Habitat: The Work of Architect William Draper Brinckloe

I have a particular fondness for the “Period” style of American architecture from the early twentieth century. Partly as a reaction to the previous elaborate Victorian style, these Period homes were compact, with space plans defined by separate rooms according to function. Designs were inspired by English Tudor, Colonial Revival, French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, Bungalow and Craftsman styles. Two of my favorite Period houses in Easton’s Historic District are a bungalow on Washington Street and a Dutch colonial on S. Harrison Street.  After some research, I discovered they were designed by the same architect, William Draper Brinckloe, who lived to Easton from 1911 until his death in 1933. He was also an author of two books, “The Small Home” and “The Volunteer Firemen”. In his book “The Small Home” he mentions that he is designing a small bungalow for his family which became known as the “Dutch Cottage” on Harrison Street.

“A Small Home” is out of print but through the Easton Library’s loan program, I obtained a copy that was invaluable to me in my research. Brinckloe discusses sixteen categories of planning and building a house and includes plans and perspectives of sixty of his charming designs. I chuckled when I saw rooms on several plans named “sewing room” as my sewing skills are limited to sewing buttons or fixing hems!  As a veteran of many home makeovers, his chapter on “Making Over the Old Home” had a simple rule “Do as little tearing out as possible; remodel by building on new work, rather than by changing old” and my architectural practice has endeavored to adhere to that rule. I then wryly read his comment that he “…specialized on remodeling to some extent; and I have probably done more of it than my brother architects”. Little did he know that today all but one of Easton’s architectural firms have women principals.

åBrinckloe also designed several commercial projects, including renovations to the landmark Stewart Building that the Prager Group has updated to become the Jewel in the Crown of Federal Street. Brinckloe’s design for the brick building near the corner of Dover and Aurora Streets is simply delightful.  Red brick with accents of white banding between the lower floor windows and the arched transoms, the recessed archway that is an open vestibule to the French entry door beyond, three single windows that step up in tune to the stairway and two pairs of four window units create a lively façade. I especially liked how the white lintel band created a small open transom for the vestibule beyond. The wall above the stairwell rises above the parapet and is crowned with an arched top that steps down to the adjacent roof.  The second floor windows are covered by a deep shingled roof overhang and enhanced by window boxes below.

In addition to Brinckloe’s designs for the Washington and Harrison Street residences, Aurora Street has a row of his Period designs across from Idlewild Park.  When I was active in real estate, I showed the irresistible red brick bungalow with a tile roof. The roofline flares at the front elevation and a wide shed dormer creates space for a second floor.  I loved the symmetry of the front elevation with two pairs of shed roof dormer windows that were centered over the front door below and the end windows that were centered over the wide bay windows below that are tucked under the wide soffit.  The exquisite one-story semicircular bay wing on the right of the house is surrounded by continuous windows for sunlight and views of the park.`

The other Aurora Street bungalows are equally charming with their brick facades and the variety of roof styles that create a delightful streetscape. One house has a hipped roof with two dormer windows and a front porch gable flanked by two pairs of windows.  The center and each end of the elliptical window headers are accented in white to match the façade’s white quoins. Another house has lighter brick with white quoins and two shed dormers in its tile roof. The third house has a gambrel roof, double window dormers above an asymmetrical façade of a triple window bay with quoins, front door and double window. The fourth house is a lovely elongated façade of light brick with white quoins, the entry porch at one side, a wide shed dormer that meets the front wall of the main floor below and a single window wing at the end.

I was very fortunate to have tours of both the Washington Street bungalow and the Harrison Street “Dutch Cottage” that Brinckloe once called home. The Washington Street bungalow is the last illustration of his book. Brinckloe wrote that “the living room is particularly attractive with its curved ingle-nook bordered by bookshelves” and it has remained so. I absolutely love the front elevation with its gable front, deep eave broken by an “eyebrow” to mark the front door, the deep wrap-around porch with its wide, flared columns, the hipped roof wing next to the gable with a triple window-a perfect example of proportion and style that has been lovingly maintained by its current owners.  

Brinckloe’s “Dutch Cottage” residence is set back and angled from the street for privacy. A weathered wood fence along the street frontage is broken by a curved brick path that leads to a gate in the fence. After a short walk through the landscape you cross over a bridge where a stream once bisected the property. You arrive at the two-story gambrel roofed cottage that is sited parallel to the dry stream bed for maximum privacy from the street. The exterior walls are painted dark gray that disappear into the landscape and the crisp white multipaned windows, trim and pale brown shutters are appealing accents.  The front door opens to a view of the stairs that split at the landing in two directions. The dining room has a fireplace with a surround of Delft tiles and an arched niche above for family photographs. One bedroom is tucked under the eaves with a triple window dormer for sunlight.

