Architecture of the Shore
HOUSES FROM EACH MID-SHORE COUNTY THAT REFLECT THE PERSONALITY OF THEIR LOCATION
TALBOT | MCINTURFF HOME
Story by Danae Spiering // Photos submitted by Julia Heine/McInturff Architects
The roof is perhaps the key design element and determining factor in the overall look and structure of Mark McInturff’s Neavitt home.
Nestled among tall pines, cattails, marsh grass, and quaint seaside cottages stands a unique cedar-clad modern dream home. Complete with a rooftop pool and an endless supply of water views, architect Mark McInturff’s house in Neavitt not only embraces the Eastern Shore’s picturesque scenery, but it showcases the easy, breezy lifestyle the Shore knows so well.
An architect by trade, Mark knows a few things about design, scale, and the hustle and bustle of city life. Most of his time is spent in his office and primary home in Bethesda.
“Someone once said, ‘When building a vacation home, it should be different than your house — somewhere to get away — and I think that is a very good point,” Mark said.
That theory was his inspiration when building his Neavitt home. In Bethesda, his home is more traditional, less minimalistic, and near his architectural firm. He stays in work mode while there. But in crossing the Bay Bridge, he said he is able to leave that world behind and focus more on recharging his batteries.
“When I cross that bridge, I can relax,” Mark said. “It is healthy for me, it’s like I can exhale.” While he does have a drafting table and work space cut out in his vacation home, he said it is not like working in the city — “Even (work here) is relaxing.”
His two homes seem a world apart, much like the focus he keeps within them.
It’s here on the Shore, among the hum of boats, waves, and wildlife that he finds a place to recharge his batteries and break away from the hustle and bustle of the western shore.
“Out here is very different — clean lines, open views. It is the perfect winter and summer house,” Mark said.
Mark describes his summer getaways in the house.
“Swimming on the roof, overlooking the water is pretty fabulous. You’re 40 feet up in the air. You can see a lot of the Eastern Shore from 40 feet,” Mark said. “This house is definitely a family-friends thing. It is great for relaxing, paddling, and just having a beer on the roof.”
The roof is perhaps the key design element and determining factor in the overall look and structure of the home.
“I knew I had wanted a swimming pool on the roof, so the house is kind of like a tube of toothpaste,” Mark said. “You squeeze the tube and it ends up coming out of the top.”
Due to the weight of the pool, and gallons upon gallons of water, Mark had to use a lot of steel, which led to the overall modern design and strength of the home.
While the rooftop and the pool are his coveted spot in the summer, Mark finds solace during the long winter nights in front of his cozy fireplace. He said his house serves as a constant year-round retreat.
Other factors went into the overall finished look of the home, including being limited to the lot’s original home’s footprint. Even though the lot was empty when Mark purchased it years ago, the foundation of the former home still was present.
Unable to expand outward, up seemed like a natural solution. So Mark reached for the sky and designed his three-story sanctuary.
He said, at first, the neighbors had mixed reviews about the modern, boxy structure, but, “By adding the cedar shake exterior — which is very traditional, and has since weathered, it is blending. It is not like other houses around it, but I think it fits in. Now I think it is just part of the town,” he said.
QUEEN ANNE’S | PETER HOME
Story by Katie Willis // Photos by Caroline J. Phillips
When Carolina Peter found her and her husband’s home, set near the Wye River, it was listed as a foreclosure, and it needed a lot of love. Carolina said the home and its renovations have been “a fun little endeavor as newlyweds in this season of life.”
Carolina and Dylan Peter are high school sweethearts. Having gotten engaged in college, the couple purchased their home on Bennett Point Road, in the Governor Grason Manor 1 neighborhood in Queenstown, in December 2015. They moved in after returning from college in Massachusetts, in summer 2015.
When Carolina found their home, set near the Wye River, it was listed as a foreclosure, and it needed a lot of love, she said. Although the listing said the home was built in 1970, it appears after some research on Carolina’s part, that that was when the addition was built onto the house — a master bedroom and living room — but not when the main part of the home was built. She said that still remains a mystery, although she and her husband believe it to be the former carriage house for Governor William Grason.
She said there also was a Grason family farmhouse on the property at some point, but it no longer is there. However, there is a historical grave marker located in the back yard of their neighbors house, which stands where Grason’s farm house once was, that could offer some clues to the property’s history.
