Mystique on the South River

By Kymberly Taylor | Photography by Erik Kvalsvik

 

 

Many people, when building a home, start by finding an architect and then interview builders and interior designers to assemble their A-team. This is not the case with a young couple nicknamed Bob and Alice. Bob, a sailor and tech executive, and Alice, titan-haired with a folder overflowing with ideas, were embarking on a new life together. They needed a home big enough to house their combined families–four daughters and a new baby. 

They fell in love with a home on Monterey Avenue in Annapolis with exquisite crown moldings and hand-milled trim. Unfortunately, it was no longer for sale. However, the builder–Lynbrook of Annapolis–was available. If anyone could bring to life the home that lived in their imaginations, Lynbrook could, say Alice and Bob. “We had never seen a home like that. Most people find an architect first and have a home designed to their liking; we did it backward and found the builder first.”

After many discussions, they hired Lynbrook in 2018, even before purchasing the property. Co-founder and senior vice president Bryan Beauchemin took the lead and paired them with Vincent Greene Architecture and Catherine M. Lowe, Interior Planning & Design. 

Lynbrook chose well. “Lynbrook paired us up with professionals that fit our personalities… I am hardly low-key,” says Alice. She needed someone she could trust. After all, in this home—their first and hopefully their last—things had to be very special. The point was to avoid the “brand new” feeling often somewhat inescapable in first homes. “I wanted to fill the house with older pieces and interesting pieces and not brand new everything,” she says. “We wanted the feel of a much older family home.” 

Greene designed a home that speaks to the New England shingle-style. Completed in 2022, the abode is situated at a 45-degree angle to the water to respect the footprint of the pre-existing structure. With stately eaves, gables, and a lush landscape by McHale Landscape Design, it exudes an unusual mystique that carries through to the interior. 

Alice and Bob planned all along to bypass sprawling designer showrooms and create a home filled with conversation pieces and unusual furnishings. “Found objects help you get into that mood of exploration…. We wanted it to seem as if we traveled the world and brought all these treasures back,” says Alice, who envisioned an interior inspired by the 18th-century British-Colonial era, when travelers began to explore the world and bring back fascinating objects. 

Lowe encouraged Alice and Bob’s imaginations to soar. They visited antique stores in Frederick. Alice scoured boutique consignment sites such as Chairish and 1stDibs. Everything you see in this home has either been mindfully chosen or happened upon and seized with delight. These are the things that make an interior come alive. “Everyone’s home is their own theatre… it’s their set design,” explains Lowe. “I work to bring that to life.”  

To walk through this home is to stroll through the living theatre of Bob and Alice’s lives. For instance, one steps down to the Wednesday Room, a sundrenched space overlooking South River, with window walls that retract to create an open-air porch. The space pays tribute to the couple’s dating phase. Soon after they met, they raced Bob’s sailboat on Wednesday nights, a long-standing Annapolis tradition. Afterward, as is the custom, they hung out with friends and crew to unwind. 

The living room that adjoins the Wednesday Room is a bit more formal. This serene deep space has high ceilings and gleaming mahogany floors. Crown molding and thick dark beams grace the living room ceiling, where Lynbrook embedded heat and air conditioning vents. The fireplace in the living room, composed of Savannah brick, reflects Alice’s Southern roots. Their decision to go with dark floors met with some resistance. “Our realtor said dark floors are really out right now. I said, ‘Well, we’ll have to wait until they come back in,’” recalls Alice. 

They had the same issue when choosing travertine flooring, resisting the proverbial wisdom that travertine tiles would absorb heat. “We stayed with our choice. Travertine is cool to the touch; we brought that idea back from the Caribbean, where it is all over the place,” says Bob.  

An air of mystery drifts through these spaces, about the barrel chairs and the 18th-century piano whose ivory keys emit an other-worldly patina. Many stories will remain untold, such as those captured in the antique tobacco chest Bob inherited from his grandfather, with drawers still redolent with aging tobacco leaves. The chest is situated in his office, a dark-paneled masculine space overlooking the water so Bob can check the wind on race days. Lowe drew the built-ins and custom cabinetry, which were built by master woodworker Donald Bayne of Bayne’s Quality Custom Furniture. 

