Good things do come in small packages as I soon discovered when I toured this week’s charming house that is very special for so many reasons. One of the original houses that front St. Mary’s Square, it began its life in the late 19th century as the Methodist Episcopal Church’s Sunday School. Its next owner was Eleanor Blades who built a two-bay, two story house on the lot. Today it is a private residence that was on this year’s Christmas in St. Michaels Tour of Homes. The owner retired from her business named “The Enchanting Florist” and I soon fell under the spell of this enchanting cottage when the owner graciously gave me a tour.
I am fascinated by cartography and the 1877 Lake, Griffing and Stevenson Atlas shows St. Mary’s Square between Mulberry and East Chestnut Streets with gates at each end. A half-circular driveway connects the row of original houses fronting St. Mary’s Square and I appreciated how the contiguous front lawns had low landscaping and lack of fences so one could fully appreciate the streetscape of charming houses. Walking up the brick path to the front porch of today’s featured house, I admired how the scale of the plantings increases in height as you come nearer to the front porch. Additional random stone pavers meandered around the side of the house to an arbor festooned with greenery that marked the entry to the rear fenced yard. The house’s neutral tones of shake siding and white trim make the small house seem larger and the accents of the cottage style plank shutters, the yellow half glass front door and the front porch’s rattan furnishings welcome one within.
When Owner opened the front door into the living room, it was evident that the original one room wide, four rooms deep plan had been dramatically opened up to enlarge the vistas and the Owner explained she had collaborated with an architect. The one room width has the advantage of windows on all four sides of the house to give each room sunlight throughout the day. I loved the taupe stain on the original wood floors and the neutral interior design scheme of light gray walls, creamy white trim, light olive, golden yellow and apricot accents of upholstery and accessories that serenely enhanced the room’s size. The Owner’s art collection throughout the house includes work by the artist Suzanne McKibbon.
The living room has great diagonal views from the front and rear corners of the room with the window to the porch, side windows flanking the fireplace centered in the room and the rear window. I especially liked how the 6/6 windows had white plantation shutters over the lower portion of the window only, giving one seated privacy but allowing light within by manipulation of the shutters. The oval glass topped table on powdered gray legs between the settee opposite two houndstooth checked chairs created a cozy spot for conversation by the fire. Naturally, the hand of a master floral designer was evident in the greenery and decorations on the mantel with a watercolor of an oyster that inspired the interior design colors.
The round glass topped table in the dining room continues the transparency and I was drawn to the high dark gray wood chest in the corner next to the side window. A blown glass container held delicate curlicued twigs that fanned over other objects artfully arranged on top of the chest and I especially liked the trio of oil paintings of wooden boats from small to large sizes. The widened wall between the dining room and the kitchen now showcases the kitchen’s medium gray cabinets and the stunning granite countertop. When I saw the single oyster shell sitting on top of the counter, I realized it was the inspiration for the colors of the house and that the oyster shell was strategically placed upon an expanded vein in the granite. To me, it resembled a jewel in a necklace resting against the brocade of a dress-brava for a marvelous selection of scale and color! I also loved how the perspective of the room steps back from the solid pantry wall next to a base cabinet with its backdrop of granite to the doorway that frames the wall of windows of the family room beyond-a masterful stroke of design; (that is why folks hire architects!)
Behind the kitchen is a full bath and a short hall to my favorite room, the family room overlooking the rear garden. One side wall contains the fireplace flanked by a wine cooler and built-in millwork with a painting over the fireplace cleverly hiding the TV. The rear wall has French doors flanked by tall 2/2 windows and the other side wall repeats the pattern of tall 2/2 windows to transform the space into a sunroom with a sleeper sofa to accommodate guests. Stained wood beams against the white of the plank ceiling and the marvelous oversized fronds of the rug add texture to this enchanting space.
The stairs to the second floor are located at the side of the house which maximizes the size of two bedrooms between the hall and full bath. The primary bedroom lies under the long sloped roof of the rear wing and the high windows at the end are perfectly sized to accommodate the bed’s headboard and nightstands. The hall bath’s flooring in two white octagons with small squares at the chamfered ends are perfectly scaled for the room’s size and the pocket door makes the bath fully accessible. Opposite the door is a vista to a window seat between closets. I have my mother’s hat collection and I loved the decorative collection of straw hats on either side of the window.
The front room is primarily an office but a chest behind the table/desk that looks like a credenza cleverly conceals a Murphy bed for guests. What an improvement over the tall cabinet Murphy bed I had in my first apartment! Above the bed/chest are built-in shelving for storage and display. Since this room is under the pitched roof of the front wing, the ceiling joists were removed and raised up to become collar beams for lateral stability. Wood planks instead of drywall were added to the underside of the roof rafters and the collar beam with its original ax marks is stained as an accent. The double drop leaf table/deck can be stored against the stairwell wall to accommodate the bed. With the front window, rear window with a seat below and the “window” to the stairs, (plantation shutters cover an opening in the wall overlooking the stairs-another great detail from the architect) how could anyone get any work done? The “window” also provides an opportunity for artwork or family photographs to be hung on the stairwell wall to be viewed when one is working at the desk.
I was quite reluctant to leave the house but I wanted to explore the rear yard with its pergola, hardscaping, landscaping, fencing and mature trees for privacy. At the rear of the property is a shed for storage that also gives additional privacy to the yard from the rear property.
Beautiful blend of historic house with interior upgrades that preserve the original details including the vertical plank doors and hardwood floors in its new stylish finish. It is always fascinating for me to feature a house and property whose Owner is another design professional who understands scale, proportion, pattern, color, vistas and perspective. Seeing the exquisitely decorated rooms decked out in their holiday finery put me in the Christmas spirit. Brava to this talented Owner who has created her own “enchanting” haven in the heart of St. Michaels!
Phyllis Kennedy, Ret., The Enchanted Florist Architect: Cathleen Curtin, https://www.cathleencurtinarchitects.com/, (703) 930-9322 Photography: George Sass, email@example.com, https://georgesass.myportfolio.com 410-703-3753
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.