Spacious at Minimum Square Footage

Spacious at Minimum Square Footage

By Dylan Roche  |  Photography by Steve Buchanan


“Sometimes the smallest projects are the hardest projects…
[The homeowners] have the same needs as a 6,000-square-foot house.”

  Jonathan Rivera, Architect


Take a walk through the waterfront home that Jonathan Rivera designed for Ryan and Candace Walterhoefer, and you might be surprised to learn the entire house encompasses only 1,976 total square feet of living space. As Rivera describes it, the house “lives big.” Although the redesign sits on roughly the same footprint as the original single-story house that once stood on the lot, it feels spacious and comfortable, suited for busy family life and welcoming for visits from friends. “Sometimes the smallest projects are the hardest projects,” Rivera says. “Because
you really need to fit stuff in. They have the same needs as a 6,000-square-foot house.”

The lot boasts a breathtaking view of the Severn River, but with this ideal location came a few challenges. The steep slope in the back and underground septic in the front meant the house could take up only so much space. Additionally, Anne Arundel County codes limit improvement to no more than 50% of the original square footage. Rivera recognized that these factors meant he couldn’t expand very far in any direction. Nevertheless, he resolved to redesign it in a way that wouldn’t feel cramped or too confined. 

Thus, creativity and ingenuity were necessary. In collaboration with builder Al Procopio of Procopio Homes, Rivera rose to the challenge. From the outside, the house maintains a traditional aesthetic. The symmetrical two-sided gambrel roof is sloped on the sides, creating extra space for a second floor. The front door opens into a foyer where hallways on either side lead to the bathroom on the right and the main staircase on the left. This entry is the first of several surprising elements of the home’s layout. “One thing you do not expect in a house of this size is to enter from the front door into a formal vestibule,” Procopio says. “This is my favorite element of the home, as it gives the home the feeling of a ‘center hallway’-designed home that you typically see in larger scale homes.”

The vestibule leads directly into the main living space, an open layout where a vast span of floor-to-ceiling glass overlooks the river. This space, comprising the kitchen and family room, feels spacious and airy thanks to the abundance of natural light and interior designer Courtney Mullen’s use of clean white throughout. Coastal shades of blue in the throw pillows and window treatments lend interest to the space, as do the coastal charm of the rattan and wood elements and the brushed gold on the light fixtures and kitchen plumbing. These accents add texture, shine, and sophistication, creating an ambiance that is elegant and upscale, while still feeling relaxing and laid back.

The practical use of limited space—something Rivera describes as “the theme of the house”—continues beyond the main level to the upstairs. Transom windows over each bedroom door allow natural light to pass through the entire second floor, and backband trim lends a majestic flair to the tasteful simplicity.

The home’s coastal aesthetic draws inspiration from the single feature of the property that remains untouched by the renovation—a boathouse out back at the end of their private pier. An architectural element built long before modern county codes imposed restrictions, the grandfathered-in structure provides living and entertaining space out on the water, an extension of the rest of the home.

Creating this “small space, big living” redesign presented several challenges beyond the smart use of the square footage. Not only did the build process have to fit in a tight, contained space, but the narrow winding road leading up to it restricted vehicular access, and the small lot left little room for parking. From the delivery of materials to pouring the concrete for the foundation, the combination of factors called for precise planning, resulting in the process taking several months longer than it typically would, according to Procopio.

Despite the challenges that Rivera and Procopio faced in creating the house, they agree the finished product lacks any kind of constraint. The Walterhoefers’ growing family needed a home that felt large, even if it was built on a small footprint. This little gem might be only 1,976 square feet, but it still offers all the upscale living of a home twice or thrice that size. 



Jonathan Rivera Architecture,

Albert Procopio, Procopio Homes,

Courtney Mullen,

Woodworking by Design,

Ben Rankin, Walnut Hill Landscape Company,

Appliances Distributors Unlimited (ADU),

Vintage Security,

Brady Christian, Chesapeake Pier & Pile LLC,

Deshaies Electric,

The L & L Company,

Fireside Hearth & Home,

Cool Breeze,

Build with Ferguson,

Progress 21,

Thomas Somerville,

Choice Companies,

Pella Windows & Doors of Annapolis,

Addie Designs,

Jose Villatoro, (@jv_wallpaper)



© Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 14, No. 5 2023