Home & Design

Elina Donaldson lived in her native Sweden for nine years with her husband Noah Donaldson, a passionate sailor from Annapolis. When they returned to the States to be closer to his family and job as chief technical officer at Annapolis Micro Systems, she laughs that Noah came back more Scandinavian than when he left. In addition to a slight accent, he and Elina now share an affinity for Scandinavian style. “We both love architecture and beautiful things; being in Europe was inspiring,” she says.

Coming back to Maryland allowed Noah to fulfill the dream of owning a waterfront property where he could keep his own sailboat. When a lot on the Severn River came up for auction, the couple acted quickly, bidding on it sight unseen. Although the old-fashioned cottage on the one-third-acre parcel was not their style, the views were exceptional. The wooded street side reminded Elina of the Swedish forests of her childhood while the water vista takes in a horizon where the Severn empties into the Chesapeake, with the Bay Bridge in the distance.

The Donaldsons decided to tear down the cottage and build their dream home. They envisioned a modern, open retreat that would maximize views and screen out nearby neighbors. When Noah saw a home designed by Annapolis architect Chip Bohl, he knew they’d found the right match. “Capturing the view is something I’ve worked on my entire career,” says Bohl, who was hired for the job. “It’s a core of our practice.”

The lot is narrow but Bohl turned that into an advantage, designing a tall structure that fits perfectly on the site; its verticality acts as a counterbalance to the wide panorama of the bay and the horizon. While the front façade is more closed-off and private, the water side is transparent and dynamic with generous walls of glass.

“Rather than a sheer, flat wall, we sculpted the volumes facing the bay to create complexity,” Bohl explains. “The house has volumetric depth, so each room has a different orientation to the horizon, giving the interiors a rich relationship to the view.”

Completed in 2018, the 4,000-square-foot residence boasts four bedrooms and four and a half baths over three floors. Organized around an airy central staircase, the first floor contains a large, open living space that reflects the family’s social lifestyle, encompassing the living and dining rooms and kitchen. There’s a dedicated “kid space” with sliding doors that enable the parents to shut away clutter when needed.

The second story houses bedrooms for the couple’s two children, now eight and 10, on one side and the owners’ suite on the other; an office and a family room await on the third floor.

Bohl is proud of a cantilevered, glass-enclosed “cube room” that sits at the mezzanine level between the first and second floors. “It’s completely floating,” says the architect, noting that the perch he describes as a crow’s nest required “quite a bit of structural gymnastics as it has no apparent means of support. The design allows for dynamic, anti-gravity verticality that is so important to the success of this house.”

Embodying Scandinavian style, the home blurs the line between interior and exterior, with walls of windows allowing uninterrupted connections to its surroundings. The design balances cool, practical materials like polished-concrete floors with warm woods. As a result, the interiors are beautiful in their effortless minimalism.

Though Elina’s background is in engineering, she has often helped friends with interiors projects and during the pandemic decided to launch her own design firm, Simplicity by Elina. Putting her skills to work in her own home, she searched for furnishings that met her exacting principles with a focus on three criteria: beauty, function and craftsmanship.

In the living room, she opted for a large sectional in blue to give the space a pop of color. The fireplace was inspired by traditional Swedish Kakelugn stoves, updated with modern, textured tile.

In fact, texture was essential to her approach—so wool rugs, sheepskin and cowhide throws and blankets appear throughout the home. And while Elina selected sleek, fully integrated Leicht kitchen cabinetry in a dark, rich gray, the oak backsplash and bronze-toned bar stools offer a warm counterpoint to the cool cabinets and white quartz countertops.

Many of her favorite pieces are treasures she found in Scandinavia, such as the dining table designed by Johannes Andersen and Boomerang chairs by Alfred Christensen—these pieces by Danish furniture makers were purchased at auction in Stockholm. Others came directly from nature, like the tree stump in the living room that washed up on their neighbor’s beach; Elina meticulously dried and shaped it into a functional side table.

The active, outdoorsy family enjoys their new waterfront digs, where they can jump in a kayak or on a paddleboard—or set sail on their 31-foot trimaran, Frequent Flyer, right from their own beach or dock. “But the most important thing to me,” reflects Elina, ”is the feeling inside the house—the light and the connection to nature. I feel a house should be a reflection of its owners and this house reflects us as a family.”

Architecture: Chip Bohl, AIA, principal; Jessica Giovachino; Ted Sheils, AIA, LEED AP, Bohl Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Interior Design: Elina Donaldson, Simplicity by Elina, Annapolis, Maryland. Builder: Riley Custom Homes & Renovations, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Heike Nolker, ALSA, Landscape Architect, Annapolis, Maryland. 

Light House - Tiffani Johnston’s first thought upon moving into her family’s current Leonardtown home was that the kitchen was dark.

It lacked windows to take in its views of a backyard creek, which meanders all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. Its cherry-wood cabinetry and pine floors’ orange undertones were not her cup of tea. She envisioned a white kitchen with a lighter, airy look.

“We’re your standard, busy family on the go,” says Johnston, who shares the residence with her husband Peter, an orthopedic surgeon, three children aged 10 and under and a large (and growing) Bernese-poodle puppy. They also have relatives living nearby. “We can easily have 10 or 20 people here on a Wednesday night,” she states. “The original kitchen had a peninsula bar that cut the dining room and kitchen in half. I just didn’t like the flow.”