Today, the home, with its low ceilings, has evolved into a do-it-yourself masterpiece. Dylan is a marine engineer, who in the early part of homeownership, would have to ship out for three weeks at a time. Carolina began an Instagram account, “My Three Week Fix,” to document the DIY and renovation of their first home.
“I was trying to stay busy while he was away,” Carolina said. “He works landside now. He helps with a lot of projects, he’s very handy. He has that engineer brain.”
Carolina said Dylan taught himself a lot of the aspects of the renovation projects, including building built-in storage, adding outside lights and adding recessed lighting to brighten up the rooms. They recently took the drywall ceiling down in the dining room, to get to the exposed beams, and later added in a false wooden ceiling. This past summer, they hand painted the entire outside of the home.
When they first moved into the home, Carolina said it was livable, but they wanted to make it more their style. She said when they moved in, one of the rooms had tropical-style wallpaper with monkeys on it.
The hardest part about owning an old home?
“Every room requires a little extra TLC. You can’t just go in and paint a room. You have to fix some trim that’s uneven, or there’s weird electrical wires. Nothing’s even,” Carolina said.
She said an old house has a lot of quirks, and because it is not a new build, much of the renovations have to be done piecemeal.
“We wanted to keep the integrity of the house and let those quirks show through because that’s what we fell in love with,” Carolina said.
She said one of her favorite quirks of the house is, “the whole upstairs has these adorable little old doors with dark hardware.” She said there also are a host of built-in drawers and cabinets.
“All these little spaces that they made the best use of,” Carolina said. “Dylan and I are a little quirky anyway, so this house kind of fits us. It lets our creativity shine through. I couldn’t see us in a new build. I think we secretly love (the quirkiness of our home).”
Carolina said the home and its renovations have been “a fun little endeavor as newlyweds in this season of life.”
“I feel very blessed that we have this opportunity. We bought this as 23-year-olds. Not every 23-year-old gets this opportunity,” she said.
DORCHESTER | SINGER HOME
Story by Katie Willis // Photos by Caroline J. Phillips
“You hear so many horror stories about building. But in our case, we were fortunate enough to find an architecture firm that truly listened, a general contractor who built the home as if it were his own, and an interior design team that made it all come together,” Paula Singer said. “The chemistry was exceptional and the result was a home we love and feel blessed to have.”
Located along the Choptank River in Cambridge is a little more than 8 acres of land, interspersed with a diversity of ecosystems — a beautiful view and access to the Choptank, lovely beaches, and a pond formerly home to a terrapin farm. And on this little slice of heaven also sits the home of Curt and Paula Singer.
“One of the things that attracted us to the property was the many ecosystems,” Paula said.
The Singers purchased the property in 2004 and began building their home in 2008. Paula said when she and Curt began dating, he promised her he would build her her dream home — one overlooking a river. Thirty years later, she said, he delivered.
“We were high school sweethearts,” Paula said. “The journey of saving and planning for (our home) was exciting.”
Paula said it wasn’t just a sense of accomplishment when they finished building their home in 2010, but also the realization of a dream.
“To have a gathering place — the house is filled between Memorial Day and Labor Day — realized our hopes for having immediate and extended family enjoy time together and stay close,” Paula said.
Paula said she and her husband hired some of the finest professionals available for the project; Gary Smith became their general contractor; Hammond Wilson, their architect; and Kristin Peake, their interior designer.
“It was a wonderful experience, marvelous. Not the disaster experience that everyone warns you about,” Paula said.
Paula said she has been scrapbook-designing homes since she was 10. She and her husband have renovated properties before, and they own rental properties, so the process of building and designing a new home was not entirely new to them.
“We think that’s fun. Our experience helped us to have high but realistic expectations. Because we understood the process, I think we were able to be good customers, too — clear with our needs and desires, and willing to let the experts do what they do best in helping us realize our vision,” Paula said.
She said they also wanted to be good neighbors.
“We wanted to be careful and conscious of the views that the neighbors had enjoyed for years before we bought the property,” Paula said.
In being conscious of their neighbors, they placed their home in a different spot than originally intended, so as not to affect, and help to preserve, their neighbors’ views of the Choptank River.
