When I first drove up the driveway of this property, I was immediately transported into a verdant oasis that has been an eight year collaboration between the Owners and landscape designer Jan Kirsh. The Owners had purchased the property to be a weekend home for themselves and their young twins. The house had been a red brick rancher and they worked with the contractor Greg Kessinger to give the exteriors a Modernist feel and to open up the traditional interiors for family living and entertaining. They also retained the architect Mark Beck to design porches for the front and rear of the house to extend their living space and to open up the rear of the house to the water. The result from their collaboration with their design and construction team is simply stunning.
Tall pine trees and other evergreens surround the property and crape myrtles were added along the entry drive for color along with other plantings. The house is set back far from the road which creates lawn areas for the twins to play lawn sports such as soccer and baseball and the nearby trampoline offers fun exercise for children of all ages. Hidden in a huge tree was a tree-house structure of two upper decks, a zip line and a rope “hammock” suspended between branches for stargazing.
It is remarkable how something as simple as removing shutters and painting red brick white can transform a house. In this case, the four bay composition of the house becomes clear. Three bays have two tall narrow windows with a roof dormer window centered above and the offset entry bay is accentuated by a deep porch with an open gable. Now the house sits proudly in the landscape as a jewel in the crown.
Jan Kirsh’s finishing touches of a large round blue urn on the porch and other neutral gray geometric planters of varied heights filled with flowers add color to the new composition. The former brick sidewalk is now a white porcelain tile walk that lead to the steps up to the “Ipe” porch decking in a deep brown accent color. Abelia plants with their tiny white flowers line the walkway in front of the house along with other plantings including Pennisetum ‘Cassian’,Deutzia ‘Nikko’ and the ground cover, Mazus.
The east side of the house is heavily shaded by native red cedars and an ancient towering silver Maple tree. These deciduous and evergreen trees are all shallow rooted, very thirsty and would compete with plantings, so a box garden of planters at different heights was a unique solution. Light gray wood planters at different heights are filled with shade loving plants including caladiums, ferns, begonias, and hydrangea for color. Having the planters irrigated makes the maintenance much easier. The ground underneath the trees was covered with pine needles and a walkway defined by wood chips.
At the rear of the house, Mark Beck added a wide gabled screened porch with areas for seating and dining. The pool area was enhanced by a deck with Ipé planks at the short side of the pool for relaxing on the upholstered rattan outdoor furnishings under the fabric shade sail covering for a respite from the sun. Jan Kirsh repeated the porcelain tile as the pool surround and steps now led to the rear of the house for easy access. The colors and textures of the various types of ornamental grasses including Red Fountain Grass added screening for the pool and on the day I visited, the grasses gently swayed in the breeze.
The Owners asked for the screening of the pool area from the garage and parking area that would provide a sense of discovery for guests arriving from the parking area. Jan has a special affinity for hardscapes and here she added large stone pavers with smooth round rocks in between for a path that meandered past mature hydrangea paniculata with white blooms, dwarf twig dogwood and rosemary for scent.
Covering the pergola at the rear of the house is a hardy Kiwi vine. To fill the area in front of the pergola next to the screened porch, shrubs and grasses provide structure and annuals including white Angelonia, lime green coleus and purple gomphrena.
The Modernist interiors are just as striking as the landscape. The two-story entrance foyer with its “L” shaped stair detailed in stained wood railing with stainless steel posts has a large pendant light whose perforated areas cast shadows on the front and side walls and the two ottomans echo the color of the pendant. The vista beyond the foyer through the great room, screened porch, lawn and water grounds the house to its setting. The great room with three sets of French doors with full height sidelights included a dining area between two seating areas and the pine flooring with a border and insets set on a diagonal stretched the space. The kitchen at the front of the house is open to the great room and the white cabinets, bar peninsula with waterfall edge and stainless steel appliances continued the theme of white interiors with accents of color in accessories and art.
The two story gabled screened porch was my favorite room as it would be easy to imagine spending the day reading in the seating area in between swims or lingering over dinner at the corner dining area. The striking geometry of the space with its curved balcony for the master suite above jutting out into the space, the exposed supports, the wood slat ceiling for texture the grid of screened panels at the gable end and each side create an irresistible space for family and friends.
The ground floor master suite at the corner of the house has windows on two sides for daylight through the day. The pine floors, blue and yellow accents in the pillows, rug and duvet, art and the simple translucent window shades creates a serene retreat. The second floor master suite has a curved balcony overlooking the screened porch below. I loved the outdoor chairs with their deep aqua slatted seat frame on a white base-perfect spot for a nightcap after bedtime stories with the twins.
A remarkable collaboration between the Owners with their sophisticated vision and the design team of architect, landscape designer and contractor -Bravo!
Architecture by Mark Beck Associates, LLC, 410-822-6481, www.markbeckassociates.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Landscape Design by Jan Kirsh Studio, 410-745-5252, www.jankirshstudio.com, email@example.com Construction by Greg Kessinger, Kessinger Construction, 410-822-2970, firstname.lastname@example.org. Photography by Caroline Phillips, 443-262-5656, email@example.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.