Brinckloe’s home will be featured in the first Fall Spy House Tour of Homes on Sunday October 6th.  Homes will be designed by architects and interior designers  in a celebration of Talbot County’s great architectural heritage, past and present. Stay tuned to the Spy for more information.

Many thanks to the owners of the Washington Street and S. Harrison Street residences who graciously welcomed me into their homes and shared their photographs.

I am indebted to my friend, the artist Carol Minarick, for leading me to the work of this gifted architect of an earlier generation.  I am also grateful to the architect Charles Goebel for his help during my research.

Exterior Photography by Ted Mueller, tedmuellerphotography@gmail.com, 443-955-2490

Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

Chesapeake Blooms Blossoms in Downtown Easton

If you have attended a wedding, fundraising event or other special occasion recently, chances are the distinctive and artistic floral arrangements were the work of Samantha Moore McCall.  I first became acquainted with this creative visionary when she set up a Pop-Up at Piazza Italian Market for Valentine’s Day last year. I was captivated how her use of unusual containers, the combination of flowers juxtaposed with vegetable plants, accents of twigs and other foliage and the mix of large and small blooms became a work of art in this gifted artisan’s hands. I also learned Samantha is committed to ecological practices and enjoys using seasonal blooms and branches in her creations.

Samantha’s award-winning first career was journalism but she always made time for her passion for gardening and plants. She became seriously interested in floral design and quickly realized this was a calling, not a career. She combined her love of the French language with a play on words and founded her first company, “Fleurish.”

Samantha recently created a partnership with Dede Hoopes of HoopsyDaisy Farm in Oxford. Like Samantha, Dede started her flower farm following her passion for horticulture and floral design after a long and successful career at JPMorgan Chase. Her micro-farm is a special place that is in tune with the season’s offerings and the environment. As Dede says goodbye to a bountiful peony harvest this spring, she is looking forward to the brightly colored flowers of summer, including old-fashioned annuals like zinnias, cosmos, and lisianthus. Each bloom is sustainably grown and the farm is a certified bay-wise garden.

Samantha had been a client of Dede’s for the last few years, purchasing fresh, locally grown stems for her designs and discovered Dede was also interested in floral design.  It was their shared passion for horticulture and floral design that fostered the partnership between the two and soon their new company blossomed to become Chesapeake Blooms.  They have set up shop at 22-B North Harrison St., in downtown Easton.

Both women share a common vision for the new business to honor eco-friendly and sustainable practices.  This vision carries through from the aesthetics of the store to the daily practices in the studio. They are very committed to an ethos of “seed to vase.”  The benefits of using local flowers include reducing and/or eliminating toxic chemicals, supporting local businesses, creating a product that has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than flowers purchased from around the world.  If harvested correctly, the result is some of the best quality and freshest stems that tend to last longer than their imported cousins.

Both Samantha and Dede are Master Gardeners, have studied at Longwood Gardens and are both active throughout the community including being members of local garden clubs. Samantha is a Member of the Independent Floral Designers Association and Dede is a member of the Association of Cut Flower Growers. Like other industry professionals, both regularly attend workshops and classes to stay inspired and to stay current with the latest trends.

Samantha and Dede are generous in sharing their passion for floral design and horticulture. When you stop in to visit, conversations and advice may ensue on topics such as flowers, floral design, horticulture and gardening issues. Stop by to pick up a “bouquet to go” or one of their planted creations that are perfect for centerpieces or host/hostess gifts. Consult with them about a special arrangement or event, or just browse through the shop’s growing collection of hand crafted containers, pots, accessories that frequently change. In addition to garden items, Chesapeake Blooms offers ongoing displays of art, jewelry, paintings, sculpture and other media by artists and artisans who share their design excellence and love of nature.

Chesapeake Blooms’ also offers Floral Subscriptions where hand-picked stems are delivered to your home or business. Many of the flowers are locally grown at HoopsyDaisy Farm in Oxford.  Subscription increments are flexible and are typically available in lengths of 3, 6, and 12 months with weekly, biweekly or monthly deliveries starting at a cost of $50 plus delivery and tax.

This talented duo also offers classes both in the learning studio and out in the flower fields. Students at all skill levels are welcome to deepen their understanding of flowers and floral design in an immersive environment. The goal is to spark each student’s imagination and increase their self-confidence to create beautiful arrangements to enhance their home or business.

Plan a visit soon to Chesapeake Blooms to see how Samantha and Dede’s shared passion for flowers has blossomed into Historic Downtown Easton’s new florist shop.

Chesapeake Blooms is located at 22-B N. Harrison Street in Easton. For more information, call 410-690-4812, email to info@chesapeakeblooms.com or visit their website www.chesapeakeblooms.com. Chesapeake Blooms is open Wednesday through Friday 10 am to 5 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 1:00 pm or by appointment.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.