When choosing their architect, they chose Hammond Wilson because they appreciated the kinds of homes he designed, saying he paid homage to the “traditional style they enjoy, giving close attention to every architectural detail, and ensuring the result not only looked beautiful, but felt beautiful too.”
“He understood we were not trying to build some big, ornate house. What we wanted was a home with timeless elegance and an atmosphere of welcome and warmth,” Paula said.
She said she and Curt were looking for a home that was reminiscent of the Nantucket style, with detailed woodworking and ceilings, and lots of windows.
“The details of the moldings, door trim, gambrills, and built-ins are architecturally stunning, but subtle, so you’re not overwhelmed. It has elegance, but also comfort. To us, it is a home that is both unique and warm,” Paula said.
What they got was exactly what they wanted, Paula said, and she agreed it was because of the way she and her husband, who were very involved in the process of building their home, were cohesively able to work with Smith, Wilson, and Peake.
“That foursome of voices, and the collaboration between the three professionals was wonderful. There was a melody of expertise that came together in a very nice tune,” Paula said.
She said, although there is something special about every room, then music room gets the largest smile out of her. Whereas the rest of the home is in more cool, blue tones, the music room, located over the garage has splashes of yellow, giving it a versatility to its enjoyment. With its beautiful ceilings, large expanse of windows and carefully crafted built-ins the room is particularly inviting — the perfect space to listen to albums, play guitar or piano, work on puzzles, or even host public or personal events.
“It personifies what I was hoping to get in the house,” Paula said.
“You hear so many horror stories about building. But, in our case, we were fortunate enough to find an architecture firm that truly listened, a general contractor who built the home as if it were his own, and an interior design team that made it all come together, Paula said. “The chemistry was exceptional and the result was a home we love and feel blessed to have.”
CAROLINE | TURNBRIDGE POINT
Story by Connie Connolly // Photos by Caroline J. Phillips
Built in 1868 and originally a two-story home, the third story and distinctive mansard roof were added in 1890. Now a 13-room inn, it boasts a wide, inviting front porch with two more on either side.
The Second Empire Victorian overlooking the Choptank River in Denton’s historic district drew Steve Konopelski and Rob Griffith to Turnbridge Point, 119 Gay St., but once inside, the original woodwork, pine floors, stained glass windows, doors, hardware and curved, three-story staircase, captured their hearts — and imaginations.
“This house had everything we were looking for,” Konopelski said. “Originally, we wanted something more secluded, with some acreage (for our bed and breakfast inn), but once we walked outside and saw the backyard — and there is this feeling of seclusion in the back of the property — it ticked all the boxes.”
They purchased the house in 2014. Built in 1868, and originally a two-story home, the third story and distinctive mansard roof were added in 1890. Now a 13-room inn, it boasts a wide, inviting front porch with two more on either side.
Originally from rural Saskatchewan, Canada, Konopelski is a former Broadway dancer and performer who retired from the stage and became an award-winning pastry chef. He set up his bakery in the back of the inn, while Griffith, a patent attorney who telecommutes to his firm on Long Island, N.Y., has an office at the inn overlooking the river. Their home is the carriage house behind Turnbridge Point.
What drew them to Denton also is what attracts guests to the inn.
“We want it to look great when you walk in the door, but we want you to feel like you’re home,” Griffith said.
The parlor on the right of the entrance foyer is the most traditional room, with matching Victorian wing chairs bought at a local antiques store. But the “fainting chaise” in the center of the space has contemporary lines and fabric.
“We tried to offset heavily antiqued furniture with something contemporary,” Griffith said.
“We didn’t want chintz, and doilies, and chenille, and creepy porcelain dolls,” Steve said. “It is a Victorian house, so why not pay homage to the Victorian parlor?”
“The color palette was deliberately chosen because we wanted to have this nod to nautical, and coastal, and beachy without slapping you in the face with anchors, and rope, and starfish, and crabs everywhere,” Konopelski said.
The library on the other side of the foyer is a blend of traditional and contemporary, as well. A leather chair, tufted linen couch, and contemporary rug rest comfortably in the 19th-century space. On the walls are framed posters of the Broadway musicals in which Konopelski has appeared.
The rich colors in the stained glass panels that surround many of the windows form the motif for the muted hues in the inn’s five bedrooms, each named for former owners of the house.
