She walked in and said, ‘I’m smiling.’”
Architecture: Ankie Barnes, FAIA, LEED AP, founding principal; Ellen Hatton, AIA, project architect and principal, BarnesVanze Architects, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Fabiola Martens, Fabiola Martens Interior Design, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: Glass Construction Company, Washington, DC.
Persian Rug: Antique. Two Armchairs: capertoncollection.com. Armchair Fabric: janeshelton.com. Armchair Trim: samuelandsons.com. Ottoman: ferrellmittman.com. Ottoman Fabric: osborneandlittle.com. Fireplace Andirons: johnlyledesign.com. Rose Cumming Silk Drapery Fabric: wellstextiles.com. Drapery Fabrication: Pilchard Designs; 202-669-8760. Paint Color: #103, finepaintsofeurope.com.
LIVING ROOM/PARLOR #1
Sofas: madelinestuart.com. Classic Cloth Sofa Fabric: wellstextiles.com. Pillow Fabrics: fortuny.com; tallia-delfino.com. Coffee Table: dennisandleen.com. Cast-Bronze Chairs: johnlyledesign.com. Rose Cumming Silk Drapery Fabric: wellstextiles.com. Drapery Fabrication: Pilchard Designs; 202-669-8760. Rug: nazmiyalantiquerugs.com. Chest & Armchair: Owners’ collection. Paint Color: #103, finepaintsofeurope.com.
Antique Art Deco Chest: karlkemp.com.
Chandeliers: jonathanbrowninginc.com. Bar Stools: donghia.com. Sconces: urbanelectric.com. Paint Color: DKC#62, donaldkaufmancolor.com. Built-in Cabinet Design: barnesvanze.com. Built-in Cabinet Fabrication: winchesterwoodworkingllc.com. Island & Display Cabinetry Design & Fabrication: forteinteriorsdesignbuild.com. Island Cabinet Paint Color: Chelsea Gray, benjaminmoore.com. Island Faucet: hansgrohe.com. Refrigerator: subzero-wolf.com.
Armchair: capertoncollection.com. Armchair Fabric: jacquesbouvet.com. Side Chairs: donghia.com. Rug: starkcarpet.com. Banquette Fabric: osborneandlittle.com. Chandelier: vaughandesigns.com. Paint Color: Cream # 44, farrow-ball.com.
The designer often lends her paint-hue prowess to spec-home builders seeking palettes with broad appeal. In a happy twist of fate, one such collaboration ultimately led her and husband Justin Li to a new abode of their own, as well as a spacious studio for her expanding team.
In 2018, Artisan Builders enlisted Morris to select exterior and interior paint colors for three speculative houses under construction in McLean. A year later, Morris and Li decided they’d outgrown their townhouse and began searching for larger digs with greater office-space potential. Morris recalled the earlier consult and reached out to Artisan. The trio of homes had just been listed for sale—and the couple acted quickly. “I selected the colors for the houses before I had any idea we were going to buy here,” recounts the designer. “I put the love and care into them that I would have put into my own home—and here we are.”
Architect James McDonald conceived all three residences, tucked into an enclave near downtown McLean, with an eye toward balancing present-day space programming with enduring street presence. Morris and Li claimed the model boasting a 3,000-square-foot lower level, ideal for the design studio. The main floor’s wide entry hall opens to the dining room on the left and the living room on the right. The kitchen, breakfast area and family room flow across the back, and the owners’ suite sits to the far right. Upstairs are two guest bedrooms and an office for Li, a co-founder of Qore Performance, a hydration-solutions manufacturer.
McDonald imbued the exterior with what he deems “a modern farmhouse/updated Craftsman feel.” He achieved a board-and-batten look with fiber-cement siding; natural-stone accents and a gracious front porch heighten the aura. “The plan size and layout are really geared to today’s living,” he explains. “The exterior styling, though, has a timeless feel while offering the cleaner lines that people are looking for.”
The distinctive styling continues inside. Architectural details such as coffered ceilings and wide-plank, engineered-wood floors align perfectly with Morris’ “traditional-with-a-twist” aesthetic. Covering most walls throughout, Benjamin Moore’s Tapestry Beige provides a versatile backdrop. “It’s a neutral that goes with anything,” says Morris, who serves on the paint brand’s 16-member designer alliance.
That assertion proved true, as many furnishings from the couple’s townhouse transitioned seamlessly. In the living room, for example, the designer started with their existing sofa, chairs and coffee table, then “mixed them up with new side tables and art,” she relates. “This house came together so easily. I was able to take a piece from here and a piece from there because the colors all worked together.”
Morris’ approach and aesthetic come into full view in the dining room. A painted cabinet originally purchased to store office supplies became a serving buffet after the move. The designer recently installed a Phillip Jeffries wall covering, with gold studs forming shimmery stripes on a taupe, tweed ground. “I’m very big on texture,” she states. “This house is calm and down-to-earth, with touches of extravagance. And that really is me in a nutshell.”