Habitat: Atelier 11, the East End of Easton and Adaptive Re-Use

This year, the architecture and interior design firm Atelier 11 celebrates twenty-five years of design excellence in architecture and interior design.  Notable projects include the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Building Complex, the Talbot Hospice building, the Community Center at Londonderry and Evergreen Cove as well as numerous new residences, seamless addition and renovations.

The ESLC complex was unique for its sustainability and for its being a historic building that now has a new life to house the ESLC offices and other non-profits.  Glass interior walls encourage collaboration and the stained concrete floors and brick walls are preserved elements of the building’s early days. The building’s welcoming form, colors and sunny interior spaces of Talbot Hospice have drawn back many people whose loved ones spent their last days there. Many people return to visit the chapel or stroll the grounds and feel the presence of their loved ones.

The Londonderry Community Center was an opportunity to provide an environment for residents to socialize or to try a new skill including dance, art, crafts, or attend lectures to exercise the “little grey cells” as Agatha Christie’s famous detective, Hercule Poirot, was fond of saying. Evergreen Cove was an opportunity to literally think “outside the box” of a brick rancher.  Atelier 11’s solution opened up the box to nature and is a peaceful setting for yoga and other healing arts.

What many Talbot County residents may not know is the firm has also made a significant contribution to urban design. When they built their office at 11 S. Aurora Street in 2002, the East End needed revitalization to eliminate vacant lots and to renovate the existing housing stock before structures deteriorated to the point that demolition was necessary.  They constructed their building in the middle of a vacant block and opened for business.

Slowly but surely other building owners or investors followed Atelier 11’s pioneering lead and rescued this neighborhood to give it a solid future. After completing their building, Atelier 11 added development to their list of services. They designed and built two new houses on lots near their building to knit the streetscape back together. Now that the Easton Town Council has voted to approve the creation of an Arts and Entertainment District, the availability of tax credits will ensure the East End will continue to thrive.

Their office building is also an example of how good design matters in creating a building that can adapt to changing economic times and uses. When the housing and real estate crash occurred in 2008, firms in Easton had to make painful choices about staff but luckily Atelier 11 retained core staff. They consolidated their office on the second floor and opened a gallery on the first floor.

After five years of having a second office in Lynchburg, VA, to add University work and downtown development projects to their repertoire, the firm converted their Easton building to a live-work space and relocated staff to a studio at the corner of Washington and Dover Streets. Now on the market, 11 S. Aurora St. could be a gallery/living space, a single family residence, or a commercial building. As Principal Architect Lauren jokingly remarked to me, “it is probably the only residence that has a fully compliant ADA bathroom on the first floor.”

On the day I visited, one of the firm’s associates, Tom Batchelor, gave me a tour of the completed construction.  I had always admired the distinctive front door mat created by embedding rounded edged stones into mortar that provides a distinctive way to remove mud from one’s shoes.  The former reception area now becomes a spacious entrance hall with filtered light from both the front French door and sidelights and from the stair landing beyond. The ADA compliant restroom now is a full bath with the renovation of an adjacent storage room for an ADA shower. The former studio space has been transformed and could be an open plan living-dining-kitchen or a studio area . The rear high windows at the South Street side of the building filter sunlight in while maintaining privacy. The former Principals’ two offices are now a bedroom and a den.

As we climbed the stairs to the second floor, we paused at the landing with its dramatic large window overlooking the surrounding neighborhood. I asked Tom how many buildings we could see that had been renovated since Atelier 11’s pioneering building. He told me the firm had actually compiled a map that showed over seventeen buildings which is an amazing statistic.   

The second floor now contains three bedrooms, one of which is a spacious master suite.  The overlook to the first floor has been maintained and also provides light into the hall from the window at the side wall. The master suite has a French door to a terrace with a stair down to the sidewalk along South Street and would be a great space for sunbathing. Opposite the terrace is the “Tower”, a two-story rental unit with living, dining and kitchen on the first floor and a bedroom and bath on the second floor.

Co-Principals  Jon Braithwaite and Lauren Dianich divide their time between offices according to who is the lead on projects.  The next generation of Atelier 11 will continue under the leadership of senior staff of Christian Chute and Tom Batchelor and support staff in both offices.  Happy Anniversary to a talented team of architects and interior designers who have been responsible for some of Talbot County’s best design work, and for the community service that is part of the firm’s mission.  Bravo!

For more information about this property, contact Kelly Showell with Benson & Mangold Real Estate at 410-822-1415 (o), 410-829-5468 (c) or kshowell1958@gmail.com, “Equal Housing Opportunity”.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.


Habitat: The Garden Sculptures of Jan Kirsh

Last winter when gardens were dormant, I featured the colorful garden sculptures of landscape designer Jan Kirsh.  Since 2009, her fruit and vegetable collection has grown to include artichokes, asparagus, carrots, eggplants, figs, pears and peppers that have enlivened the gardens of many Eastern Shore residences and galleries. This month she unveiled her new 36” tall pineapple sculpture and has already installed two of them on top of brick posts that flank the entrance gates of a fabulous vegetable garden south of Annapolis. The pineapple has long been regarded as the symbol of hospitality and Jan’s creative and whimsical interpretation with lime green foliage, undulating texture and bold tropical colors make her pineapple design a distinctive addition to her collection.