The Johnstons decided to embark on a kitchen renovation under the guidance of Paragon Properties and interior designer Kate Abt. The project, which evolved over five years, not only transformed the dated kitchen but also the sunroom and living room. Eventually, the ground-floor owners’ suite and the children’s bedrooms upstairs were also overhauled.

Though the 2006 home, which Abt describes as “coastal modern,” already had an open floor plan, many of the rooms simply didn’t function well for her clients. In the kitchen makeover, says Abt, “the jumping-off point was an arched window that we installed over the sink. It became a beautiful focal point that was carried over to the arched entryway into a new wine room.”

Prior to the remodel, the family primarily used the home’s neglected front living room, where a desk had become a catchall for paperwork, as a pass-through to the main entry. “They had a bar cart that was packed, so we decided to make the living room into a wine room—an entertaining space that would be overflow for the kitchen,” Abt notes.

For storage in the wine room, Johnston selected bold, navy-blue cabinetry, which handily covered an awkwardly placed corner window. Abt complemented the family’s rustic leather sofa with chic chairs upholstered in rich blue velvet.

The kitchen was completely gutted. To make space for the large island that her clients requested, explains Abt, the renovation bumped out the kitchen by two feet, thereby accommodating a wall of cabinetry and the sink under the arched window. Additional windows were installed on either side of the French doors in the adjacent dining area to bring in more light. The builder replaced existing moldings, which were too small for the room’s scale, with a statement-making coffered ceiling. The team also altered the opening between the dining area and family room, echoing the arches of the new window and door to the wine room.

But the most game-changing alteration of the project was the conversion of the sunroom into a handy mudroom and pantry. Used as a playroom when the kids were small, the area had become a dumping ground for toys now that they are older. “Having a pantry and mudroom for a family of five with a dog is essential,” declares Abt. The space features a durable concrete-tile floor and hooks and cubbies where the kids can stow belongings. There’s also a Dutch door— something Johnston had always wanted—that’s especially useful when the puppy needs a timeout.

Having transformed the interiors to be more functional, Abt set about making them beautiful. “These clients love fashion, and they love the combination of blue and white with pops of pink,” she observes. “I would say their style is modern coastal, eclectic and full of things with meaning to the family.”

Pine floors were removed in favor of gray-toned oak. And Johnston finally realized her dream of a white kitchen with white cabinetry and Carrara marble backsplash and countertops. Brass fixtures impart warmth to the crisp white elements, as does the large walnut butcher-block top on the island, which was made by Johnston’s cousin.

“I wanted brass but in a classy way, not a ’70s way,” quips Johnston, who says there was some consternation in the family when she opted for an opulent gold faucet. “But once it was installed, everyone fell in love—even my husband.”

The interiors feature a mix of furniture the Johnstons owned and new selections by Abt, who focused on durability with kids and a dog under foot. Personal touches lend the home its warmth. A runner in the kitchen came from a trip to Peru and Johnston hauled the hand-painted-ceramic sink, now in the wine room, back from Mexico in her carry-on luggage. Johnston custom-ordered two watercolors in the family room from an artist on Etsy, then mounted them in gold-toned frames to echo the brass throughout the home.

“We went from dark wood to light and added huge windows—but it isn’t just the light that makes a difference; the renovation has made a difference in the home’s personality,” says Johnston. “When we come home, it makes us happy.”

Light House - Interior Design: Kate Abt, Kate Abt Design, Leonardtown, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: Paragon Properties, Inc., Leonardtown, Maryland.

When Angela and Frank Ferrogine moved from Edgewater to Annapolis to be closer to work and family, they had the perfect plan. Frank found the lot they wanted on the Severn River near the Naval Academy Bridge and Angela drew a rough design that reflected their vision. But like all best-laid plans, theirs hit a snag. “I wanted the garage at the back of the house,” Angela explains, “but we ran into restrictions due to the bay critical area.”

Angela is a retired nurse with a talent for design. Frank owns auto dealerships. Fortunately, the couple had worked in the past with architect Leo Wilson of Hammond Wilson; they consulted him and found he was undaunted by the challenge. “When you depart from a design, I think it’s an opportunity to make something better,” he avers.

Wilson says this project was special—not only because of his longstanding, design-savvy clients, but also because the top-notch design team included interior designer Sandy Payne, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects and Winchester Construction. It was Bert Winchester who solved the issue of the garage, suggesting they put it under the house, accessed by a graceful sweep of driveway that goes below grade.

“Angela had a clear vision of how she wanted things organized,” says Wilson. “Once we figured out the technical challenges, everything came together.”

The Ferrogines wanted this home to be a place where they could age comfortably, with a first-floor master suite and a universally designed bathroom. The house also needed to accommodate their four children and growing brood of grandchildren, with large rooms for gathering, two bedrooms on the second floor and entertainment areas in the basement. “I call this the holiday house,” says Angela. “It’s where we spend holidays and Sunday dinners. There are at least 15 of us and we have 70 people over every Christmas Eve.”

Wilson’s design interprets traditional Shingle construction with symmetrical roof forms broken by a swooping roofline that accommodates a stair tower and kitchen. The house is organized around an axial corridor that leads into the living and dining rooms and creates a desirable flow for entertaining. The corridor is flanked by the master suite and kitchen, both featuring timbered cathedral ceilings. “The heavy timbers help draw the eye up, but the cross-members mitigate the space so you don’t feel like you’re in a silo,” the architect explains.

