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With its simple Palladian symmetry, this exterior is inspired by the casual classicism and vernacular turn-of-the-century wooden American seaside resort home. Its classical forms and quiet grandeur echo the spirit of Palladio’s famed Villa Cornaro and Villa Valmarana, says architect Wayne L. Good, FAIA.
Statuesque, with verandas overlooking nothing but sea, sand, and sky, the home has an intangible “calm” quality. This may be due to a rare synergy among Good, interior designer Mona Hajj, and builder Andrew G. Smith, vice president of Winchester Construction Company. These seasoned professionals are highly inspired—even driven—their different disciplines unified by the sea stretching before them.
In fact, when in search of forms and ideas for the home, Good visited the raw dunes early on to commune with the ocean. And perhaps, as an homage to its infinity, he conceived an interior architecture where body and mind could travel freely.
Upon entering, one faces a grand stair with open risers that reveal dunes through an oversized Diocletian window. At the top of the stairs is a hint of sky. As one ascends, the ocean gradually appears. Good explains it as “an elegantly choreographed sequence of arrival, anticipation, and ascent—allowing the house to unfold and ultimately reveal the infinite prospect of the Atlantic’s watery horizon.”
Soaring serpentine glass walls on the upper floors echo the sinuous beachline just below. “Floor-to-ceiling glass walls in the main living room and master suite gently undulate with curved operable glass in a constant dialog with the Atlantic shoreline,” says Good.
The architecture is filled with unexpected revelations—chimney caps shaped like small Parthenons and floors that seem to float. The interior design has its share of small epiphanies. Instead of the neutrals, driftwood, and pastels that come to mind when we think of the term “coastal,” Hajj chose exotic textiles draped casually across furnishings, walls, and floors. Each space gives the gift of discovery: small collections of tiles, pottery, and rare antiques from many countries, including Spain, Venice, Syria, and Palestine.
“They are private people and well-traveled, so they are open to ideas other than the typical beach house,” says Hajj. With so much color and captivating patterns freely combined, a spell-binding harmony is achieved, producing something unexpected: a deep calm. “That is what the clients wanted. You can be in a room and feel a sense of calm, a place to come home to after the city.”
Blues are incorporated into almost every space in ways that are both obvious and barely perceived. “Flights of blue” reference the ocean’s ever-changing surface. In some cases, color becomes texture. “We modulated the blues,” says Hajj. “I love the color of the water, and so do they; the idea was to have the base of the room in very pale blues and whites and then create texture with the deep blues and to keep it all connected with pieces of furniture.”
Dominating the living room is a fireplace composed of handmade Mudéjar tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries. The tiles are so blue that they seem to radiate from within. “I love them. I think they’re so soulful and beautiful. The clients travel a lot. They love things that are collected rather than formulaic or, you know, the typical cute things.”
Above the fireplace is a striking Ikat, a 19th-century Indonesian textile. A collection of Turkish pottery adorns the shelves. With textiles on the floor and walls and plush furnishings, the room is hushed and intimate. Combining beauty with utility, textiles throughout this home deserve special mention. Hajj grew up in the Middle East, where her family worked in the textile industry. “It is in our genes,” she reflects. Surely this explains her sixth sense for color, weight, and weave, and a spatial awareness that ensures each fabric finds its perfect place. “Each textile has a gift,” she explains.
She notes that when designing, scale and color are important to her, but in unexpected ways. “I don’t go by the rules of scale. You want to make the room inviting, but there is always something ‘off,’ which makes it more interesting. Scale is very important. It makes people feel comfortable, but sometimes it’s ok for things not to be perfect… to escape the prison of having to match.”
The small powder room is an example where Hajj manipulates scale and color. Blues converge dramatically; in this tight space, Eastern and European cultures coexist. The sink is an antique Turkish vessel atop an Empire English cabinet converted into a vanity. The mirror is a Venetian antique. A strange beauty rises from the depths of its oblique glass. “The mirror is so old; it’s almost the thought of the mirror that is important here,” says Hajj. “Maybe people don’t want to see themselves so clearly sometimes,” she jokes. “The client is very used to me doing things not expected.”