Jan moved to the Eastern Shore in 1978 and quickly made a name for herself as a talented landscape designer. As her garden design practice flourished and evolved, she found that her clients often requested that she  help them site existing sculpture and/or art objects in their gardens as part of her landscape design effort.

That facet of her work was fun and challenging and inspired her to return to her sculptural roots and to create fruit and vegetable pieces that could be incorporated into the gardens she designed. The best of both worlds for Jan is to design and then build a garden that includes a custom piece of her sculpture especially suited for the location.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Jan also has designed a line of 3-D printed jewelry including the popular halved fig in bronze and steel with Swarovski crystals that  add significant sparkle. Jan will soon launch an e-store where fans can purchase the jewelry, fruit and vegetable sculptures or commission a custom piece.

After seeing Jan’s luscious pineapple, I was reminded of the duet from “Cabaret” about another pineapple that was a gift from a suitor to his lady love:

“If you brought me diamonds,

If you brought me pearls,  

If you brought me roses like some other gents

Might bring to other girls-

It wouldn’t please me more

Than the gift I see

A pineapple for me…:

Whether you are seeking a pineapple for your garden or a gift for the gardener in your life, what better way to perk up your garden this spring with the exotic and colorful pineapple?

A portfolio of her landscape work can be seen at her website www.jankirshstudio.com or contact her at 410-745-5252 (o),410-310-1198 (c) or email at.jankirshstudio@gmail.com. “It Couldn’t Please Me More”, from the musical ‘Cabaret’, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.

Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

Spy House of the Week: Bozman Beauty

As I drove down the long driveway lined with trees, the vista to the front door of the house expanded more and more to reveal a traditional styled house with light yellow siding and a wood shake roof.  The historic one-room deep house had a center full story and a half original wing marked by two original chimneys on each end next to lower side wings. Later additions were designed to enhance the original footprint. The addition at the front created a master suite and steps back to respect the original house’s massing. I absolutely loved how the rear elevation additions artfully transformed the original house with its array of wide shed dormers, window dormers, porch and screened porch, making this elevation almost totally transparent for views to the water.

The front door opens onto a foyer opposite the stairs and cross vistas on one side through the dining room, kitchen and mud room/laundry and on the other side, through the living room, library and master suite. Part of the living room, entrance hall, and dining room opened onto the new spacious family room with its dramatic interior architecture created by windows and French doors on three sides, two dormer windows opposite each other and a double unit window high above the shed roof of the covered waterside porch. Another small addition connects to the new family room and creates a spacious informal dining area to the rear of the kitchen with wrap-around windows for water views.

The ground floor master bedroom has chamfered ceilings and a sitting area in a box bay wrapped in windows for panoramic water views.  The suite also contains two bathrooms, a mini-bar and a French door to a private terrace. On the second floor, two other bedroom suites are separated by the two-story stairwell.  I loved the interior architecture of these spaces-one bedroom had two dormer windows opposite each other connected to another sleeping area with a row of low windows under shed dormers that became headboards for the beds.  

Even though it was late afternoon on the day when I visited the house, the quality of light that filtered inside from so many windows and doors gave the interiors a light and airy feel.  Every room had awareness of the water in some way. Peaceful setting on Harris Creek, great floor plan and flow, wonderful additions that update the house for today’s lifestyle, pool and guest house with living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and bath, close to St. Michaels’ attractions-quite a list and too hard to resist!

For more information about this property, contact Cornelia Heckenbach at Long and Foster Real Estate Inc., 410-745-0283 (v), 410-310-1229 (c) or info@corneliaheckenbach.com, “Equal Housing Opportunity”.

Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.


Spy House of the Week: Cooke’s Hope Cottage

This charming cottage in the popular Cooke’s Hope community was built in 2005 but contains many appealing details reminiscent of older cottage designs. Story and a half massing, front gable with accent window, large wrap-around porch and dormers give this cottage great style. From the street the house’s compact size is quite deceptive since the linear floor plan runs front to back instead of side to side. The floor plan is organized very well with the master suite and two other bedrooms and baths on one side and the living, dining, breakfast room and sitting room on the opposite side. The interior architecture is articulated by an angled bay window at the front bedroom and two square bays, one at the dining room and the other at the breakfast room. High ceilings, wood floors and crown moldings enhance the spaces. The main stair is centrally located for access to the bedrooms, studio and office on the second floor.