During construction, Artisan Builders tapped kitchen and bath designer J. Paul Lobkovich to conjure the home’s kitchen and owners’ bath. A standout feature in what he calls the “refined, modern-farmhouse” kitchen is a dark-stained frame setting off one section of creamy, painted cabinetry. “The intermix of textured, stained wood and smooth, painted wood is the key element of the kitchen’s personality,” he notes. “Warming it up with a wood frame makes the design more interesting and modern.”
Morris frequently hosts her parents, who live nearby, for meals in the everyday dining area. A walnut-topped table from Universal Furniture accommodates the group and mixed chair styles keep the mood casual. The overall goal, explains Morris, was “to create a warm, nurturing, comfortable place to be.”
The family room fits the bill. A sectional sofa from CR Laine encourages lounging; a washed Oushak rug feels soft underfoot. Beside the stone fireplace, a French door leads to a backyard oasis designed by Fine Landscapes. An avid gardener, Morris escapes outdoors often. Inside, she relishes quiet moments in a sunny seating area in her bedroom. To create this favorite hideaway, she positioned two swivel-glider chairs from Lee Industries in front of a large window. “It’s a good spot to just breathe for a minute,” she reveals. The design maven adorned the linen-covered chairs with velvet pillows in a blueberry shade that she is admittedly “obsessed with.”
The couple’s bathroom, boasting a Mirabelle tub, offers additional opportunities to unwind. After purchasing the house, Morris worked with Lobkovich to tweak the original design, replacing two separate vanities with a single unit. She also added signature touches such as a statement pendant from The Urban Electric Co. As she notes, “Life is so much easier when you have function that looks good.”
Functionality abounds on the home’s lower level. The Tracy Morris Design studio comprises office space for the designer and four employees, as well as a library, conference room, kitchenette and warehousing-storage area.
“It really fits our lifestyle well,” the designer declares. “It’s functional but calming and restful too.”
Architecture: James McDonald, James McDonald Associate Architects, Great Falls, Virginia.
Interior Design: Tracy Morris, Tracy Morris Design, McLean, Virginia. Kitchen & Owners’ Bath Design: J. Paul Lobkovich and Lisa Antonelli, senior designer, Lobkovich Kitchen Designs, Tysons, Virginia. Builder: Artisan Builders, McLean, Virginia. Landscape Design: Charles Owen, Fine Landscapes, Ltd., Sterling, Virginia.
“It’s a bespoke community,” says Phil, a technology executive. “Each house has a different philosophy.”
The couple scooped up a tree-laden lot there in 2015—with their own philosophy in mind for the roost that would follow. “A rustic yet refined atmosphere was what we were going for,” reveals Cathy, a homemaker.
Architect Mark Sullenberger and builder Mitch Racoosin translated that credo into a French Country-style abode, concocted of natural fieldstone, stucco-coated brick and stained cedar. They carried the aesthetic inside with reclaimed-oak ceiling beams and a fieldstone fireplace surround, among other agrarian accents. These soulful details swayed designer Rebecca Penno, who joined the team during construction, as she wove a cohesive color story throughout the three-level home and appointed the main-floor spaces.
“I kept going back to the interior architecture—the rough-hewn timbers, the different tones in the stone,” Penno recalls. “The neutrals we used have warmth to them. We love incorporating browns and taupes with ivories, making rooms a little cozier, but in this case we left the wall colors fairly light to keep them bright.”
Creating a relaxed vibe reigned supreme. “I really wanted it to feel comfortable when you come in the front door,” says Cathy. “I wanted traditional-but-fresh interiors, nothing too formal. Rebecca knew how to bring those elements in to make it a little bit fresher.”
The designer established the palette and approach in the entryway, where a hand-knotted rug embodies her penchant for earthy shades. An eye-catching lantern, with its aged-iron finish and fanciful curves, encapsulates the rustic-to-refined ratio. The center table is one of several pieces from the owners’ existing collection that Penno worked into her furniture schemes (it displays a pair of Foo dogs from Cathy’s prized collection).
The foyer leads back to a decidedly unstuffy dining room, replete with pattern and texture. Above the wainscoting, which stretches two-thirds of the way up the walls, Penno installed a graphic, tone-on-tone Phillip Jeffries grass cloth. A stylized damask print from Stroheim enlivens wingback chairs that preside over the dark wood table. As the designer notes, the space “is not overly formal but it’s still refined.”
The kitchen lies to the right of the dining room, down the hall. Emily Neifeld of Lobkovich Kitchen Designs conjured the homespun space, mixing time-honored ingredients—from a subway-tile backsplash to honed-marble countertops—with touches of rusticity such as the bleached-walnut panels on the Sub-Zero refrigerator. The goal, Neifeld reveals, was “to create a kitchen that is bright and traditional with rustic charm.”
Penno collaborated with Artisan Builders on a built-in banquette to fit the curved breakfast area. Acknowledging her clients’ “no-fuss way of life,” she covered the fronts of the side chairs in easy-to-clean vinyl; a trellis-patterned textile from Kravet dresses the less-spill-prone backs.
Laid-back, generously scaled furnishings inhabit the adjacent gathering space. “This room has the volume ceiling with timbers and stone on the fireplace, so it wouldn’t take delicate furniture,” the designer states. A sectional sofa from CR Laine, clad in Crypton fabric, offers ample seating when the Horvitzes’ two grown children visit.
