The previous house on this waterfront lot in Neavitt was a dim memory by the time the architect Mark McInturff saw the site’s potential for a weekend home for himself. Given the Critical Area constraints, the lot was surveyed and the foundation was carefully excavated to determine the allowable buildable area. Since the allowable footprint turned out to be the size of a double-wide trailer, the architect’s design solution maximized the house’s footprint with a rectangular ground floor and three other floors layered asymmetrically above in various arrangements that also created decks at each upper level.
The exterior’s wood shingled siding has weathered naturally to a beautiful warm gray accented by white window frames without trim. Cantilevering the front and rear walls of the house a few feet above grade from the recessed foundation gave the walls an appearance of floating in air. The stairs to the front door and from the sliding doors at the rear have deep treads to elongate the form to become another layer of the house and the railings’ combination of weathered boards and stainless steel cables accentuate their transparency.
Given the house’s three stories and roof top deck for the swimming pool, the weight of the structure is borne by cross-braced steel frames which define the three-bay ground floor plan. The entire steel frame is exposed so the beams create coffered ceilings and each bay’s interior “wall” is another “X” frame. One bay contains the main seating area with a fireplace and millwork; the middle bay is the dining area and the other end bay is another sitting area next to the kitchen at the front of the house. The service functions (laundry, stairs) are located at the front of the house. I especially liked how the “X” bracing segments crossed over the solid end walls’ center porthole windows to become a layer of muntins over the glass. Each bay of the entire rear wall is elegantly detailed with full height picture windows flanked by single sliding doors with horizontal rails so the entire space becomes a porch. One sliding door leads to the deck and steps to the rear lawn.
Stacking the two bedrooms creates total privacy and makes each suite an individual penthouse. The master suite on the second floor has a spacious sleeping area with its picture window and sliding doors to access the deck that surrounds the entire floor for panoramic water views, broken only by the stairwell. The luxurious bath includes an oversized shower.
The third floor guest suite has its picture window flanked by sliding doors with horizontal rails at the water side. The rear wall of the third floor sleeping area extends over the deck below to create a covered outdoor space for the second floor bedroom. The stair landing at the third level also leads to a side deck with stairs up to the rooftop pool and its deck. How could one resist a moonlight swim or early morning lap before breakfast, high above the rooftops of the adjacent houses?
The rear yard is a true outdoor room with its tall walls of green hedges and trees that frame the water view. Chairs and tables set onto the lawn provide front row seats for relaxing and contemplating the sunset after a day on the water. At dusk when the rooms are illuminated from within the stacked composition of light and structure is breathtaking.
The deceptively simple floor plan was in reality very carefully thought out to maximize every square inch of space, and meticulously detailed, not unlike boat design. The white interiors that reflect the light, the decks on the upper floors and the crisp detailing of this remarkable house by a Modernist Master is simply stunning.
Architecture by McInturff Architects, 301-229-3705, www.mcinturffarchitects.com. Design Team: Mark McInturff FAIA and Christopher Boyd. Photography by Julia Heine
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.