The easy flow through the wide doorway between the living room and the dining room blends these spaces together and leads to the centrally located kitchen and the sunroom at the rear of the house.  The focal point of the living room is the fireplace and the dining room windows are surrounded by millwork to display the Owners’ collection of ceramic pieces. The “L” shaped kitchen has a breakfast bar as well as a table for informal meals. A second stair leads to the family room above the garage.   

The second floor plan’s interior architecture with the sloped ceilings and dormer windows is cozy and the flexible floor plan can accommodate myriad uses.  The front room with the decorative accent window is currently used as a studio but could be a sitting room for the adjacent bedroom. The large rear room could be a bedroom or office or playroom.

Both the wrap-around front porch and the rear terrace are great spaces to enjoy being outdoors now that spring is here.  I especially liked the rear terrace with its brick paving and its privacy from both a side fence and landscaping. Direct access to the sunroom makes a great indoor-outdoor space.

Great curb appeal, flexible floor plan and the desirable Cooke’s Hope community-it’s no surprise this house is now under contract.

For more information about this property, contact Tom Crouch with Benson and Mangold Real Estate at 410-745-0720 (o), 410-310-8916 (c) or tcrouch@bensonandmangold.com, “Equal Housing Opportunity”

Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.


Habitat: Spring Fever at Unity

Unity Nursery is the destination for all things relating to landscape and gardens. The countdown to the Spring Equinox is over and the Nursery kicked off its spring season with their annual open house on March 23rd. The eye-catching giant “Big Rooster” near the entrance drive was soon a popular spot for selfies. As attendees strolled through the site, they discovered several new changes. Retail sales is now back at the Roadside Kiosk where a display of seed packets will soon be joined by items from the Nursery and fresh produce, vegetable and herb plants grown on site under the watchful eye of Farm Manager Teresa Mycek.

The area between the Kiosk and highway 213 will soon be enhanced by gardens to inspire the home gardening enthusiast. Benches will be strategically placed for rest or contemplation of sculpture and other garden art. On the other side of the Kiosk and beyond the bridge over the spring below is now a row of stacked planters and urns of many sizes and styles that are separated in groups of color for ease of selection.

The five greenhouses are ready for this year and in one greenhouse, seedlings were poking through their containers in anticipation of being planted in the ground. Brussel Sprouts were still sprouting and the garlic continue to grow. One of the previous owners of the property was a landscape architect and he planted many specimen trees that are now mature. Overlooking the vegetable garden is one of these trees, the “Ben Franklinia” tree, which is thought to extinct in the wild.

The main building is now dedicated to services relating to Unity Nursery’s sister business, Unity Landscape Design/Build. The showroom features work of local artisans, outdoor furniture and art. Around the walls are displays that illustrate products such as low voltage lighting, irrigation and hardscape products along with photographs of completed landscape projects. The day I visited, I was immediately captivated by a stunning handcrafted dining table by artisan Vicco von Voss. The table’s free form and mix of black walnut, maple burl, ebony and holly was hard to miss. Unity is also the exclusive representative of a line of teak furnishings by Three Birds Casual. Pieces on display include a rocking chair, side table, dining table and chairs whose stylish design would complement any screened porch or pool terrace. I liked the slightly flared top of the chair back that would make it quite comfortable for reading by the pool or dining al-fresco.

The education and credentials of the Unity team is quite impressive. Unity Landscape Design/Build’s president, Michael Jensen, attended the College at West Chester University for Architecture/Urban Planning where he grew to appreciate the symbiotic relationship between architecture, landscape and the environment. He transferred to the landscape architecture/horticulture program at Temple University in Philadelphia and returned to the Eastern Shore to found Unity Landscape Design/Build in 1992. He fulfilled a need for landscape design, installation and maintenance services to help homeowners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed fulfill their design goals and comply with Critical Areas restrictions to protect the Chesapeake Bay water quality.

The Unity Design/Build team’s Field Operations Manager, Cliff Westman and Environmental Designer, Lucas Lees, recently completed the Certified Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) workshop and received their certifications. This is a voluntary credential program for professionals who design, install and maintain sustainable landscapes.

Sustainability is key to the mission of Unity which is to serve as an “inspiration center offering services and on native plants and natural solutions”. Design is guided by principles of geometry from ancient Greece such as the Golden Ratio, which is a mathematical ratio commonly found in nature. The Greeks believed that the use of the Golden Ratio created beauty defined by symmetry, proportion and harmony. The result is organic, natural looking and aesthetic compositions.

To make your landscape harmonious, visit Unity Nursery to become inspired by the range of high quality plants, perennials, shrubbery, trees, native and seasonal plants of all sizes that would enhance your home and its outdoor environment. Unity Design/Build’s staff can work with you to create a plan that meets your budget. Then they obtain the permits, install the landscape and hardscape and provide maintenance.

Upcoming events include the popular “Beyond the Backyard” Series of Workshops every Saturday in April beginning at 9:00 am to inform and inspire participants to “think beyond the backyard”. Check their website for workshop topics.