Wilson put a premium on craftsmanship throughout the house, from heavy cap rails on the wainscoting to the deep portals between the rooms. Every detail is thoughtful, down to the built-in baby gates on the stairs that slide away like miniature pocket doors. “This is a house where less is more,” he notes. “It’s like a jewel box where quality is of the highest level and there aren’t any needless spaces.”

The busiest room in the house is the kitchen, which centers on a two-level island topped by quartz and walnut. “Angela wanted a bright, white room with lots of natural light,” says Sandy Payne. “It can be hard to make a large kitchen feel warm, but we were able to create a living space where everyone wants to be.”

Angela was integral to the home’s interior design, working with a calm palette of soft whites and blues anchored by wide-plank oak floors. While the layout is traditional, the openness and lightness of the spaces make the interiors feel timeless.

The kitchen and adjacent porch open to a backyard with a small street running behind. “The goal was to establish an expansive and useful lawn space that acknowledges the street but provides a boundary,” explains landscape architect Bob Hruby. A stone wall runs parallel to the house with a set of stairs in its center, creating a secondary entrance.

The relatively small lot emphasizes native species, with magnolia, viburnum, hydrangea and ilex softened by perennials and grasses such as echinacea, aster, heuchera, agastache and Siberian iris. Mitigating storm-water runoff was a significant challenge, solved by French drains and a rain garden. “We set the house at an elevation that worked for the basement garage entrance, the front door and the rear garden,” Hruby explains.

Wilson describes the home as “calm and ordered,” and from first entry there is a sense of peace. And while the communal rooms are large, the bedrooms are tellingly modest. This “holiday house” puts gathering as a family first.

Architecture: Leo A. Wilson, AIA, LEED AP, Hammond Wilson, Annapolis, Maryland. Interior Design: Sandy Payne, Sandy Payne Design, Annapolis, Maryland. Builder: Winchester Construction, Inc., Millersville, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Robert Hruby, ASLA, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland.

The first time the buyers of a Spa Creek home visited the property, their response was a resounding “no.” The home was dated and the couple is drawn to New York- and Paris-inspired glamour. According to architect Scarlett Breeding, who they consulted when making their decision, “We had to think beyond what it was and focus on what it could become—how we could transport New York high style to Spa Creek and combine it with the laidback Annapolitan lifestyle.”

The owners, with three college-age children, frequently entertain guests, many of whom arrive by boat. They could see that the abode could easily transform into a family house when the children visit and a party house when friends stop by, while not overwhelming the couple when they were home alone. Breeding pointed out the high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and a site with spectacular views of Spa Creek. Says the husband, “We bought into a vision.”

Breeding had worked on a previous home for the owners in partnership with Bret Anderson of Pyramid Builders. That successful collaboration was put into play again and elevated the process of renovating the Spa Creek home. While the exterior remained intact, “We reproportioned the rooms and opened up the floor plan,” Breeding explains. Most notably, a second level was added to the two-story living room to create a kids’ rec room.

The next step was to apply a modern palette to the redesigned rooms. “We have a formula: white and black, lots of mirrors and crystal lighting, velvet and animal prints.” says the wife. “We also love to mix old and new, so you’ll see shiny, lacquered trim paired with vintage pieces we’ve collected over the years.”

White and black are the home’s dominant colors. “This house is the epitome of glamour,” says Richard Anuszkiewicz, director of architectural casework and interiors at Alt Breeding Associates, who worked with former colleague Catherine Lowe on the interiors. “You can’t get much more classic than black and white accented with beautiful lighting and furnishings.”

To anchor the design and add drama, the oak floors have been lacquered black. There are pops of the owners’ favorite colors, like the “Carolina Blue” velvet sofas in the living room and a raspberry toile in the master suite. The mix of vintage and contemporary is apparent: New casework by Premier Custom Built in the bedroom features a silver-leaf garland, while a marble bust of Marie Antoinette keeps company with an acrylic coffee table in the living room. Niermann Weeks chandeliers provide a touch of bling.

In contrast to the rest of the crisp, pristine interiors, the club lounge—formerly a TV room—is richly appointed, with black walls and cognac-colored leather. Breeding’s team inserted a custom bar that takes in water views, then added an antiqued-mirror wall opposite to further capitalize on the views.

Designed by Anuszkiewicz, the kitchen takes chic to a whole new level. Previously encompassing the original kitchen, powder room and closet, it has been completely refitted and is now separated into a front kitchen—featuring a seating area and a bespoke, pagoda-style range hood over a white-enamel range—and a more private rear kitchen and pantry, where the mechanics of the kitchen are concealed behind walls of custom cabinetry.

A luxurious banquette and two club chairs overlook the water, completing the lounge effect. “The final element was the Gracie wallpaper custom-designed for the space,” says the wife. “We’ve had more than one guest not even realize that this is the kitchen.”

The floor boasts a white-diamond pattern on high-gloss black. “I love a white kitchen because it is as classic as a perfectly pressed white shirt,” says Anuszkiewicz. “But we wanted to make this kitchen more special and create an impact, which is why we painted the floor.” He adds, “Just because a room is functional doesn’t mean it can’t be elegant.”

Both Campion Hruby Landscape Architects and Walnut Hill Landscape Company contributed to the home’s exterior spaces. According to Kevin Campion, the existing pool was reconfigured. “We extended its usefulness and drama by making it perpendicular rather than parallel to the house,” he states, “which created more room for a deck and furniture areas for entertaining.”