Throughout the inn, six large contemporary paintings by Rob Brownlee-Tomasso accentuate the space, topped by nearly 12-foot ceilings on each floor.
The bolder, rich, deep red in the dining room picks up one of the colors in the stained glass panels.
“We didn’t even know stained glass windows were in the dining room,” Konopelski said. He said they tore down every inch of toile to reveal the distinctive windows. White wainscoting and crown moulding and a trio of large, contemporary paintings of local birds by Brownlee-Tomasso complement the dramatic effect.
Outside, guests can stroll to the pergola-covered patio down to the sandy beach to lounge in Adirondack chairs and enjoy a view of the river and the old railroad bridge turnstile from which the inn derives its name.
“It’s very cute and charming, relaxed and quiet,” Konopelski said. “We get a lot of people who want a quiet, rural setting, just to get away.”
For more information, visit turnbridgepoint.com.
KENT | WILLIAMSON HOME
Story by Denae Spiering // Photos by Caroline J. Phillips
“This house has been a learning experience for all of us. The kids learned that not everything is perfect, not everything has to be new, and, most importantly, they learned how to do stuff,” Trena Williamson said.
In the heart of downtown Chestertown lies a house full of history, challenges, and love. Built in the late 1800s, the home of Trena and Kirk Williamson has had its fair share of “diets” over the years.
“You just kind of marvel at the weight of the wood and the size of the nails that they used, and just kind of say — ‘Wow,’” Trena said. “That has been the most fun, to take stuff down and to see how things were built.”
Once standing in full Victorian-era garb complete with a wrap around front porch, large bay windows, German shiplap outer-shell, and plaster-covered walls throughout, to its now sleeker cedar shake exterior, dry wall interior, and custom built-in shelving, the house has undergone major renovations.
Kirk bought the home in 1992, and had done minimal work until he married Trena.
Realizing their century-plus old home did not quite meet the needs of their family of five, the gutsy couple began to renovate the old girl room by room. With Kirk serving as handyman and Trena being the caulker and painter, the can-do couple have become experts in showcasing the past while embracing the needs of the present.
“In the summer of 2001, we really started the major renovations,” Trena said. “We did the entire third floor, creating two bedrooms and an open landing area for the kids’ den.”
As the couple moved from room to room, floor to floor, they made sure to save the architectural details of the home. From antique fire place tiles, which required some quick thinking and salvage shopping, to the replication of perfectly carved, scalloped woodwork.
“One of the things I love most about my house is the scallop pattern in the moldings,” Trena said. “We had our builder replicate it throughout the home — wherever we added storage or a built-in. It helps those items to look original — you wouldn’t know it wasn’t.”
The renovation has taken years to complete, and hasn’t always been easy.
“Nothing is ever square. We just kind of look at each other and think, ‘What in the world?’ It is the frustrating part, and yet the charming part, as well. We learn and laugh with every room we do.”
Living in an old home requires give-and-take, along with a little ingenuity. But what it gives in return is something that cannot be found in a newly built home.
“It takes a special kind of person. You have to be the right kind of people to love an older home. It is not for everyone,” Trena said. “You’re going to have dust, and things not going to be square, but you have to work with the house as much as it works with you. There is nothing like an old house — you feel so safe in it. You know it has been here this long, through storms and anything else over the years, and will continue to be as long as it is cared for.”
Now that the couple’s kids are grown and all but one has moved out, they have considered hanging up their hard hats for a simpler life, one without the aches and pains of an older home.
But, Trena said, “The closer I get to that, I just cant imagine doing it. This house keeps us busy.”
She said the more they see, the more they do, and they always are asking themselves what is next on the list.
“It is in our nature to tinker. Even if we bought new, we would find projects,” Trena said. “So, why not stay where we have made memories and done so much work?”
Trena’s most memorable renovation was that of the dining room ceiling.
“When we pulled down the ceiling, we noticed that someone had signed and dated it,” Trena said. “Our kids just thought that was awesome. So when we hung the new drywall, we all signed the back, and that was really cool.”
Trena said the home has been a lesson in patience.
“This house has been a learning experience for all of us. The kids learned that not everything is perfect, not everything has to be new, and, most importantly, they learned how to do stuff,” Trena said.