Spy House of the Week: Modernism by a Master


McInturff Architects is based in Bethesda, MD, and the firm’s principal, Mark McInturff, FAIA , has designed many houses on the Eastern Shore including his own second home in Neavitt. The owners of today’s featured house had searched for several years for the right property on the Eastern Shore that would be a weekend home until they moved here full time. Their primary criterion was a waterfront site that maximized the naturally cooling breezes off the Bay. After several years of searching, they found a unique seven acre property with an existing house very close to the shoreline with panoramic water views on three sides. The existing house had too much deterioration and fire damage to justify renovation so the owners turned to McInturff to design a new home.

The main wing of the new house fits precisely over the former house’s foundation and contains the living, dining, kitchen, and den along the water side with the stairs and service areas at the entry side. A new secondary wing containing a guest suite, office and storage is perpendicular to the main wing and set back to maintain unobstructed water views from the main wing’s living areas. Connections flow seamlessly between indoors and outdoors with the wide hall that separates the waterside areas from the front entry areas. One end of the hall blends into a screened porch open on three sides of the house that is the perfect spot for a crab feast. The other end of the hall ends at a secondary entry to the wrap-around waterside deck that separates the guest suite/office wing from the main wing. The detached garage/pool house wing is connected to the main house by deep eave overhangs that slide under the secondary wing’s higher eaves to create a covered walkway.

The geometry of the house is a masterful study in massing, solid/void interaction and transparency. The materials of glass, stacked stone and lap siding in earth tone colors become part of the wooded landscape and the slender edges of the deep roof eaves accentuate the horizontal planes. The deep eaves offer another benefit-windows can remain open to catch the Bay breezes without relying upon air conditioning. Vertical projections from the front wall frame the living-dining area’s two-story wall of glass beyond. Full height glass walls, standard windows that wrap around corners of rooms, high windows that turn down along the edges of solid wall planes, the zinc-clad roof clerestories and the openness of the “Crab Room” enables the house to come alive at twilight when illuminated from within.

Like the historic Eastern Shore houses, the two-story main wing telescopes down to the one-story guest suite on one side and the one-story “Crab Room” on the other side.

The rear deck at the second floor covers the deck area below next to the  living/dining area. The glass wall panels at the rear of the living-dining area can fold and disappear making the space completely transparent, increasing the floor space by 30%. In addition, motorized screened panels at the rear edge of the deck drop down to enclose the covered deck creating a variety of transparency options from total transparency to closed house/closed porch.

The crisp detailing of the interior with its lack of trim around the windows and doors was refreshing and the stained window frames contrasted with the surrounding white walls. I loved how the roof clerestories penetrated the rooms below for a variety of ceiling planes and distinctive interior architecture. The detailing of the “U” shaped stair enclosure was equally impressive. A long narrow slit in the stacked stone exterior wall aligned with the vertical slit in the center drywall handrail between the lower and upper run of treads. A small round handrail floated over the top of the drywall handrail and was anchored to it by short brackets. On the lower run of treads that were suspended above the floor, a full-height stained wood screen instead of a handrail enables light to filter through the stairs to the adjacent kitchen. Treads without overhangs and the flush stringer edge delineated by a black trim piece completed the crisp design.

I was very fortunate to have a tour with one of the Owners and to my surprise the tour began in the basement but I soon learned why. He was deservedly proud of the sustainability and sophisticated technological features of the house and site including geothermal wells that provide heating through radiant floors. The biggest surprise was beyond double doors where eleven huge cisterns taller than my 5-8” height store water collected from the roofs which eliminates any concern about storm water management. The water is then released onto the site for irrigation when needed.

This Dream Team of clients with sophisticated taste and vision, a master architect and a contractor’s precise workmanship worked together to create this Modernist masterpiece.


Architecture by McInturff Architects, 301-229-3705, www.mcinturffarchitects.com. Design Team: Mark McInturff FAIA, Christopher Boyd and Jeff McInturff.
Photography by Mark McInturff and Julia Heine Construction by Think Make Build LLC, 202-798-5000, www.thinkmakebuild.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.

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