Plantings were selected from the owners’ playlist of favorites—boxwood, hydrangea, roses, crape myrtle—and arranged in sweeping curves that separate the lawn and deck. “We needed to create shade at the back of the house,” says Michael Prokopchak of Walnut Hill, “so we planted a large red maple as well as Sweet Bay magnolia.”

Despite its pristine elegance, the owners say the house is durable, comfortable and functional—and has fulfilled its mandate to blend bling, classic European design and New York City style. “We live in a home where we can have Champagne or pizza in every room and where every room is used, every day,” the husband avers. “You walk in the front door and it’s like you’re in a New York loft looking over our version of Central Park: Spa Creek.”

Renovation Architecture: Scarlett Breeding, AIA, Alt Breeding Associates Architecture, Annapolis, Maryland. Interior Design: Richard Anuszkiewicz, Alt Breeding Associates. Renovation Contractor: Bret Anderson, Pyramid Builders, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Kevin Campion, ASLA, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland; Michael Prokopchak, ASLA, Walnut Hill Landscape Company, Annapolis, Maryland. Home Automation: Electronic Home Environments, Annapolis, Maryland.

Gone SailingThe Chesapeake Bay is the perfect locale for Deborah and John Tuttle, two busy doctors who love to recharge on the water. They were elated to discover a house in tucked-away Kinnairds Point near Chestertown, Maryland, that would allow them to spend most of their time in this favorite spot. Located a manageable hour’s drive from Newark, Delaware, where she works as a neonatologist and he as an infectious-disease specialist, it sits high on a slope, protected from flooding but with easy access to a private dock and community beach. Framed by mature trees, the view of Still Pond Creek and the Chesapeake Bay is panoramic. “It’s renewing to be here,” says Deborah Tuttle. “It’s a magical place—we see, hear and learn new things all the time with the bay and wetlands and woods around us.”

Still, the house itself was less than idyllic. Built in 1986, the interiors were dated and the site had drainage issues. The couple collaborated with architect Rick Longo and landscape architect D. Miles Barnard on an overhaul that would update both home and landscape.

Longo’s redesign encompassed an addition on the front to accommodate a large, welcoming foyer. It also replaced two existing, second-level decks at the back of the house with the remodeled kitchen/dining area. Longo removed a loft and raised the old roofline to create a soaring great room with a two-story wall of bookshelves. New windows and decks take advantage of water views. Light shingles clad the exterior for a timeless Cape Cod feel.

The redesign also included a lower-level renovation of the above-ground basement. Longo added full-sized windows and doors onto a terrace that features a fire pit and dining area. Durable HardiePlank siding clads the interior walls—a nod to practicality since it’s an indoor-outdoor space in the warm months.

With help from interior designer Barbara Bottinelli, Deborah Tuttle honed in on a sophisticated, livable aesthetic with a judicious use of natural finishes such as the main area’s Bolivian walnut floors. As Longo explains, the house is like “a really elegant old cabin cruiser.” That concept takes a distinctly nautical turn in the basement, which features glossy ipe floors and ceilings and an indoor tension pool shaped like a boat, with a cover made from an old sail and fastened with boat cleats.

The home is a gallery for the couple’s collections—everything from Inuit sculpture and modern and local art to antique fishing rods and sea glass. “We tried to give the house a patina so it didn’t look too new,” says Tuttle. Furniture from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams imparts comfortable, transitional style.

Outside, Miles Barnard strove to ensure that the landscape would look like it had always been there. “This project has such striking views; it’s a big, sweeping landscape dotted with detailed, intimate spaces,” he says. The two-and-a-half-acre property had lovely mature trees but needed better access to the water below, where the Turtles’ power boat and paddle boats are moored. According to Barnard, the slope worked to his advantage. “When you have a property where there’s a long shot down to the water, you have the opportunity to create an experience as you take that walk,” he explains.

He created a path from the house to the water that originates in neat bluestone steps, then becomes gravel, then dirt, then sand as it reaches its destination. This transition is mirrored in the landscape: Close to the house, rectilinear bluestone patios are framed with hydrangea, while boulders, ferns, and native grasses line the gravel farther away. Gates signal the transitions from formal to informal along the path. “Every landscape should have a gate; it defines the space and creates a sense of surprise,” Barnard notes. “It’s just as important to define spaces outside as it is inside.”

The landscape is as functional as it is lovely. Unobtrusive fencing contains the couple’s two Portuguese water dogs safe and secure without succumbing to any unwanted situation (know more tips regarding your furry companion's safety at Bored Cesar), while two artfully landscaped drainage ponds manage runoff. Deer-resistant native species withstand wind and rain and respect the bay’s living shoreline.

When the couple bought the house, they dubbed it “Red, Right, Return”—the nautical term describing the path a boat must take past red marker buoys when returning to a harbor. A triangular triple-R logo—inspired by a day beacon visible from the property and designed by Barbara Bottinelli—is now a ubiquitous design element, adorning gates, mailbox, outdoor light fixtures, chairs, pillows and more. The logo speaks to the feeling that this is more than a house—it is the place to which its owners love to return.

Renovation Architecture: Rick Longo, PE, RA, Hillcrest Associates, Landenburg, Pennsylvania. Interior Design: Barbara Bottinelli, Malvern, Pennsylvania. Design & Product Consultant: E.P. Cronshaw, Shore & Lumber Millwork, Centreville, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: D. Miles Barnard, ASLA, RLA, South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture, Chestertown, Maryland.

