A Storied Farmhouse in Annapolis

A Storied Farmhouse in Annapolis

By Walinda West  |  Photography by David Burroughs



Even without land or a location in mind, Jeffrey Dawson and his partner, Rhonda Dunkins, knew their dream home would be “modern farmhouse.” The traditional American Farmhouse is typically one-and-a-half to two stories and features medium-sized windows and asymmetrical roofing with a gable at the front. Modern farmhouses usually have higher ceilings, larger proportions, and more windows but retain the traditional farmhouse’s simple detailing, such as open floor plans with central chimneys and porches. 

To bring their own “farmhouse” vision to life, the couple enlisted the expertise of top-notch professionals: architect Scott Allen of Allen & DeLalio Architects, Olney, MD, David Carlisle of Bayview Builders, Annapolis, MD, and Courtney Griffin of Interior Concepts, Annapolis, MD.

Allen designed a 4,500-square-foot farmhouse with white vertical and horizontal board and batten siding, black window frames, and pitched rooflines. Awnings are suspended by curved powder-coated aluminum brackets that create depth, shade, and shadow lines. 

“I kept coming back to this style,” Dawson says. “I wanted a modern farmhouse but with an upscale nod to it. I didn’t define the term, but my builder told me what I wanted was a jewel box home.” 

Once the architectural style was decided, it was time to select a location. Dawson and Dunkins began their search in 2016. At first, Dawson considered the Eastern Shore because of familial ties there. His mother, who adopted Dawson as a youth, was the third great-niece of abolitionist and social activist Harriet Tubman; other family members were watermen. In 2019, the couple settled upon Annapolis, choosing a secluded one-acre site off Rowe Blvd. 

Allen completed the initial architectural plans in about two months, thanks to the homeowners’ decisiveness, he explains. The first set called for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home with two powder rooms, a separate cabaña, a partially finished basement, and a two-car garage with an office overhead. A final plan gave Dawson additional square footage for a lower-level theater room, gym, and wine-cigar room.

The couple wanted their primary bedroom suite on the first floor. The tastefully adorned suite opens to a deck and pool elevated 20 feet above ground. This gives Dunkins, who has mobility issues, immediate access to the pool. Allen notes that the couple wanted universal design, such as smooth floors throughout the house, not only for aesthetics but also to ensure easy travel from room to room without tripping hazards, so they can age in place. 

The flooring is special to Dawson. He explains: “Carlisle Wide Plank Flooring was the first finish material I selected.  I actually built the house around that incredible wide plank white oak flooring.  Carlisle is the manufacturer who harvests and manufactures… not a third-party retailer.” 

 Dawson and Dunkins worked closely with Allen on all aspects of the project. “The couple had very specific plans for the home and wanted us to work with them to make their ideas a reality,” Allen says. “They were under contract to purchase the lot and needed us to make sure the house they wanted would fit on the lot.”

This posed a great challenge due to zoning regulations, site conditions, and other constraints, including a sycamore tree that had to be preserved, explains Allen. In the end, the footprint and size of the house are within mere inches of the maximum allowed for the site. 

In building the home, custom builder David Carlisle explains: “Early on, we walked the lot to look at the construction logistics. We knew it would be tight, and it didn’t leave a lot of room, but we are used to it.”  Planning and managing the execution, Carlisle and his team at Bayview are responsible for the home’s exquisite craftsmanship, both inside and outside.

As beautiful as the home is on the exterior, it meets its match inside, where the contemporary blends with a more traditional and timeless design style that includes high-end, bespoke features. Interior Concepts’ Courtney Griffin designed almost everything in the home’s interior, from custom millwork, cabinetry, and tile to the stones individually and intricately placed on the home’s two-story fireplace, a curated handmade wallpaper in the formal powder room, and staggered chandeliers by Hudson Valley in the primary bedroom.  

A custom mahogany front door opens into the main living space, which includes the foyer, dining room, kitchen, and two-story great room. A wall of windows with a large 16-foot-wide folding door reveals a rear deck, scenic view, and beautifully landscaped yard. The conjoined interior rooms were carefully and thoughtfully designed with columns, dropped tray and coffered ceilings, and custom baseboards and moldings around each window and door. Dawson notes that painted wood surfaces throughout the home were spray-painted to eliminate brush strokes.

Dawson chose Griffin because he said she understood his vision. “He is meticulous, and he knows what he wants,” says Griffin. One of the stand-out pieces within the home that she helped to design is a custom 12-foot-tall glistening glass chandelier with shimmering oyster shell-like disks. Cascading from the great room’s ceiling, the disks remind Dawson of oyster shells—another homage to history and the watermen in his extended Eastern Shore family. 

Everything in the home has a story or meaning, Dawson says. One of his favorite rooms is the cabaña right off the pool and deck, as it gives guests access to a private changing area and shower. The custom door into the cabaña, with its curved top and circular window, is a replica of a door he admired during his travels to Puerto Rico. The room also holds something else special to Dawson. Antique oyster cans rest atop what looks like reclaimed wood. That salvaged wood, Dawson says, was recovered from a Baltimore building built by enslaved people to hold enslaved men and women before auction. This is another reference to Dawson’s heritage; his father is of African and Cuban descent, while his biological mother was German. 

Dawson says that when he looks around his home, he marvels at how far he has come but never wants to forget his roots. His early years were spent in an Amish foster home in Lancaster, PA. But he credits the Baltimore family that adopted him with teaching him the importance of family and hard work. “I am blessed. I believe in God because I couldn’t have done this by myself.” 

The modern farmhouse seems like an ideal choice for Dawson, as it thoughtfully connects his past to his future.




ARCHITECTURE: Scott Allen, Allen and DeLalio Architects allendelalioarchitects.com

CUSTOM BUILDING: David Carlisle, Bayview Builders bayviewbuildersmd.com

INTERIOR DESIGN: Courtney Griffin, Interior Concepts, Inc. interiorconceptsinc.com


Furnishings & Fixtures:

Cabinetry – Jack Rosen Custom Kitchens
Built-ins – Hamilton Ross Millwork
Countertops and Tile – In Home Stone
Fireplaces – Bay Stoves
Pool – Coastal Pools
Great Room stainless steel canopy and lighting engineers – Century Lighting
Kitchen pendants, wine cellar chandelier, and exterior lighting – Visual Comfort & Co.
Glass sculpture light discs in the family room –  Tim McFadden of McFadden Art Glass
Dining room fixture – Hubbardton Forge
Primary Bedroom staggered chandeliers – Hudson Valley
Vanity in formal powder room – James Martin Vanities
Specialty handmade paper in powder room – Vahallan
Hardwood Flooring: Weekend Cottage, Engineered, Heirloom Grade floorboards – Carlisle Floors



Framing – Within an Eighth
Awnings – R&R Metals
Green Certification (GOLD Level) – Jay Hall & Associates
Electrical – Crue Electric
Tile Installation – Lowmans Tile
Mechanical – Bay Area Mechanical
Plumbing – Kamm Plumbing
Hardwood Flooring Installation – Elite Hardwood Floors
Windows – Marvin, American Cedar & Millwork
Interior Doors – Trustile, American Cedar & Millwork
Paint – Capital Coatings
Plumbing fixtures – Ferguson



© Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 14, No. 4 2023