Unity Church Hill Nursery is located at 3621 Church Hill Rd. For more information, call 410-556-6010 or visit their website www.unitychurchillnursery.com. The Nursery is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 5:00, Saturday from 8:00 to 4:00 and is closed on Sunday.


Spy House of the Week:  Rio Vista Transformation

The Rio Vista neighborhood adjacent to St. Michaels has many advantages. Its location in Talbot County frees residents from County taxes. The housing mix varies from homes on waterfront lots along the Miles River to homes on interior streets whose residents can enjoy several waterfront community parks. Many of my friends who live there walk or bike into town in warm months to enjoy St. Michaels’ shops and restaurants.

 Best of all, Rio Vista has no through streets so traffic is light, making walking one’s dog or riding a bike a pleasure. For these and other reasons, friends of mine who live in the DC area bought a waterfront one-story rancher for a weekend home for their young family. They retained the architect Charles Goebel to transform and update the house.

The existing house’s footprint was maintained but the geometry of the house was dramatically altered. The new high pitched roof was extended over the driveway to create a porte-cochere and this extension divided the massing into four equal parts. Next a wide gable was inserted into the center of the roof to create additional headroom front to back for the new second floor master suite. Hipped roofs at each end of the house drew your eye to the center gable. A cupola at the pinnacle of the roof was the perfect finishing touch.

The architect Mies van der Rohe said “God is in the detail” and the details of this front elevation were the work of a gifted architect. The combination of wide double windows, triple window bay and the arched transom gable window above greatly expanded the window area of the front elevation. New lap siding with accents of board and accents of board and batten siding above the gable transom and around the bay window and trim updated the facade. The arched pergola with detailed columns over the front door echoed the arched top of the gable window. Charles Goebel offers each client a choice of weather vane for the cupola and my friends chose the crab. I loved how these details combined to create a beautiful and elegant front elevation in perfectly pitched four-part harmony!

The rear elevation that faces the water was also dramatically altered since the front center gable extended to the rear wall. Windows and  French doors with an arched transom on axis with the front gable window added sunlight. Low sloped roofs added space to the master suite and enabled the sunroom roof to become the second floor deck.  The main floor sunroom was wrapped in windows for panoramic views of the water. The new large main floor deck is a perfect spot for relaxing after a day on the water.

The interior space planning opened the house to the water views. The vista from the two-story entry hall to the row of sunroom windows shows no trace of the former rancher plan. The kitchen and a TV room are located on one side of the entry and on the other side, a hall leads to the main floor bedrooms and baths.

At the top of the stairs is the sitting area for the master suite. The high pitched ceiling, trimmed exposed collar beams and light from the front and back windows create a great space for relaxing. The bedroom is separated from the sitting area by a pair of wide doors and the rear windows offer views of the water.  Since the master bath is tucked under the roof, an interior window at the side of the two-story entry cleverly captures light from the front elevation gable window. A small office area and attic storage complete the second floor.

The day I visited my friends for a tour of the house, ducklings were enjoying their  swimming lesson from a parent and swans were gracefully gliding through the cove. How fitting for this house’s transformation from an ugly duckling to a sensational swan!

Architecture by Charles Paul Goebel, Architect, Ltd, 410-820-9176, chas@cpgoebel.com, www.cpgoebel.comPhotography by Ted Mueller, tedmuellerphotography@gmail.com, 443-955-2490

Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.




Habitat Book Review: “Portals” by Philippa Lewis

One of my favorite Christmas presents this past year is a book from my dear friend, Carol Parlett, which she discovered at a book fair in Philadelphia. I was immediately enchanted by this diminutive book with its black and white cover of a stone bridge surrounded by a rural English scene. The book’s author, Philippa Lewis, is an architectural historian and was intrigued by “gates, stiles, windows, bridges & other crossings” described in these and twenty-four other categories that are the subjects of this delightful book.

Each category is briefly described in two pages, with one page divided between the text and the featured picture(s) along with other illustrations on the opposite page. The exquisite black and white miniature illustrations are either historical references or original drawings by the British artist Miles Thistlewaite.

Like the author, I also had four years of Latin so I was not surprised by her selection of “portals” for her book’s title. She explains “portal” derives from the Latin “carry” (portare) and in her view we are transported elsewhere though harbors, airplanes and railway stations and other means of transport that are the subjects of the book. In the age of the Internet, “portal” now means a gateway to other websites where one has instant access to an infinite amount of information from diverse resources.

The “portals” category includes airports, harbors, and railway stations that the author considers to be “gateways” for travel. Illustrations includes the Berlin Friedrichstrasse station and the Swedish port of Stockholm.

In contrast to man-made portals, the category of “natural portals” includes canyons, gorges and valleys that are natural geographic passes by which we cross mountain ranges. One of the illustrations was the waterfall between rock walls in Snowdonia, Wales. Being an ardent fan of the Sherlock Holmes series, I thought of the famous final confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty at the edge of the Reichenbach Falls, over the Reichenbach, a tributary of the river Aare.