When a couple moved to Washington, DC, from San Francisco four years ago, they wanted a retreat where they could escape the demands of city life with their teenaged son and daughter. Out West, they’d had a home on Lake Tahoe and loved its refined yet rustic setting. So when friends introduced them to Maryland’s Gibson Island, where they found a five-bedroom home for sale, they discovered a new place where they could connect with the water—and bring a touch of West Coast style to the East.

“This house is on [Otter] Pond, which is such a nice place, and we thought it had a good soul,” says the wife of the 1920s-era Shingle-style residence she and her husband purchased.

“We loved the bones of the house and didn’t change the footprint at all,” she adds. “But West Coast style is different in that it is more modern and we wanted to bring that forward. We wanted to refresh the house and update it to be family-friendly.”

The owners hired Gibson Island-based interior designer Erin Paige Pitts to help them accomplish this. Pitts soon realized that the 4,000-square-foot home, which had been under the stewardship of its previous owner for several decades, needed a facelift to meet her clients’ needs. “They are hip and wanted something they described as ‘modern camp,’” says the designer. The couple explained that they wanted to bring a bit of the Tahoe aesthetic to the house—its situation on an expansive fresh-water pond lent itself to a lake house vibe. But, says Pitts, they cautioned against a look that was either too “cabiny” or too “beachy.”

Looking through images with the owners, she quickly grasped the concept, which was inspired by the work of the Nashville-based design firm McAlpine. It’s a style that is both modern and moody, featuring saturated hues and natural elements such as woven rugs and leather accents applied with a contemporary eye.

The owners wanted dark floors and a rich color palette of blue, green and orange for the communal areas, and cool, clean bedrooms. “It couldn’t be stuffy,” explains the wife. “And while we wanted everything to be beautiful, it also had to endure being sat on in wet bathing suits.”

The redesign did not require alterations to the floor plan, but there was still much that needed to be changed, as most of the house was finished in uninspired drywall. Pitts redid the floors in durable, deep-toned hickory and detailed the living-room walls with paneling painted a deep gray. In keeping with the owners’ color preferences, the room features deep-blue sofas and leather stools in what the designer dubs “Hermès orange.” The stools evoke that “modern camp” aesthetic—as does the natural sisal rug. The room accommodates two seating areas, perfect for flexible entertaining, each presided over by a massive, four-foot-tall hanging lantern.

The use of deep tonal color continues in the kitchen, where Pitts restored the original 1920s tile floor and complemented it with cabinetry painted a high-gloss blue-gray.  Throughout the home, she painted window frames and mullions dark gray, which feels more modern than the traditional white. This was particularly important in the large dining room, with its wall of Palladian windows.

The homeowners requested seating for 12 in the dining room. Pitts selected a 125-inch-long table made of reclaimed wood and surrounded it with benches and leather and woven chairs to underscore the collected, camp style. “The dining-room end chairs are something you could imagine seeing on safari, something Ernest Hemingway might have sat in,” says Pitts.

“Everything needed layers of interest without being stodgy,” she continues, noting the selection of a pair of modern Visual Comfort light fixtures over the dining room table. Their articulated arms can be moved to ensure appropriate lighting for the entire, large entertainment space.

Although the house fulfills its mandate of being rich and atmospheric, Pitts explains that every room couldn’t be moody or the interiors would be too dark—especially in winter, as her clients use the retreat year-round. Thus, the family room overlooking the pond features a light, neutral sectional and bright turquoise pillows. According to the wife, this is their favorite room in which to gather as a family, play games, relax and, of course, enjoy the extraordinary view that first drew them to this home.

Interior Design: Erin Paige Pitts, Erin Paige Pitts Interiors, Gibson Island, Maryland. 



THROUGHOUT  Floors: Hickory through shannonwaterman.com

SUNROOM  Sectional & Fabric: nafurniture.com. Coffee Table: palecek.com. Rattan Chair: roostco.com. Stool: bungalow5.com. Rug: fibreworks.com. Throw Pillows: Custom. Table: hookerfurniture.com. Pendant over Table: arteriorshome.com. Banquette: vanguardfurniture.com.

GREAT ROOM  Blue Sofas & Fabric, Round Coffee Table: vanguardfurniture.com. Coffee Table, Orange Folding Stool & Wood-Framed Occasional Chair: noirla.com. Rug: fibreworks.com. Fireplace Surround: Crema Marfil marble through atlasstonefabricatorsinc.com. Screen: arteriorshome.com. Fixture over Sitting Area: visualcomfort.com. Console: fourhands.com. Candlesticks: selamatdesigns.com. Mirror over Console: madegoods.com. Table Lamp: roostco.com. Wingchair: sherrillfurniure.com.

DINING ROOM  Table and Bench: fourhands.com. Woven Chairs and Leather Host Chairs: palecek.com. Rug: Custom. Chandeliers & Sconces: visualcomfort.com.

KITCHEN  Cabinetry Color: Benjamin Moore Gentleman’s Gray. Stools: arteriorshome.com. Woven Chairs: palecek.com. Breakfast Table: fourhands.com. Pendants over Table: hudsonvalleylighting.com. Pillows on Banquette: Custom.

MASTER BEDROOM  Bedstead Chair & Ottoman: sherrillfurniture.com. Bedding: legacylinens.com. Pillows: Custom. Bench & Fabric: noirla.com. Floor Lamp: visualcomfort.com. Bedside Lamp: Kelly Wearsler for visualcomfort.com. Rug: kravet.com.