How does it happen? The compression of so many different visual elements and layers of textiles and even of time itself? There is no one simple answer. Says Hajj: “It’s all harmonious. I do a lot of it on-site. I don’t plan for it. Eighty percent is sort of planned with a floor plan and lighting, but then 20 or 30 percent is not. It’s the flavor of the house. I bring it out during the installation, and I just play with it.”
The sense of play extends to the kitchen, which is a lacquered deep blue with open shelving and a casual ambiance. “When I get a project, I look at the whole. And again, blue was on my mind. It is all lacquered, so it’s very easily cleaned, and I wanted to make it accessible and inviting to the kids.” Just about everything is on display, with built-ins for cups and plates.
The light fixtures are from Syria, a country familiar to Hajj. It seems that all cultures are embraced in this home. “It is worldwide. That is what I love. Every culture has beautiful things. My clients like that because it reminds them of their travels.”
Upstairs, the primary bedroom is a study in blues. Just above the blue headboard hangs a painting of a lush bouquet. Two oversized chairs face each other in front of a large window where the sun streams in.
Architecture and interior design cohere. Adjoining the bedroom is a small porch recessed under the beachside roof gable just outside the bedroom, where Hajj has placed a settee. Two Doric columns frame a niche that offers privacy and ocean views. Traveling from the porch through the bedroom, one follows the undulating “wave” glass wall leading to his and her dressing suites. It is much like a “walk on the beach” just below, says Good. He notes that plein air spaces are integral to the design and encourage “the feeling of living on the veranda.”
A prime example is the three-sided shuttered porch adjoining the main living area, where a round table layered with two simple textiles invites conversation over a meal. Installing 38 ten-foot-high shutters was one of Smith’s primary challenges. He explains that three European motors are embedded in each panel. One motor controls how the panel swings out to create privacy, another adjusts the louvers, and a third secures a storm latch.
Good’s overall design for the shutters borrows from the idea of Jefferson’s Venetian porches at Monticello and traditional Southern louvered porches. Frameless glass railings create a visual connection to the beach and ocean. “When the shutters are fully open, toes all but touch the sand,” says Good, who adds that they are constructed from Acoya, a relatively new eco-product ideal for oceanfront living.
With the exception of the roof, the entire home is clad in Acoya, a sustainably-grown pine treated at the molecular level so it can no longer expand, contract, or, most importantly, rot. “For oceanfront homes exposed to raw elements, with storm winds exceeding 120 mph, this cladding means much lower maintenance,” says Smith, who has worked with Winchester for over 15 years. “I feel that with every project we do, there’s at least one thing that has never been done. And this definitely falls in line with that.” Along with the Acoya cladding, he mentions that other highly custom features include mini-Parthenon-like brass chimney caps, the finishing touches to Good’s vision for a classical seaside villa.
As one glances casually at the ornate chimney caps, columns, and trim and settles into rooms draped in sumptuous textiles, everything seems harmonious, adhering to a kind of contemporary “golden mean.” A quiet nook on the porch is just the right size for a rocking chair and small table. “It is my favorite. A rocking chair with a glass. I love that. It is what it is all about,” says Hajj. The chair is from McKinnon and Harris, selected for its simple American style and natural beauty, she explains. “It is boldly simple. Can you imagine yourself just sitting there with a scone… with a drink? You don’t need all the interruptions; it’s just calm.”
Many beach homes have vast contemporary spaces designed for entertaining. In contrast, this home is about relaxation, with one room dissolving into the next. This spot on the porch is significant, adorned only by nature and a simple chair. Here, in the midst of heron flying low over the water, one can find shades of blue barely perceived, all a part of a design pageantry conjured by Hajj. Relaxing in quiet spaces and breezy verandas and glimpsing vistas through curving glass walls, one can listen to the sea and speak back.
ARCHITECT: Good Architecture, PC, goodarchitecture.com, Annapolis, Maryland | INTERIOR DESIGN: Mona Hajj Interiors, monahajj.com, Baltimore, Maryland | BUILDER: Winchester Construction Co., winchesterinc.com, Millersville, Maryland | SHUTTER SYSTEM: Sussex Construction | STAIRS: Saienni Stairs, saiennistairs.com, Newark, Delaware | LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Lila Fendrick Landscape Architects, fendrickdesign.com, Chevy Chase, Maryland
© Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 14, No. 3 2023