As an architect, her categories of “thresholds” and “doors” were familiar so I was interested in the illustrations she chose. The striking ancient gateway in the wall surrounding Beijing is all that remains of this remarkable edifice. The beautifully drafted sketch of a design for a Parisian ornamented and studded door probably opened onto an interior courtyard. I was intrigued by her reference to the metal “snuffers” for extinguishing a torch before one entered a building in the days before streetlamps and I was charmed by sketches of door handles and knockers.

Perhaps my favorite of her categories was “stairs” since they include such diverse examples as modern treads with open risers, steep steps of the step-form Mayan temple of Teotihuacan which I climbed once, or the illustration of the plan and perspective of the wooden staircase with two graceful turns.

What would a room be without windows? The author devotes one category to “large windows” which were made possible by the development of techniques in glass-making. Sizes and shapes of windows changed forever by this technical breakthrough and made possible the penetration of even more daylight into interiors. I was mesmerized by the exhibit at the National Gallery of “Vermeer and his Contemporaries” where the subjects of the paintings looked out through the frames of large open windows that broadened their view of the world outside as the sunlight filtered in. Two famous houses in the US, Philip Johnson’s Glass house and Mies van der Rohe’s design for the Farnsworth House, windows become full exterior walls entirely of glass.

Several categories dealt with rural life and I was intrigued by the “fences for animals” category. The illustration for a “ha ha” showed a masonry wall next to a wide ditch at the bottom of an embankment that was a clever way to separate the house’s garden and landscape from the grazing areas for livestock.

Several categories were devoted to various “styles”. “Styles Over” were breaks in a fence with protruding stone steps or wooden cross steps that allowed people to cross over but animals could not. “Styles Through” again allowed people to cross over via a bridge style with horizontal planks at each end to deter animals. Another option in metal was the “squeezer style” that resembled an open arced tweezer attached by horizontal iron bars to a masonry or stone fence. The category “Kissing Gate” certainly caught my attention. It was a variation of a turnstile which flapped back and forth in a fence that maintained a barrier to animals but allowed humans through.

Bridges were another category that appealed to me as an architect. The cover of the book shows the 19th century Eltham Bridge at Eltham Palace in Kent, England, with its Gothic styled arches and thick piers. The author noted that the Romans invented stone arches which made it possible to join multiple spans of arches for the aqueducts that delivered water to an empire. The Incas invented the suspension bridge hand woven from natural fibers that had to be renewed or replaced annually for safety.

“Magical Portals” have enchanted children of all ages and I still treasure my childhood copies of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” with their original illustrations. When I first read these books as a child, I was entranced by Alice’s ability to follow the White Rabbit down the rabbit-hole and pass through the looking glass to meet live chess queens and endure a most unusual tea party.

The last category is “The Rainbow”, a bridge or portal in many myths and religions worldwide. It a symbol of the pact of peace between heaven and earth to Christians and Jews. My Scotch-Irish ancestors believed that leprechauns hid pots of gold at a rainbow’s end. The author believes rainbows “remind us of journeys yet to be made”. Great books expand one’s horizons and I am so grateful to the author for my journey through this enlightening and charming book.

“Portals” is a book in “ The Wooden Books Series” and was published by Bloomsbury USA, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. “Portals” first US edition was in 2018..

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

Spy Architecture Lecture by Simon Jacobsen Set for January 19

The Spy is pleased to announce that Simon Jacobsen will make a presentation of his firm’s work over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend on Saturday, January 19th, from 5:00 to 6:30 at the St. Michaels Inn in St. Michaels. Simon is the son of Hugh Newell Jacobsen and they formed Jacobsen Architecture in 2007.  Tickets can be purchased here.

Our Habitat Jenn Martella, summarized their work recently in the Spy and we have re-published it here: 

My second job as an architectural intern was with Gini L. Pettus & Associates in Atlanta. The focus of her practice was interior commercial architecture but we both enjoyed discussing residential architecture and soon discovered our mutual admiration for the work of Hugh Newell Jacobsen.

After I moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004, I was delighted to discover two of his houses from excursions with friends on the water. After visiting the firm’s website, I learned that Jacobsen had designed several houses in Talbot County and his Bachelor of Arts degree was from the University of Maryland. I like to think that on breaks from his studies he made sojourns to the Eastern Shore to enjoy the peaceful pre-Bay Bridge rural architecture and landscape.

What I admire about Jacobsen’s work is how he drew his inspiration from the distinctively American vernacular rural architecture-sheds, smokehouses, detached kitchens and barns. The essence of his iconic style were series of pavilions devoid of ornamentation that evoked Shaker architectural design. His contemporary interpretation of the “telescope” houses of the Eastern Shore, became, in his gifted hands, simple geometric plans with gable roofs and chimneys that rose through the steep roof planes to become sculptural elements. His unique style set him apart from his fellow second-generation Modernists peers.