Phil’s study and the master-bedroom suite sit on the opposite end of the first floor, to the left of the entryway. In designing the study, Penno took her cues from its clubby, white-oak wall paneling. “I wanted this room to feel masculine, playing off the oak,” she explains. A plaid, leather-bound rug, custom-crafted from broadloom carpet, launched her vision.
The master suite epitomizes the home’s traditional-yet-fresh milieu. A Cowtan & Tout grass-cloth wall covering, bolstered with metallic shimmer, graces the suite’s vestibule. Cathy refinishes furniture as a hobby and the hall’s antique cabinet is a product of her handiwork. The bedroom’s lattice-patterned Wilton rug hits a classic note, while its painted furniture and upholstered bed keep the design from veering toward stodgy.
“There are little nods to tradition here and there, but it’s not too fussy—or too casual,” asserts Penno. “That’s the story behind all the interiors. They are a happy medium.”
Completing the custom home, from architectural drawings to relaxed décor, took more than three years. According to the Horvitzes, the outcome justifies the commitment. “It was a lot of work,” admits Phil, “but we enjoyed the adventure and couldn’t be happier with the end result.”
Architecture: Mark R. Sullenberger, AIA, Custom Design Concepts Architecture, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Interior Design: Rebecca Penno, Penno Interiors, McLean, Virginia. Kitchen Design: Emily Neifeld, Lobkovich Kitchen Designs., Vienna, Virginia. Builder: Mitch Racoosin, Artisan Builders, McLean, Virginia.
How do you impart personality to a space?
There are many ways to tell your story. Replacing light fixtures can change a mood entirely, or using wallpaper in unexpected places. Incorporating millwork, such as a coffered ceiling, will add a dimension.
What makes a neutral palette sing?
When working with a tone-on-tone interior, I tend to keep the eye moving by layering patterns and textures so nothing appears flat or dull.
Go-to paint color for walls?
I use Sherwin Williams’ Natural Choice quite often. It has a nice, creamy undertone without going yellow and works great with both warm and cool tones. We used it in the Horvitzes’ public spaces.
Combining metals like aged brass and bronze often gives a collected-over-time appearance. If that is outside your comfort zone, use different finishes of the same metal, such as polished and brushed nickel.
“It’s a little like walking into Oz,” says homeowner Art Richer. Indeed, step inside the Reston, Virginia, abode he shares with wife Leslie and a tranquil panorama of Lake Thoreau transports you to an enchanted land where toll-road troubles melt away.
That full-on display was a mere promise, however, when the Richers bought the ’70s-era contemporary house in 2016. Missed opportunities abounded. For starters, the home’s quirky design obstructed sightlines from the front door. Expanses of glass existed but the spaces could accommodate more. Drywall partitions hemmed in the tiny galley kitchen; the separate dining room up front lacked a lake view. And mundane details—think carpeted-plywood stairs—left Leslie, an attorney, and Art, a retired technology executive, feeling cold.
Transforming the dated digs took a major renovation and tons of vision on the part of architect Jim Rill and designer Lauren Liess, who teamed up to instill the airiness, functionality and meaning the owners were after. “It was funky architecture to be inspired by,” admits Rill. “There isn’t a lot of historical precedent for this style of home so we had to make it up.”
Rill’s plan centered on two goals: opening up the spaces and integrating the home with its surroundings. Walls came down to create a seamless kitchen/dining/living area. In the process, the kitchen shifted and expanded, acquiring additional turf from the former dining room.
Working largely within the existing footprint, the architect added less than 400 square feet in total by capturing space in three areas. First, he enclosed the deeply recessed entryway to create a roomier foyer. To establish an unimpeded link from front to back and clear the way for the new dining area, he also enclosed a portion of the courtyard that awkwardly protruded into that interior zone.
“Before, there were lots of pinball barriers,” Rill recalls. “When you walked in, you looked into a little garden court that blocked your lake view. That area became interior space but we filled it in with glass, so it still feels connected to the outdoors.” The architect extended windows on the stair wall to create a tower effect; a third set of sliding-glass doors joined the two already accessing the redesigned outdoor-living oasis. “Now,” he adds, “there’s a strong flow, functionally and visually.”
To enlarge the upstairs master bedroom, Rill claimed space previously occupied by a deep balcony. Glass sliders invite the outdoors in and open to a new, streamlined balcony. “The house was more introverted than it should have been. Now, it’s completely extroverted,” notes the architect. “We kept focusing on drawing your eye to the lake and establishing a connection to the natural setting.”
With the renovation underway, the Richers sought help defining and executing their interior vision. Leslie spotted Liess’s work online and was smitten with the designer’s approachable aesthetic. Once on board, Liess began the process of teasing out her clients’ tastes by sharing inspiration photographs. The owners, she recounts, “were very attracted to things that had a hard-working look to them.”
As the conversation continued, Art revealed his lasting appreciation for turn-of-the-20th-century architectural details, especially those recalled from his childhood school building in Upstate New York. “I remember classrooms with those old oak windows—all the glass, metals and marble floors,” he reminisces. “The school just had a warm feeling.”
