My mother was a member of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild and from an early age I accompanied her to craft shows that began my lifelong love of art, basketry, ceramics, metalwork, painting, weaving and many more creative endeavors created by her fellow artisans, as if by magic, to my young eyes so long ago. After moving to the Eastern Shore, I sought out local artisans for pieces to add to my collection. I soon learned about Turtle Cove Studios and I made an appointment with the artist, Craigie Succop, who gave me a tour of her studio. I was captivated by her glass mosaic work and left with one of her creations, a hollow rectangular form with each side laid out in different patterns of glass mosaics studded with stones. When I turn on the battery operated light at the bottom of the piece, the form becomes a lamp that glows from within. She was seventy years young at the time of her death in 2012 and her passing was a great loss to the St. Michaels art community and to her collectors.
It was a special pleasure to tour Turtle Cove again as it remains a stunning example of a truly harmonious interaction of site, landscape, architecture, interiors and art. As I drove slowly along the meandering gravel drive, I was relieved that the gravel was light colored-the better for looking out for crossings by the turtles that share the property. I parked my car next to a landscaped bed just as a large turtle emerged from the leaves and nonchalantly lumbered past me and disappeared around the barn. I remembered from my previous visit that the site was once a dairy farm and two original barns still grace the landscape. The current owners further improved the property with additional landscaped areas linked by random stone or brick paths and the renovation of the two barns, the larger of which is a spectacular entertaining space, including a dance floor!
The focal point of the pool area is a timber frame pavilion with an undulating roof whose copper sheeting has weathered to a warm patina that blends into the surrounding landscape. Other outdoor rooms offer rest and relaxation including the row of Adirondack chairs at Porter’s Creek edge, the deck that spans the full length of the main house and steps down to a lower level deck for waterside outdoor living and dining rooms. In addition to the pool, other water features include the sunken area opposite the main house’s entry outlined in river rock with the “island” in the middle of the water featuring one of Craigie Succop’s glass mosaic sculptures of two faces in profile.
The architectural sequence begins with the carriage house that is a study in triangular interlocking forms. The footprint of the house has front triangular walls meeting at a point that rises to the underside of the steep roof pitch and the roof falls to the surface of the wrap-around deck. Another triangle intersects the front roof ridge and rises to create the sleeping loft above the ground floor kitchen and bath and the two-story living-dining area. Triangular windows are cleverly placed, including the transoms at the lower roof and the inverted triangular window whose hypotenuse follows the slope of the lower roof. The sleeping loft has an exterior balcony that spans between the eaves.
The smaller of the two barns has a front entry portico with an arched top half French door and full height sidelights infilling the original doorway and a pair of French doors infilling the original loft door that now accesses a balcony over the portico. The main level doors, sidelights and the siding around the loft’s French doors are a deep blue to contrast with the crisp white siding and painted masonry. At the rear of the barn, bay wall projections on both floors open up the barn to the landscape and water through tall windows. I loved the materials and detailing of the interior with the main level brick floors, pebble fireplace hearth, wood slat ceilings, walls of bright white to reflect the light, and the upper level’s ceiling that breaks at the exposed collar beam to change materials from gypsum board to wood slats. The bathtub finish is another example of Craigie Succop’s artistry in the small tiles that cover the tub and larger tiles of the tub surround.
The larger barn is now a stunning entertainment space with an entry wall that is beautifully detailed with a main level porch defined by a graceful arched beam under the framing supporting the loft balcony covered by a low slope metal roof. Exterior stairs lead from the main level porch to the upper level balcony. Below the ridge of the gambrel roof is a large triple unit window. The entry hall passes between utility and workshop spaces to reach the loft level that is now a grand space open to the studs and the rafters forming the barn’s gambrel roof shape. Due to the volume of the space, another loft space was added with the entry walls’ triple window offering dramatic views of the landscape and water.
I love Mid-Century Modern architecture and Scandinavian interiors so I saved the main house for the end of my visit to fully savor the design. The walls of the rectangular footprint are a combination of solidity and transparency that are created by form following function. The entry door is recessed into the front elevation between the kitchen and service areas of pantry, laundry and the two baths. The full height oversized entry door and sidelight provide a clear vista through the living room’s rear full height wall of glass. A row of transoms are placed opposite the rear wall’s transoms and three lower windows of identical size are placed at countertop height in the kitchen and pantry. Near the corner is a larger window at the primary bath.
The rear waterside elevation is completely transparent with a rhythm of full height glass panels and transoms over exterior doors to the waterside deck. I loved the interior architecture of the rooms with walls of white or full height glass and the 9 foot ceilings that float over the wide plank Douglas fir flooring. The black Wittus Shaker wood stove is a focal point for the living room area and becomes a sculptural element. The dining area is located at the corner between the living room and the kitchen for diagonal views of the landscape and water.
I especially liked the Bulthaup kitchen design concept of kitchen “furnishings” with the open island of back to back sink and cooktop and the sleek design of the cabinet doors with vertical slight recesses for one’s finger to grasp the edge to pull open. The Miele and Sub Zero appliances with their stainless steel finishes contrast beautifully with the warmth of the wood cabinetry. The open plan living-dining-kitchen area leads to the center hall between the guest bedroom suite and the pantry and laundry. The “L” shaped spacious pantry is open to the hall and is furnished with the same sleek Bulthaup cabinetry. The front wall has a shelf between the top transom and the bottom window above the counter for display of serving pieces.
I would be quite happy to claim the guest room with its rear wall of glass including a door to the waterside deck. Opposite the bedroom is the hall bath with a glass walled shower below the sill of the transom windows. The primary bedroom suite is located at the end of the center hall with a vista to a translucent frosted glass panel below a clear glass panel to the underside of the ceiling. I was surprised to discover that the glass wall is actually the side wall of the shower. The bedroom is open to the spa bath with wall mounted wood dual lavatory and medicine cabinets that float above the floor. The shower access and the toilet are opposite the free-standing soaking tub for visual privacy. Outside the primary suite is a cozy two-person cedar walled sauna shaped like a barrel. I was amazed to later learn the main house was actually a modular designed by Roccio Romero with the interior finishes by Jeff Fellows.
These 4.29 acres are full of visual delights from the architecture and interiors to the fully irrigated lush landscaping dotted with sculpture, the fenced-in garden with raised planting beds next to the small barn, turtle ponds, waterfalls, free-form pool, private pier with boathouse, three boat lifts-the look on the face of the Buddha sculpture overlooking one of the ponds says it all-total serenity yet minutes from St. Michaels.
For more information about this property, contact Gene Smith at Benson & Mangold Real Estate, 410-745-0417 (o),410-443-1571(c), firstname.lastname@example.org, or “Equal Housing Opportunity”.
Photography by Janelle Stroop, 410-310-6838, Janelle@thruthelensphotos.com
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.