He also designed houses ranging from Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ home on Martha’s Vineyard to the “1998 Life Dream House,” Life Magazine’s promotion of houses designed by famous architects whose plans were made available to the public.

His son Simon is the Founding Principal of Jacobsen Architecture and explains his firm’s design philosophy as “…our detailing is deliberately sparse and linear in order to enhance the spaces within and without … the site is the dominant factor. The quality of the light upon that particular area of earth is always unique and determines the path the architecture will take.” The firm’s houses on the Eastern Shore embody that design philosophy and my favorite of the Eastern Shore houses is the original Green Residence that as of 2017 has a new owner.

The Greene Residence was built on the Wye East River close to the Chesapeake Bay. The client, a New York advertising executive, retained Hugh Newell Jacobsen in 1971 to design a year-around house. On one of his first visits to the site, the client sprinkled cedar seedlings along the shoreline that have matured into a tall grove to protect the house from the winter storms off the Bay and to frame and shade the exquisite house.

Like the older houses of the Tidewater, the Green house has white walls and steep roofs but the similarity ends there. Unlike historic Tidewater houses, this plan’s massing and functions are organized into pavilions defined by the function within. Some of the pavilions are linked by connections with walls of frameless panes of glass resting on brick sills for a striking solid/void juxtaposition of wall and glass. Other pavilions are slightly shifted from each other with just enough space for construction workers to accomplish their tasks. The lack of exterior soffits, gutters and trim is a careful and deliberate abstraction of traditional detailing.

Many of the pavilions have floor to ceiling glass panes at the main level to create an “outlook” to the landscape and water beyond. Above the large glass panes are two levels of multi-paned transoms. The bottom row is open to the main floor of the pavilion and the upper row becomes windows for the second floor. The lack of interior trim allows the wall and floor planes to seamlessly merge and the steep pitched roofs with dormers creates delightful spaces for the guest suites or the loft for the Owner’s artistic endeavors.

The Green house consists of six pavilions. There are two center pavilions with the front pavilion being the entrance hall and support functions. Behind the entry pavilion a short hall leads to the rear sitting room pavilion that faces the water. The rear corners of this dramatic room are floor to ceiling glass panels and the massive chimney rises through the pitched ceiling. At the front corners, glass walled connections on each side lead to two pavilions that are set on a diagonal to the entry and sitting room pavilions. The kitchen/breakfast and dining room pavilion is on the right and is slightly shifted from the garage pavilion by a solid connection. Off the kitchen pavilion, the long pool reaches out to the water and a fence hides the motor court of the garage pavilion. On the left, another sitting room pavilion and the master suite pavilion complete the composition. Terraces off the sitting rooms offer expansive views of the water.

Two guest suites were located on the second floor. One suite is accessed by a “U” shaped cantilevered stair that floats above the floor of the diagonal sitting room pavilion and the other suite is accessed by a spiral stair in the kitchen pavilion. Since the two suites are separated by the main sitting room pavilion, they have total privacy.

The interiors are white to better reflect the light from the varied sources and the firm’s signature “Eggcrate” bookcases are found in the diagonal sitting room. The Mid-Century Modern furnishings include the leather and polished chrome Le Corbusier sofas and the wood Scandinavian dining room table and chairs. It would be very difficult for this architect to choose a favorite detail but the vista from one of the glass-walled connections through the glass corner of the adjacent pavilion to the water beyond was breathtaking.

The Green Residence is a masterpiece of a gifted architect’s vision of domestic architecture in the early 20th century. The photographs that accompany this article were taken last year and belie the age of this iconic house.

Jacobsen Architecture was founded in 2007 by Hugh and Simon Jacobsen and is the recipient of over 140 awards in architecture, design and interiors. The firm’s work spans from much of the US, Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. Besides many accolades and publications, the firm has been nominated for the AIA’s Gold Medal four times and is longest running recipient of Architectural Digest’s AD100, the magazine’s list of the top 100 design talents internationally. The Jacobsens are currently working on a new book to be published by Rizzoli titled “Jacobsen Architecture: 12 Houses by Hugh and Simon Jacobsen”.

If you are one of the lucky few on the Eastern Shore to own a Jacobsen house, please contact the Spy as we would welcome another opportunity to feature more of these unique American houses.

For further inspiration, visit the firm’s website . Photographs of the Green Residence courtesy of Sean Shananhan Photography, Sean@shanahanphotography.com, 703-582-9462. 

The Spy is pleased to announce that Simon Jacobsen will make a presentation of his firm’s work over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend on Saturday, January 19th, from 5:00 to 6:30 at the St. Michaels Inn in St. Michaels MD, 1228 S. Talbot Street. Click here for ticket sales.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

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