It was that feeling the Richers wished to capture. Drawing on a “schoolhouse-industrial” vocabulary, the team developed interior details that celebrate functional beauty. Steel plays a recurring role; look to the exposed posts and beams supporting the catwalk and the sleek stair design for examples. “The geometry is impressive—all the clean lines,” asserts Leslie. “There’s something very reasonable, rational and sensible to it all.”
While the Machine Age inspired one layer, Mother Nature influenced another. Cases in point: The overhauled kitchen and master bathroom, which meld utilitarian-style lighting and fixtures with wood and stone. “I have an obsession with nature and what’s going on right outside a home,” Liess confesses. “We wanted to bring as much of that inside as we could. We took industrial and natural elements and married the two.”
The designer employed a pared-down palette of black, white and tan, adding textural moments—from wood-plank ceilings to cowhide rugs. “It was about keeping things interesting enough that it didn’t feel boring,” she explains, “but quiet enough that we didn’t compete with or detract from the beautiful setting.”
Antique and retro finds fill the spaces. Vintage side chairs line a farmhouse-inspired table from RH in the dining area. When they visit, Art’s four young-adult children can watch Dad cook from industrial-leaning stools mounted at the kitchen island. New upholstered pieces round out the mix; the living room’s leather-covered sofa hails from Liess’s own collection. (Not surprisingly, this home appears in the designer’s 2019 tome, Down to Earth: Laid-Back Interiors for Modern Living.)
The Richers would not trade their life on Lake Thoreau. “It’s so peaceful here, definitely an escape,” says Art. “I have no desire to leave any time soon.”
Renovation Architecture: James F. Rill, AIA, Rill Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Design: Lauren Liess, Lauren Liess, Great Falls, Virginia. Renovation Contractor: Woodhaven Contractors, Frederick, Maryland. Landscape Design: Charles Owen, Fine Landscapes, Ltd., Sterling, Virginia.
Flooring: White Oak, slate tile. Windows: windsorwindows.com through thesanderscompany.com. Doors: westernwindowsystems.com through thesanderscompany.com. Front Door: Applewood Doors & Windows; 706-835-3667. Family Room Fireplace: pietrastudio through stoneremnantsonline.com. Bedroom Ceiling Panels: Custom.
Woven Seating: Clients’ collection. Bar Stools: rh.com.
Leather Sofa: laurenliess.com for taylorking.com. Pair of Chairs & Fabric: verellen.biz. Rug: fibreworks.com. Round, Marble-Topped Occasional Table: noirfurniturela.com. Coffee Table & Lamp on Round Table: palecek.com. Pendants: rejuvenation.com. Shades: horizonshades.com.
Cabinetry: Custom. Cabinet Color: Off-Black through farrow-ball.com. Backsplash: subwaytile.com. Countertops: Wood and Soapstone. Stools: rh.com. Pendants: holophane.acuitybrands.com through 1stdibs.com. Range: ilveusa.com.
Bench & Fabric: Olystudio.com. Rug: landryandacari.com. Bedside Wall Lamps: photonicstudio.net through etsy.com. Nightstands: bungalowclassic.com. Standing Mirror: fourhands.com. Throw on Bed: etsy.com. Vintage Butterfly Chair: 1stdibs.com. Occasional Table: Antique Senufo stool through chairish.com. Drapes: raoultextiles.com through johnrosselli.com.
Tub: signaturehardware.com. Tub & Sink Fixtures signaturehardware.com through rejuvenation.com. Wall Tile: subwaytile.com. Floor Tile: southcypress.com. Vanities: Custom. Mirrors: rh.com. Wall Sconces over Vanities: illuminatevintage.com through etsy.com. Ceiling Light: rejuventation.com. Shower Enclosure Frame: Custom steel-framed glass.
On balmy summer evenings, designer Tracy Schlegel can be found relaxing on her lofty deck, nestled among the tall trees lining the backyard of the home she shares with husband Mike and their two teenage children. The C&O Canal and Potomac River meander in the distance. “I sit there with a glass of wine and look out to the view,” reveals Tracy. “It feels like you’re in a treehouse.”
The sylvan parcel—bordered by protected parkland and located within Bethesda’s quaint Brookmont enclave—sealed the deal for the Schlegels in 2001. Charming outside yet crumbling inside, the 1928 “Hansel and Gretel cottage,” as Tracy describes it, checked all the boxes too. “We were purposefully looking for a house that needed a full makeover with the intent to completely gut it,” recounts the designer, who worked in advertising back then. “We didn’t want to take on someone else’s style.”
They also intended to be hands-on, with Mike, now COO of a construction and property-management company, serving as general contractor and Tracy supplying the vision for the spaces—on top of their day jobs. They asked Jim Bryan of Heffner Architects to devise a plan for open, functional and light-filled interiors that would leave the curb appeal intact. “First and foremost, we wanted something that fit in the neighborhood,” Mike asserts.