BLUE ROOM  Daybed: ballarddesigns.com. Bedding & Pillows: Custom. Bedside Table: noirla.com. Bedside Wall Lamp: visualcomfort.com


Mid-Century Marvel Luis and Cara Medeiros long enjoyed visiting Gibson Island near Annapolis, but when they decided to look for a home to purchase, they were underwhelmed. “A lot of the homes here are like our primary home in Chevy Chase,” says Cara Medeiros, noting the abundance of traditional houses and quaint cottages. “We wanted something different.”

They discovered their unique retreat at the apex of a wooded rise high above the convergence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Magothy River. The home was designed in 1962 by architect Ulrich Franzen (a disciple of I.M. Pei) for an executive of Maryland’s Bethlehem Steel, whose furnaces provided the massive I-beams that ground the home’s glass-and-stone façade. Inside, a mahogany ceiling soars above the ground-floor rooms and interior walls to admit an abundance of natural light through clerestory windows.

Yet by the time the Medeiroses visited with Jim Rill of Rill Architects, the home was run-down. It had only three bedrooms, a dated kitchen and baths and an awkward indoor pool on the lower level. “It’s such a cool house, yet no one knew what to do with it,” Cara Medeiros recalls. “But we were pretty sure right away. I felt the structure was solid and unique, with a really high level of craftsmanship. And nature was so much a part of the house—it was breathtaking.”

Rill agrees, adding, “I immediately saw a great piece of historic architecture we could bring back to life.”

Renovations over the years had made many of the rooms “introverted,” as the architect describes it, with awkward walls and doors that closed spaces off from the exquisite, treehouse-like views. Rill’s makeover focused on honoring the home’s original intent: a seamless relationship between indoors and out. Rooms such as the master bedroom were reoriented toward the home’s glass windows after a wall was removed and the original doorway restored. The bathrooms, which featured odd angles (like a triangular shower) and toilets where you could bang your knees against cabinetry, were gutted and modernized. An elevator in the center of the home was removed to create an open staircase.

This forged a stronger connection between the main level and the lower level, which, Rill says, “was completely wasted space. It was like going into a dungeon with a swimming pool in it.”

Filling in the existing indoor pool made way for a bright fourth bedroom and office. The lower den was updated with an accent wall covered in porcelain tile (the same used on the main-level floor). Most importantly, the lower level now provides an exit to a beautiful new deck and an outdoor pool.

“We worked really hard on the deck and the pool,” says Cara. “We wanted it to have the look of an infinity pool with no barrier between it and the woods. We carefully laid everything out with Jim and our landscape designer, Tom Flaharty, so it looked completely natural.”

One facet of mid-century living was that functional spaces like the kitchen were just that—functional. The kitchen in this home was very much in its original state, with metal cabinets, a predictable L-shape, and a massive, industrial range hood that, thanks to the clerestory, dominated every view on the main level. The owners asked kitchen designer Shawna Dillon of Studio Snaidero DC Metro to respect the original kitchen’s mid-century design while making it livable for this century.

By pushing back a wall, Dillon created enough space for an island. A flush, ceiling-mounted BEST Cirrus hood keeps the sightlines free of distractions. For similar reasons, the design employs wall sconces instead of pendant lights.

“The mahogany ceiling is a warm, dark color and such a focal point, so we used a high-gloss laminate cabinet finish that is highly reflective of the natural light,” says Dillon, who also kept things light by sourcing countertops in Pure White Caesarstone, which is both luminous and low-maintenance. “White and walnut wood are typical finishes for the mid-century, and the clients wanted to echo back to what the house was meant to have.”

With input from Rill, Medeiros furnished the interiors herself, honing in on a neutral palette so as not to compete with the ever-changing seasonal display outside. Whenever possible, she selected items that are translucent—the glass dining room chandelier, for example, and even a clear wood rack for the fireplace—to minimize any jarring interruptions between indoors and out. Furnishings and finishes throughout conjure the home’s mid-century style.

“I knew I wanted to be true to the time period because this is such a classic piece of mid-century architecture,” says Medeiros, “but I didn’t want to be too predictable.”

The interiors are a combination of period-appropriate and contemporary pieces interspersed with vintage finds. “If everything were brand new, the house would have no soul,” Medeiros explains. The living room evokes the home’s golden era with Knoll womb chairs upholstered in wool bouclé and a black Bassam-Fellows daybed, but the Bonaldo “Planet” coffee table is thoroughly contemporary. Medeiros selected artwork for the house that is rooted in Maryland, including paintings rescued from the Gibson Island Clubhouse when it underwent reconstruction.

When the Medeiroses first began looking for a vacation house to share with their two college-age children and their rescue dogs, they wanted a change. Now, they are completely at home in their treehouse by the bay. While they frequently entertain guests, the house is most importantly a haven for its owners. “When we come here,” concludes Cara Medeiros, “it is a real escape.”

Writer Christianna McCausland is based in Reisterstown, Maryland. Eric Taylor is a Fairfax Station, Virginia, photographer.

ARCHITECTURE: JAMES F. RILL, AIA, principal; DAVID BENTON, AIA, project manager, Rill Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. KITCHEN DESIGN: SHAWNA DILLON, Studio Snaidero DC Metro, Alexandria, Virginia. CONTRACTOR: Horizon Houseworks, Crofton, Maryland. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: TOM FLAHARTY, Rivendell Landscaping, Inc., Grasonville, Maryland.