In the kitchen, the same Savannah bricks that are in the living room frame the range in the kitchen. “I wanted these to be the cornerstones of the house; they continue up to the master bath on the second floor,” says Alice. The nautical scene on the backsplash is created from hand-painted Delft tiles, prized for their Dutch lineage dating back to the 1600s. To locate them, Alice bypassed a Delft tilemaker in Michigan and reached out to a shopkeeper in Amsterdam to obtain them at three-quarters of the cost.  

From the kitchen, one steps into a formal dining room with an antique spool chest with tiny drawers that once held silk thread and sewing notions used for dressmaking. An entire wall is dominated by wallpaper featuring elephants within an East-Asia landscape, hand-painted by Paris-based de Gournay. “I saw this somewhere and just had to have it,” says Alice. “I really love elephants.”

To progress through these spaces is exciting: a journey into a museum of lost things. Indeed, what this home has to offer is quite rare–the joy of discovery. For example, seven secret doors spring open to reveal hidden passageways, reading nooks, and crannies. Upon pressing an invisible latch in a wall panel in the foyer, a coat closet appears. Another secret door is situated behind a mirror in a bedroom, another behind a closet where a secret passageway appears. Yet another in the master bedroom opens to the nursery. 

Beauchemin notes that hidden doors are a part of Lynbrook’s custom repertoire. “Whether you are 12 or 52, you are excited to walk through that door and see what is on the other side. Especially if it is a secret. It is a characteristic thing that makes a house a home,” he says. “You get excited for the challenge of building a secret door. You think about it all the time. You wake up in the middle of the night and think, Maybe this particular hinge will work within this particular application…. 

One of his priorities was to ensure the home had a “clean flow” without clumsy transitions between rooms. He explains that often, one flooring material is thicker than another. Many builders solve this problem by building a threshold to create a transition between the two uneven planes. Not Lynbrook. “We flush out our floors, so the hardwood meets the tile, so there is no need to build a threshold,” he explains. “This takes foresight, communication with civil and structural engineers, and planning.” 

With its seamless flowing spaces, the home is ideal for entertaining; often, the couple hosts parties on the waterfront lawn. Alice will pause on an upper balcony to survey the scene. “I come up and stand right here, looking out to make sure my guests are having a good time,” she says. From this perch, she can pinpoint the person who may need another drink, a plate of food, or an intervention of some kind. 

This approximately 6,500-square-foot home is Platinum Leeds Certified, meaning that every aspect—from the furnace right down to the shade-scape by McHale Landscape—is designed to cause the least possible harm to nature, earth, and air. And there is something natural, wild, and free in these curated, thoughtful spaces. The child within is set at ease by friendly windows framing sky and water and encouraged to dream in secret reading nooks and raid the guest room, where the drawers are always stocked with candy. 

Guarding each dream, each memory, and the present moment, is Polly, the Labrador retriever, and perhaps the gentle elephants in the dining room. They are so very lifelike. If this home is a living theatre, it is not hard to imagine them lumbering slowly off the wall and through the house at night, listening with their great grey ears, checking the latches with their trunks. They will be back in place by morning, these gentle creatures that never forget.

 

 

ARCHITECT: Vincent Greene Architects, vgarchitect.com, Baltimore, Maryland  |  BUILDER: Lynbrook of Annapolis, lynbrookofannapolis.com, Annapolis, Maryland | INTERIOR DESIGNER: Catherine M. Lowe, ASID, Interior Planning & Design, interiorpd.com, Annapolis, Maryland | LANDSCAPE: McHale Landscape Design, mchalelandscape.com, Upper Marlboro, Maryland | FURNITURE & DÉCOR SOURCES: Chairish, Chairish.com; 1stDibs, 1stdibs.com; DINING ROOM WALLPAPER: de Gournay, degournay.com; MURAL ABOVE THE STAIR: Cindy Fletcher-Holden, Baltimore, Maryland

 

 

© Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 4 2022