Ultimately, the mission grew into more than a makeover. Bryan preserved the brick façade; everything behind the exterior front wall was torn down and rebuilt from scratch (the project was deemed a renovation/addition since that wall remained). Cedar siding and cultured stone complement the brick. “By using part of the old house and keeping a similar look for the front elevation, we maintained the existing community feel,” the architect explains. “It still feels like a cottage even though it is a very, very nice one.”
Its magical allure aside, the downward-sloping lot presented a challenge. “It was narrow and incredibly steep, so fitting all of the program elements [into the plan] took a lot of care,” recounts Bryan. Though deeper and taller than its predecessor, the 4,400-square-foot dwelling doesn’t overwhelm the property or adjacent homes.
An airy foyer with an open staircase and soaring ceiling beckons guests; Tracy’s office lies to the left. Across the back of the house, the living and dining rooms share a double-sided fireplace and the bumped-out breakfast nook flows into the kitchen. The second floor houses the master suite and a bedroom for each child (both born after construction was completed in 2002). The at-grade lower level comprises a television-viewing area and game zone, plus two guest bedrooms.
Bryan integrated three outdoor-living spaces, including the main-level deck off the living room, into the rear façade. The lower-level recreation areas spill out to a flagstone patio, perfect for entertaining al fresco, while the master bedroom opens to a deck offering an unparalleled panorama.
Indoor spaces commune with nature courtesy of some 100 windows and glass doors, which also usher in soft, natural light. “With so many trees, the light there was dappled and filtered,” recalls Bryan. “I put as many windows as I could fit” along the back and sides.
As Tracy explains, she and her husband “wanted it to be a surprise when you come through the door, where you can’t believe how open it is and connected to the view.”
Mike adds: “Tracy and I are outdoors people. So being inside and feeling like you’re outside is fantastic.”
The designer chose—or eschewed—interior details with a cottage vernacular in mind. She dismissed crown moldings as too formal for the setting. More plainspoken selections, such as the wide-plank, pine floors that flow through the home, have stood the test of time. Still, the spaces have evolved over the years with Tracy’s aesthetic. Take, for instance, the warm-gray paint color that replaced a “peanut butter” hue on social-area walls.
“I have a rolling palette of neutrals, and I can switch up the ‘pop’ colors on pillows and blankets,” notes Tracy. “Neutral finishes on more permanent selections lay a good foundation for the interiors. That’s really what I try to do for my clients too.”
As it turned out, Tracy’s experience crafting her own homes (the Schlegels had previously overhauled a Cleveland Park duplex) sparked a career change. “I’ve always loved fashion, flowers, making things look beautiful,” the ad-exec-turned-designer reveals. Her new path “became an extension of that, thinking about what you want your environment to be.” When her interior-designer sister, Kelcey Huff, suggested they go into business together, Tracy eagerly agreed. The two started Waterlily Interiors in 2009.
The Brookmont abode reflects Tracy’s signature blended style. “I like to mix antiques or pieces that were handed down with upholstered pieces that have a cleaner profile,” she says. “It’s about figuring out how to bring things you like together as a cohesive collection.” For example, the living room tableau combines a circa-1870 Asian cabinet with transitional seating.
From her tranquil master suite to her beautifully appointed outdoor spaces, Tracy cultivates a sense of escape. “To be able to stop, sit and find peace in your home—I feel really lucky to have that,” she admits. “Everyone deserves a home they can step into and feel happy.”
Architecture: Jim Bryan, Heffner Architects, P.C., Alexandria, Virginia. Interior Design: Tracy Schlegel, Waterlily Interiors, Bethesda, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: Mike Schlegel, The Bozzuto Group, Greenbelt, Maryland. Landscape Contractor: Blue Ridge Landscape & Design, Winchester, Virginia.
Art Consultant: merrittgallery.com.
Sofas: henredon.com. Ottoman, Ottoman Fabric & Sofa Fabric: leeindustries.com through americaneyewdc.net. Pillow Fabric: kravet.com; hinescompany.com. Rug: greenfront.com. Coffee Table: jlambeth.com. Side Tables: Henredon.com; baker.com (round). Table Lamps: baker.com. Drapery Fabric: rh.com. Wall Covering Around Fireplace: phillipjeffries.com. Mirror: urbancountrydesigns.com.
Bed: bernhardt.com. Bedding: frette.com; sferra.com. Pillow Fabric: frette.com. Drapery Fabric: kravet.com. Nightstand: hickorychair.com. Table Lamp: curreyandcompany.com. Chair & Ottoman: centuryfurniture.com. Chair Pillow Fabric: ralphlaurenhome.com. Paint: benjaminmoore.com.
Exterior Photography by David Burroughs | Interior Photography by Angie Seckinger
Sweeping vistas of Island Creek, a tributary of the Tred Avon River, sold an Arlington couple on an idyllic, five-acre point of land in Oxford, Maryland. “We’re surrounded on three sides by water,” observes the wife, a community volunteer. “That’s really what makes this place so special.”
The pair had dreamed of owning a second home on the Eastern Shore, in part because the husband, an energy consultant, loves to sail—a passion their two kids, now ages 21 and 18, inherited. Unfortunately, the property’s existing 1950s farmhouse, which had served as the family’s retreat since they purchased it in 2004, did little to celebrate its surroundings. “When you opened the front door, all you saw was the stair,” the wife recalls. “You couldn’t see the water. We really wanted to maximize the beautiful view.”