THROUGHOUT  Porcelain Tile Floor: mosaictileco.com.

LIVING ROOM  Womb Chairs: knoll.com through dwr.com. Daybed: bassamfellows.com through dwr.com. Coffee Table: bonaldo.it/en. Sofa: bassamfellows.com for hermanmiller.com. Sofa Fabric: maharam.com. Sofa Table: crateandbarrel.com.

DINING ROOM  Chandelier: arteriorshome.com. Credenza: Custom by Shawna Dillon; snaiderodcmetro.com. Saarinen Pedestal Table: knoll.com. Dining Chairs: dwr.com. Bench: hermanmiller.com through dwr.com.

KITCHEN  Cabinetry: snaiderodcmetro.com. Hood: bestrangehoods.com. Countertops: caesarstoneus.com. Bertoia Bar stools: knoll.com through dwr.com. Range: mieleusa.com. Plumbing Fixtures: kwc.com.

SITTING ROOM  Chair & Ottoman: Herman Miller Eames chair and Ottoman: hermanmiller.com through dwr.com. Rug: westelm.com. Sofa: crateandbarrel.com.

MASTER BEDROOM  Bed, Table, Chair & Stools: roomandboard.com. Painting: saetastudio.com.

MASTER BATH  Flooring & Shower Floor: mosaictileco.com. Vanity: Custom through snaiderodcmetro.com. Pendants: nichemodern.com.

GUEST ROOM  Bed: westelm.com. Chairs: theodores.com. Desk: roomandboard.com.

DEN  Sectional: crateandbarrel.com. Coffee Table: roomandboard.com. Orange Chair: westelm.com. Fireplace Tile: mosaictileco.com.

POOL DECK  Pool Construction: Zach Casto, jpools.com. Richard Schultz 1966 Chaises: knoll.com. Lounge Chairs: janusetcie.com.





In their search for a waterfront property near Annapolis on which to build their retirement home, Skip and Debbie McKenzie brought along a secret weapon: their architect. As they toured several locations, architect Marta Hansen counseled them on sightlines and topography. She helped the couple finally settle on a 1.4-acre lot on Whitehall Bay.

“We liked the views, the size of the lot and the elevation of the land,” says Skip, a retired real estate executive.

“All year long, even in the dead of winter, the view has something to offer,” adds Debbie. “It’s always calming and unique.”

The couple decided to tear down the abandoned house on the property and build a comfortable, gracious home that they could share with their grown children and friends. They turned to Hansen and builder Matt Ellison to help make their dream a reality.

The McKenzies wanted a New England-style home that would be more casual and comfortable than their previous full-time home in Potomac; they even nixed the idea of a formal living room.  Skip wanted a sleeping porch and Debbie wanted a screened porch as well as a petite sunroom where she could display her shell collection. Most important, they both wanted to see the water from every room in the house.

Fortunately, the lay of the land made this possible. “The topography curls down so it almost feels like a point,” says Hansen. “So the house could open up in more than one direction.”

Hansen relied on historic precedent to create a beautifully detailed Shingle-style exterior. The length of the house extends parallel to the water, with a turret that grounds one end, “turning” the house and opening it to a fresh sightline. Palladian windows and gambrels with flared eaves create the traditional look the McKenzies desired.

“I like combining curves, both in plan and in elevation, into a very rigid structure, like a melody that softens and unifies a composition,” Hansen says. “You have to use curves judiciously, though, or it looks too sweet or romantic.”

The success of the house lies in details that might be missed by the casual observer. For example, Hansen laid out the interiors so that the sun hits rooms when the owners are most likely to use them. Hence, the sunroom is on the east side of the house for morning light while the large family room and screened porch, most often occupied in the evening, face west for sunsets.

Hansen paid close attention to the mullion patterns in the windows, too. “You don’t want too many such that they block your view or too few so that it looks antiseptic,” she explains.

Ten-foot ceilings on the home’s first floor create a grand and inviting entry that opens onto a breathtaking view of the bay. All the rooms are situated on the waterfront; a corridor at the back connects to the main rooms via archways that create clear, unifying circulation. The archways, a signature of Hansen’s work, appealed to the McKenzies. The use of wainscoting on walls in high-circulation areas such as the corridor is another nod to historical vernacular and enhances the interior architecture. “Marta’s attention to detail is just amazing,” marvels Debbie.

The McKenzies felt fortunate to have such a positive working relationship not only with their architect but also their contractor. “Matt never rushed anything and was such a perfectionist,” says Debbie. “That really shows in the quality of the completed house.”

While the home’s design embraces traditional style, the McKenzies wanted to leave behind the formality of their Potomac residence, trading Queen Anne style for a look that’s coastal chic. Interior designer Catherine Lowe worked with Debbie to combine some of their existing furniture with new pieces. “We tried very hard to select livable fabrics and comfortable furniture,” Lowe explains. The walls are predominantly painted in Benjamin Moore’s Elmira White, but there are bright splashes of color, from dining room chairs upholstered in turquoise fabric to punches of lime green in the master bedroom.

Debbie, who has an eye for fabrics, worked with Lowe to source a colorful Robert Allen toile for the kitchen and breakfast nook and a vibrant P/Kaufman floral that upholsters the headboard of the master bed. “I had picked out something completely different,” recalls Debbie of the bedroom fabric. “Then we went to a historic inn in Florida where I saw this fabric and fell in love with it.”

