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Can one truly return home? In his 20th-century classic You Can’t Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe says absolutely not. However, Bon Jovi, in his song “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” argues that you can, for here is where your core identity has been formed. Carolyn Callahan Keller and her husband Mark agree with Bon Jovi’s side of the argument.
By 2019, both of Carolyn’s parents had died, leaving behind their beloved home in Cove Creek Club on the Eastern Shore, a 6,000-square-foot rancher tucked into the verdant swells of a golf green on two acres of pristine waterfront. When she and Mark decided to buy the home, it was a joyous occasion. “This was the place everybody came. When we thought about selling it, it was sad. When I decided to buy it, everyone was thrilled,” she recalls.
At the time, Carolyn and Mark lived in Miami Beach, Florida, in a 9,500-square-foot oceanfront mansion filled with modern furnishings and contemporary art. At first, they planned to live in Cove Creek part-time, but after covid, they changed their minds. Miami had become “manic,” says Carolyn. On the Eastern Shore, she could “cross the Bay Bridge and exhale” and live minutes from her sister, daughter, and grandchildren. Living full-time at Cove Creek seemed the perfect antidote to “Ferraris and fancy restaurants,” notes Mark.
Initially, Carolyn told Mark that the house would be fine “as is.” However, he had a different plan. He had to deal with a family ghost: Carolyn’s father, Daniel J. Callahan III, former chairman of American Security Bank. The protective patriarch had never been fond of the free-wheeling investment entrepreneur who showed up and married his daughter, recalls Mark. He told Carolyn, “I have to make this my home. I don’t want to wake up and hear him in my dreams saying, ‘What are you doing in my house? I never liked you anyway.’ ”
Psychologically, Mark needed a fresh start. So, they turned to Lundberg Builders for an extensive remodel. General manager Eamon Seidel explains that they rebuilt the home on the same footprint but changed its configuration, adding 500 feet and relocating the primary bedroom to the northeast wing. Many new sustainable materials were used, including Hardie siding, Timber Tech decking, and Cambria countertops in the kitchen. Loewen windows replaced outdated sliding glass doors. What made the biggest difference, says Seidel, was removing all interior walls and beams and lifting the ceilings—some of which rise as high as 18 feet. The house looks almost reborn but with a Miami personality: dark floors, mahogany walls, and heavy beams have been replaced by white walls, sleek furnishings, and air.
The couple’s contemporary art collection from their Miami home drives the interior design. Carolyn painted walls and ceilings in warm whites to better highlight the bold mix of contemporary paintings, prints, and sculptures that charge the atmosphere with joy. Even the floors are white porcelain, which resembles white oak but is more durable. “We definitely brought back some of our Miami vibe, our Florida vibe. But it is still very soft; the art is fun. My house makes me smile; it makes me happy. There is not any room that is gloomy when you go in… Every room is bright,” says Carolyn.
Along with the art, a grand piano and designer furnishings from Miami draw the eye. These include two glass tables with gold accents by Michael Dawson, a yellow Roberto Cavalli chair, and two pink chairs in the primary bedroom by Ligne Roset. The “Big Ass Fan” (yes, that is its name) is composed of some mixed metals. “It is a little bit of drama, something to make you look at the ceiling,” says Carolyn.
This home’s interior lighting makes this home especially unique. There are very few overhead fixtures. Instead, recessed lighting runs the length of the house and is subtly reflected by white floors, ceilings, and walls.
With surround sound, the ambiance is spa-like. As notes of classical music sift through the air, visitors may find themselves adrift in a cloud of white, with gleaming floors below and creamy ceilings that seem to vanish overhead.
In this sea of calm, Mark, a master chef and sommelier, cooks and entertains in the large double kitchen. Carolyn practices yoga, hosts family, and operates Ebeauty Community, a nonprofit she founded in 2010. Its mission is to provide free wigs to cancer patients, with over 100,000 donated to those in need. A two-time breast cancer survivor, Carolyn is glad to be alive and to give back. She finds strength and peace from staring at the same waters and views that captivated her parents. “The fact that it was in my family gives me some real pride—that we’ve kept it, improved upon it, but also stayed true to their vision from 40-odd years ago.”
She still feels her mother’s presence, especially in a clump of Birds of Paradise, with 6-foot stalks topped with brilliant orange blooms. Though only grown in greenhouses in our region, this exotic plant rises from the ground every spring. “My mother planted these a hundred years ago. She’s still here,” says Carolyn.
When walking Grace and Sir Winston, her standard poodles, she often visits with neighbors who know her and who remember her parents. These connections, woven upon an invisible loom, form a quilt of care. For Carolyn, family and the Cove Creek community are what “home” is truly about. In the end, Carolyn and Mark have proved Wolfe wrong. They have indeed returned home and made it even better.
Custom Builder: Eamon Seidel, Lundberg Builders, Stevensville, Maryland
For information about the Ebeauty Community, visit ebeauty.com.
© Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 14, No. 6 2023