With its choppy layout, the farmhouse also lacked a comfortable, open space for hosting large groups of family and friends. And its dearth of spare bedrooms and baths posed a challenge with overnight guests. After considering a renovation to address these drawbacks, the couple ultimately decided to build anew. They tapped architect Cathy Purple Cherry and designer Marika Meyer to conjure a custom escape tailored to their goals and needs
The watery panorama dictated Purple Cherry’s site-sensitive plan. Curved to follow the shoreline, the house is one room deep, with a circulation spine extending from end to end across the front. As the architect notes, “Every single room is rotated to the incredible view and connects to the water.”
An expansive sightline to Island Creek greets guests as they step inside, thanks to smart positioning of the stairs and vast expanses of glass along the rear. Beyond the entrance hall, Purple Cherry set the open-plan gathering space—which encompasses the kitchen, everyday dining zone and living area—in the center core. She then built out from there with angled wings. The library and guest quarters sit to the right; the butler’s pantry and dining room to the left. Above, each of the four en-suite bedrooms, including the central master, boasts a balcony overlooking the picturesque point.
The winged design, executed in an exterior mix of stone and clapboard, imbues the new, 8,000-square-foot abode with a sense of history befitting its locale. “Those decisions—transitioning from the center core to the stone links to the white clapboard—were intentional. I wanted to reinforce the feeling of evolution and keep the roof mass down,” explains Purple Cherry. “Nothing about the scale of the home feels big; it’s a series of smaller pieces.”
Intricate interior details throughout, from coffered ceilings to built-in cabinets, dovetail with the evolved-over-time aesthetic. Divided-lite windows, coupled with transoms on the first floor, feed the narrative too. “Most clients facing the water do not want those divisions, but [the wife] wanted the house to feel older,” reveals Purple Cherry. “We morph our architecture to our clients’ wants.”
The kitchen’s foremost must-have: double islands. One island serves as the food-prep station (where crab cakes are often in the making); the other, lined with stools, as a congregating spot. Marble counters cover the custom-crafted cabinetry.
Access to the outdoors also topped the owners’ priority list. The living area’s sliding French doors open to a sizeable porch, fitted with retractable screens, that extends their entertaining space. “The porch was the best decision we’ve ever made,” enthuses the wife. “This is where everybody hangs out, and it’s got a beautiful view.”
A saltwater pool, bluestone terraces and contextual landscaping enhance the scene. Using native plants, from lush grasses to flowering shrubs, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects created a Chesapeake garden to complement the natural terrain. “There’s a casual informality to the Eastern Shore landscape,” notes principal Kevin Campion. “We designed the planting to let that casual elegance just flow right up to the house.
Inside, Marika Meyer, who also outfitted the couple’s primary residence in Arlington, found inspiration in the setting too. “We wanted the interiors to reference the home’s coastal location but not be specifically nautical,” she recounts. “The palette of blues and greens ties to the water and views.” The designer left the windows bare in the main-level public spaces. “Without drapes, your eye is drawn to the exterior,” she explains. “We embraced the sightlines and there’s a continuity from inside to outside.”
Much of the designer-client conversation centered on the need for durability. “This is a family home, a retreat, and [the owners] wanted everyone to feel welcome and to enjoy the space without worrying,” says Meyer. “The overarching goal was to create a happy home.”
To that end, she instilled a relaxed yet polished sensibility. There’s a mix of casegoods sporting anxiety-proof, distressed finishes, and clean-lined upholstered pieces such as the living-area sofa and
ottoman—both sheathed in performance fabrics.
As the designer points out, “The furniture and finishes are carefree, but we elevated the look to match the integrity of the interior architecture.”
The clan escapes often to their easy-going home, which they appropriately christened “Week’s End.” Reports the wife: “It’s wonderful for family time.”
Architecture: Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP, principal; Brian Bassindale, RA, Purple Cherry Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Interior Design: Marika Meyer, Marika Meyer Interiors, Bethesda, Maryland. Builder: Choptank Builders, Easton, Maryland. Landscape Design: Kevin Campion, ASLA, principal; Nick Ries, project manager, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Styling: Frances Bailey.
As a member of Queer Eye’s Fab Five, Los Angeles-based designer Bobby Berk consistently demonstrates the power of design to transform lives. H&D caught up with the star on March 1 at Belfort Furniture in Dulles,
Virginia, where he was promoting his new furniture collection, Bobby Berk for A.R.T. Furniture (visit belfortfurniture.com). Following is an excerpt from the conversation.
Where did you find inspiration for your furniture collection?
I was inspired to design things I would want in my own home. When you design what you’re passionate about, it shines through. My collection is modern but warm, minimal but not too minimal. It’s all about mixing the right materials to make modern, clean-lined pieces feel warm and inviting.
How do you define a well-designed home?
A home that is well-designed functions well. I always first worry about how a room needs to function, then I worry about how it’s going to look. A well-designed home makes your life easier, not harder.