A second-story porch off the master bedroom encircles the home’s turret and captures a view of the Bay Bridge. “The view is so cool,” says Skip. “In the morning you have the commercial crabbers out here, on Wednesday nights we have the sailboat races, and every Sunday evening the big cruise ships go by like clockwork. It’s an ever-changing view.”

This extraordinary slice of waterfront life seems to have captivated the McKenzies—and their new home is the perfect framework from which to enjoy it.

Writer Christianna McCausland is based in Baltimore. David Burroughs is an Annapolis photographer.

Architecture: Marta Hansen, AIA, LEED AP, Hansen Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Interior Design: Catherine M. Lowe, ASID, Interior Planning & Design, LLC, Annapolis, Maryland. Contractor: Matt Ellison, Ellison Custom Homes, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Heike Nolker, ASLA, Annapolis, Maryland.

Family Affair Kathy and Kevin Haley bought their first home in Shady Side, Maryland, near Annapolis in 1996. Back then, the couple often went kayaking on the West River to a popular waterfront restaurant. As they paddled, they’d note an eccentric red-and-white rancher in decline on the opposite bank. Kevin would say, “Someday, someone will tear that down and build their dream house.”

Nearly 17 years later, the Haleys did just that.

When they bought the property in 2011, the decrepit rancher had already been razed, leaving a flat, empty lot. At the time, the Haleys were expecting their sixth child and their existing house felt increasingly cramped. Nevertheless, as they planned the home that would take shape on the waterfront lot, the couple decided to buck the current trend towards bigger-is-better living, opting to create a large home that would feel as intimate as possible.

They also wanted to channel the coziness of their former Cape Cod-style home. In fact, Kevin was insistent on low ceilings and narrow doorways. “He was so worried it would feel like a museum and that it would echo,” Kathy says.

With a background in designing high-end condos and row houses, DC architect Lacy Brittingham (at the time, director of design at ASG, Inc.) was the perfect choice to execute the couple’s design program. “In condos, you’re trying to get a lot of spaces into a small box, so I applied a similar mindset to the house,” she explains. “We had two laundry rooms, a sunroom, an office, a den, two staircases—and it all was like a puzzle that had to fit together as efficiently as possible.”

Kevin and Kathy each grew up with five siblings and often shared bedrooms. They wanted their own children to have a similar experience. “We wanted to recreate a little bit of how we grew up while still being practical,” Kathy Haley explains. In their new home, only the eldest daughter, 17, has a private bedroom. The other girls, aged four and seven, share a room while the boys, ranging from nine to 14, have semi-private bedrooms on the third floor that open to a unified play space.

A native of New England, Kathy wanted the home clad in the cedar shingle she loved. But before it could even be constructed, significant remediation needed to take place on the site. Kevin Haley also had a couple of mandates: to preserve two mature trees on the property; and to raise the home at least 12 feet off the ground—a precaution against flooding, which the family experienced in their previous house during Hurricane Isabel.

“Some of the first-floor elevations was also determined by groundwater,” says Bryan Beauchemin, vice president of Lynbrook of Annapolis, the general contractor. The property proved to be swampy, yet it needed to support a heavy house. “We had to dig out about 12 to 14 feet and fill it with gravel,” he recalls.

Today, a combination of cedar shingles and cement-board trim on the finished exterior evokes summer homes in Cape Cod. Beauchemin points to important design details that complete the aesthetic, like the way the shingle gently flares over the foundation, with its river-rock veneer. The house is shallow by design, so water views greet guests upon entry.

At just over 6,600-square feet, the home is functional for a big family but still cozy. The Haleys’ lifestyle is casual, so they opted for no formal living or dining room. Instead, Brittingham designed a large, flexible room that houses a massive kitchen and family room. Designer Mark White of Annapolis-based Kitchen Encounters helped create a kitchen that can handle six hungry kids. Kevin requested a range with a 24-inch griddle for making big breakfasts and Kathy quips that she is like a short order cook most nights, feeding everyone as they sit at the oversized walnut island. Appliance garages keep clutter off the counters and one wall of cabinetry hides a small refrigerator and microwave so the kids can make their own snacks.

Off the kitchen is a sunroom—Kevin’s favorite space in the house—and a nearby den doubles as a guest room.

Kathy, an avid reader of shelter publications, handled much of the interior design herself. She selected a neutral palette of blues and grays to complement the water and woods that surround the house. Annapolis-based designer Wesley Thompson of Simply Wesley helped choose family-room furniture, upholstered in indoor-outdoor fabrics, and met Kathy’s desire for beach-house style without being overly thematic.

“I think we accomplished what we wanted from the house,” says Kathy. “When people come in and say it feels welcoming and cozy—I just love that.”

Writer Christianna McCausland is based in Baltimore. Tim Lee is a New Milford, Connecticut, photographer. 

Architecture: Lacy Brittingham, AIA, Lacy Brittingham Architect, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Wesley Thompson, Simply Wesley, Annapolis, Maryland. Kitchen Design: Mark White, Kitchen Encounters, Annapolis, Maryland. Builder: Raymond Gauthier, principal, and Bryan Beauchemin, Lynbrook of Annapolis, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Design: Elin Haaga, Elin Haaga Landscape Gardens, Bethesda, Maryland. Landscape Installation: Relms Landscaping, Harwood, Maryland.

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