This property is located on a road with dual cul-de-sacs containing waterfront lots along Northwest Harris Creek. Most of the houses date from the 1980’s so I was pleasantly surprised when I turned onto the driveway for this property and saw a Cor-Ten steel sculpture of an oversized dog with a bone incised into its side . This was my first clue that my visit would not be routine and indeed it was. I drove along the meandering gravel driveway between towering pines and tall hollys, the latter of which obscured my view of the house until my last turn, when to my joyful surprise, a modern house came into view. Three more sculptures dotted the landscape; a Cor-Ten steel moose, dual kinetic red and white abstract tennis rackets rotating in the breeze near a tennis court and a colorful donkey with a coat of ceramic shards that reminded me of the artist Susan Stockman’s work.
I first walked around the property to study the juxtaposition of the original 1980’s two-story house with its split level entry to both the upper and lower floors, exposed concrete foundation, vertical earth toned stained siding and low sloped roof with a dramatic two story addition clad in vertical light gray metal panels at the second floor with horizontal wood siding below. The verticality of the addition’s metal siding pay homage to the towering pine trees that both dot the landscape and whose high canopies provide unobstructed views of the water. The architects wisely chose not to make a seamless addition to the 1980’s house but to create an addition that was complimentary. The bold approach was in response to the Owner’s program for spaces that would house their outstanding collection of modern art, sculpture and furnishings. Many of their pieces included birds and landscapes of the Eastern shore.
The addition was a labor of love by the Owners’ architects who were also their daughter and son-in-law. The architects created a two-car garage at the basement level and expanded the second floor to provide a “corner” office and a primary suite with a balcony. Both the front and rear of the upper floor of the addition are deep cantilevered forms that float above the ground in response to Critical Area restrictions. To me, this had the added benefit of minimizing the garage doors, not my favorite design element since most are not detailed as beautifully as these are that blend into the wall color. The architects sloped the roofs in both directions and when viewed from the ground, the upper side elevation appears to be a bird about to take flight, an inspired solution, since one of the Owners had retired from NASA. The east-west orientation of the addition allows the Owners to enjoy both sunrise and sunset views.
As I walked up to the front door, I admired how the architects cleverly handled the transition from the driveway to the front door at the middle level of the house. They adjusted the grading to provide a gently sloped curved path of concrete upward to the stoop at the entry foyer. Since handrails were unnecessary, only sleek modern downlights illuminate one’s way at night. On either side of the stoop was a touch of Zen with a bonsai at the corner and the pebbled surface below the deep eaves which obviates the need for gutters.
Concrete steps lead down along the front side of the house to the full height side and rear walls of the lower floor. At the upper floor, the side elevation infilled with floor to ceiling glass units in the center leads to a large deck overlooking the water. The deck not only provides protection for kayaks after an afternoon on the water but also wraps around the rear elevation to end at steps down to the landscape and the hardscaped path to the pier. At the corner of the living room, additional floor to ceiling glass units open up the interior to the landscape and water. The rear cantilevered part of the addition provides shade after a dip in the hot tub or a day on the water.
When I entered the house and walked up the half-flight of steps to the second floor, the open plan living-dining-kitchen was fully apparent and the glazing and windows that rose to the underside of the sloped ceiling framed the surrounding landscape. The interior architecture of low sloped ceilings with dark stained rafters, lighter decking, full height glazing and the cable handrails surrounding the stairs was enhanced by the visual delights of art, crafts and furnishings. I felt I were walking through the modern furniture exhibit at MOMA or browsing the Knoll catalog as my gaze wandered to the Mies’ Barcelona chairs in creamy vanilla, Saarinen’s Womb chair and the Plattner coffee table, among some of the stunning iconic pieces.
The crafts were simply delightful-I loved the juxtaposition of the sinuous colorful wooden snake poised on the dining room window’s ledge opposite the metal snake, crafted of small metal interlocking gears, at rest on the living room ledge. Art and sculpture filled the room and the lighting was carefully designed to highlight the pieces, especially the interior of the dining room table’s centerpiece of a large bowl that glowed in its spotlight. The “U” shaped kitchen’s sleek modern design would inspire this cook and the floor to ceiling cabinetry at the side wall allowed the space to be fully open to the rear window and the living room.
Past the kitchen, a short hall leads to the powder room, office and elevator at the end to access the lower level. The same attention to detail was evident in the powder room with its glass vessel lavatory and full height accent wall of glass tiles. I envied the Owner’s “corner” office with its window arrangement wrapping around the corner of the rear and side walls that resembled a Mondrian grid of full transoms above a square picture pane next to a vertical operable pane. The stunning primary bathroom’s accent wall of floor to ceiling small aquamarine tiles was a background for the glass walled shower and separate tub enclosure opposite the dual lavatory cabinet and toilet compartment.
Past the primary bathroom is a spacious walk-in closet next to the primary bedroom at the front cantilevered wall. The window arrangement of transoms and windows again reminded me of Mondrian and the painting under the corner echoed the grid pattern. Doors lead to the shallow balcony that must be the perfect spot for a nightcap before turning in for the night. The lower level contains the two-car garage, elevator, laundry, spacious family room with a sliding partition to create another bedroom when needed and a guest suite.
Waterfront property on a quiet street, imaginative blend of architectural styles, great floor plan with easy flow among rooms, who could ask for anything more-except the furnishings and art-Bravo and Brava to the talented architects for their stunning contribution to the architecture of the Eastern Shore!
For more information about this property, contact Debra Crouch with Benson & Mangold Real Estate at 410-745-0720 (o), 410-924-0771 (c) or [email protected]. “Equal Housing Opportunity”.
Photography by Janelle Stroup, [email protected], 410-310-6838
Architects: Gregory Holah and Libby Holah, Holah Design +Architecture LLC, 503-288-4203, www.holahdesign.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.