What do you love about your own home?
I love the views. Our house isn’t big, but it’s perched up on a hill where we have 360-degree views of L.A. There’s a lot of glass so nature is part of the home.
What’s happening in design that excites you?
Colored cabinets are something that I’m really loving. Painting the cabinets is a great way to modernize your kitchen without spending a lot of money, and colored cabinets just look cool. In Season Four of Queer Eye, I did a yellow kitchen with open shelving that has been one of my favorites.
What do you want viewers to take away from Queer Eye?
Your spaces can affect your mental health and how you interact with your friends and family. If your phone doesn’t get a good charge, it’s not going to make it through the next day. It’s the same with you. I want people to really realize that your home has a huge effect on that. The show allows me to help way more people than
I would ever have been able to help before.
The interiors of the ’40s-era Arlington home shared by husbands John Palmer and Ray Taylor were showing their age. A tight layout within the compact, Cape Cod-style abode, which Palmer purchased in 1997, compounded the problem and inevitably prompted action. “The format wasn’t working for us,” recalls Taylor, a real-estate appraiser. “It wasn’t about making the house bigger. It was about making it more livable and functional—and giving it grown-up flair.”
Interior designer Paul Corrie accepted the challenge. The owners had previously enlisted him to decorate a couple of rooms and trusted his keen eye to guide a major renovation and redesign. “Paul figures out what we like,” says Palmer, a software executive. “Then he takes us down a road that works for both of us.”
The first step was reconfiguring the layout of the 1,200-square-foot house. The team started by flipping the positions of the dining room and kitchen, so the kitchen moved to the back of the house while the dining room was relocated in front. Removing an entryway wall improved the flow between the dining and living rooms, which are used for entertaining. “John and Ray wanted an open floor plan that would be more conducive to their lifestyle,” reveals Corrie. “We wanted to modernize the space without disrupting the original bones too much.”
Taking advantage of a bedroom and hall bath at the back of the first floor, the team shifted the bathroom’s doorway from the hall to the bedroom to create en-suite guest quarters. Upstairs, walls shifted to establish a more spacious master bedroom and an office. A lower-level recreation zone received a décor refresh during the recent undertaking.
With the new layout in place, Corrie introduced architectural elements that lean toward modern. For example, he traded the existing wood stair banister for one of his own design featuring black, wrought-iron balusters that provide “a particular level of detail and high contrast,” he explains. An ebony-walnut finish revived the original hardwood floors.
In the new kitchen, custom cabinets, painted a putty-gray hue, extend to the ceiling for maximum storage. Honed-soapstone countertops and a farmhouse sink “create a timeless aesthetic that fits with the rest of the house,” Corrie notes. A vintage, flea-market ladder adds another layer of charm.
A full-gut makeover transformed the first-floor guest bathroom. With honed-marble subway tiles and unlacquered brass fittings, it illustrates Corrie’s use of materials and finishes to instill a sense of luxury, even in modest quarters. As the designer points out, “You see a consistent theme, a masculine-chic vibe, throughout the house.” His dominant palette of black, white and warm neutrals supports that feel.
So does the masterful mix of new and old furnishings. Corrie has a knack for blending laid-back retail pieces with antiques of various provenances. The living room provides proof: an RH leather sofa and linen-covered, tufted chair sit companionably with a French armchair and an American butcher-block side table, both from the 1800s. “The number-one priority was that the spaces be comfortable and livable, but they also had to reflect a certain taste and sophistication,” maintains Corrie.
“We wanted a casual but adult environment, nothing super fussy,” Palmer concurs. “You can put your feet up here and relax.”
The couple also sought interiors that tell their story. In response, Corrie deftly incorporated meaningful possessions into his carefully balanced schemes. For instance, he paired vintage dining chairs (one of the couple’s first purchases together) with a new zinc table inspired by a 1940s Belgian design. “There’s a subtle juxtaposition but I didn’t want to take it too far in a modern direction,” he explains. “I respected the pieces they already had and created an eclectic mix of things that quietly marry well.”
According to the designer, his clients enjoy being “surrounded by things they love.” In the living room, RH étagères display Taylor’s trove of 19th-century French confit pots. Corrie also framed black-and-white family photographs and scattered them throughout the home. A trio surrounds an antique, giltwood mirror in the hallway and two hang above the guest bedroom’s metal headboard—kept company by a flea-market, taxidermic find.
“I do a lot of layering,” notes the designer. “I try to present it in a way that looks lived-in, not museum-like. I worked to find the right environment to showcase each of these collections in their best light.”
There’s talk of more layers to come. An antique Oushak rug for the master bedroom tops the couple’s 2020 wish list, and the pair plans to call Corrie when they are ready to invest. So what first drew them to the casually elegant aesthetic of their designer, who they discovered on Facebook? “We both lead stressful lives at times,” says Taylor. “Paul’s work looked very soothing but very luxe. It looked like something we would want to come home to.”
Interior Design: Paul Corrie, Paul Corrie Interiors, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: Aaron Daley, Remodeling & Restoration Services, Arlington, Virginia.
Sofa, Tufted Chair, Etageres: rh.com. Curved-Back Chair: foxgloveantiques.com through 1stdibs.com. Side Table: spindlerantiques.com through 1stdibs.com. Table Lamp & Wall Sconce: industrialartifacts.net.
When Sean and Lisa Creamer purchased a 1914 farmhouse on a sublime stretch of Oak Creek near the Miles River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, they hoped it would become a magnet for family and friends. And it has. A recent remake of the house, grounds and an outbuilding has only enhanced the place’s powerful allure. “It’s absolutely beautiful here,” says Lisa, a community volunteer. “We try to share it as much as we can.”
The Olney, Maryland, couple swooped up the Dutch Colonial abode and five-acre property in Royal Oak, a stone’s throw from St. Michaels, in 2006. For years, they spent weekends and summers there—boating, crabbing and fishing with their three children and guests. Now that the kids are in their 20s, the one-time retreat is transitioning to a full-time residence for the two (Sean, a financial executive, continues to commute to work) and a long-anticipated renovation was in order.
Changes by previous owners had saddled the faded farmhouse with a confusing layout and circa-1970s detractions. The Creamers sought to retain—or revive—old-soul charm while improving function and flow. They enlisted architect Gregory Wiedemann to update the home’s infrastructure, resuscitate its exterior and interior, replace an awkward addition, and convert the barn-turned-garage into a pool house.
“The Creamers wanted a family compound where they could gather,” explains Wiedemann. “The challenge was striking a balance, keeping as much of the historic fabric as we could yet dealing with the irregularities. We wanted to undo things that were not consistent with the original house and restore its character.”
Wiedemann and project architect Andrew Dan shifted main-floor walls, doorways and windows to clarify the plan, create a more logical arrangement and introduce front-façade symmetry. For example, a centered set of French doors ousted two off-kilter entryways in the living/casual-dining room. Throughout, the team preserved or matched the original architectural details, including heart-pine floors and plain trimwork.
Tucked into the interior, the kitchen once constituted, “a really strange conglomeration of spaces that snaked around,” as Lisa describes it. The architects relocated the kitchen to the former breakfast area and expanded it by enclosing a portion of the porch. The revamped kitchen now sits opposite the dining room and to the left of the approach-side entrance. Nostalgic elements—such as the island’s walnut top, reminiscent of a farm table—lend period-appropriate appeal.
A flat-roof, one-story appendage that housed the master-bedroom suite also demanded attention. The goal, says Wiedemann, “was to replace the box with a more sympathetic addition that works with the home’s historic character.” Bound by 100-foot-buffer restrictions on the waterfront site, the team retained the ground-level footprint but added a second story onto the new addition. A curved staircase connects the first-floor master suite and second-floor sitting room and also provides secondary access to the four main-volume bedrooms. Through its compatible massing, gabled roof and exterior materials, the 847-square-foot wing blends harmoniously.
The site informed the plan for transitional spaces. The architects restored the waterfront-facing covered porch and removed unsightly open decking to extend it, screening in the side facing the pool. As Wiedemann notes, “The wraparound porch addresses the two major orientations of water and the southern outdoor-gathering area.”
That zone comprises a reimagined pool/hot tub and outbuilding. The original barn, converted to a garage at some point, was in disrepair; the team transformed it into a high-functioning pool house designed for year-round use. Its first floor contains a hangout space, wet bar, changing area and bathroom; the second-floor game room leads out to a deck with panoramic views. The pool house serves as the daytime social hub and also attracts noisy night owls after dark.
Restrained landscaping reflects the home’s humble roots. McHale Landscape Design repurposed existing plants and selected others, such as boxwood, “representative of the time period of the house,” says principal Steve McHale. “We created a simple design that would complement the architecture and keep the views open. It was very intentional not to overdo the landscape.”
The interiors bow to the setting too. Designer Carol Wheeler of Bountiful Interiors instilled what she calls a “Tidewater coastal feel,” employing a neutral palette and taking a pared-down approach. “You always want to play up the view,” she advises. “Big window treatments would have blocked the scenery outside.”
Wheeler specified “come-sit-here” furnishings, covered in performance fabrics. “The selections had to be functional,” she says. “This house is meant to be used, not just to look pretty.”
Indeed, the Creamers entertain often—and sometimes in a big way. Every year, they gather 100 guests for their Turkey Bowl, a touch-football game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. “It’s gone way overboard,” laughs the wife. “Sean built goalposts out of PVC pipes. He’s out there weeks ahead of time getting ready.”
Other weekends, the couple welcomes 20 family members, or their adult children invite friends to stay. “We’re practically running a B&B,” quips Lisa. “Everyone has to sign up early because weekends go quickly here.”
Renovation Architecture: Gregory Wiedemann, AIA, principal; Andrew Dan, project architect, Wiedemann Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Design: Carol Wheeler, Bountiful Interiors, Easton, Maryland. Kitchen Design: Justin Cunningham, Stuart Kitchens, Bethesda, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: O’Neill Development, Gaithersburg, Maryland. Landscape Design: Steve McHale, McHale Landscape Design, Upper Marlboro, Maryland.