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Again to Nature – House & Design Mag

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A rustic-modern retreat on the Chester River forges a close connection to its wooded milieu

The yearning for authenticity spans continents and crosses cultures. It has settled gracefully into an understated property on the Eastern Shore’s Chester River. A spirit of humility prevails in this single-story take on a Chesapeake farmhouse, its vertical siding stained an earthy shade of brown that fades purposefully into the 100-plus-acre site. The project “was always intended to be a small-scale, comfortable second home that our clients could run away to from the city,” explains architect Cathy Purple Cherry. “They wanted this building to blend into the landscape.”

A New York City power couple, the owners had traveled the world—but fell in love with Chestertown, Maryland, more than five years ago. After finding the perfect site, they asked Purple Cherry to design a vacation home there that would reflect their shared aesthetic and values. It had to be sized for the two of them, with a modest presence and interiors that would support a vibrant collection of art, furnishings and books, as well as Asian Pacific artifacts acquired during wanderings abroad.

“Simplicity, smallness of scale, lack of pretense,” Purple Cherry says, ticking off the clients’ program for both architecture and interiors. “And, overarchingly, a very tight budget.”

Today, Nepalese wind chimes sound at the approach to the light-filled, 3,875-square-foot dwelling, which is set on a clearing parallel to and 100 feet back from the water. “One of my favorite aspects of the house is how the design thoughtfully blends in with its surroundings, truly bringing nature into every room and from every angle,” says the husband, a financial executive.

Purple Cherry arrived at the clean, modern spirit her clients had in mind via a restrained form consisting of three volumes. A bird’s-eye view reveals the house plan as a rectangle flanked by two identical squares topped with peaked roofs. “When you’re aiming for something simple and pure,” the architect observes, “symmetry makes for a more peaceful structure within the landscape.”

A visit begins at the east-facing front door, which opens into a 40-foot-long gallery with three points of entry into the 40-by-18-foot great room. The space neatly accommodates seating, cooking and dining for six under a beamed, white-painted ceiling rising to 16 feet. A wall of full-length windows looks west to the river through a 40-foot-long screened porch.

The gallery connects the central living space with two 30-foot-square “pods” at each end of the house. One contains the owners’ suite, featuring a fireplace in the bedroom, a pocket office separated by sliding barn doors, a small library and a laundry. The other wing holds two ensuite bedrooms—a home office now occupies one—plus a mudroom, walk-in closet, powder room and kitchen pantry.

Purple Cherry directed her interiors team to focus on quiet comfort rather than grand entertaining, in keeping with the owners’ desire for a private refuge. Says lead designer Annie Kersey, “The clients sought to combine their curated collection with a modern/minimalistic approach that feels natural and cozy while it draws your eye out to the water.”

In the great room, Kersey started with an existing coffee table and Oriental rug, then added soft goods in a palette shading from cream to gray. “We brought together the colors of the rug to make it the focal point,” she says. Furniture, rugs and textiles collected on the owners’ travels fill the primary suite.

In the kitchen, Crown Point Cabinetry under cabinets finished in Sherwin-Williams’ Classic French Gray frame Wolf, Sub-Zero and Asko appliances. A Remains Lighting Co. globe fixture and a backsplash of handcrafted, glazed-brick subway tiles from Waterworks nod to the residents’ New York ties. “The tiles are long, skinny and heavily pitted, so they’re a bit urban and modern-looking,” notes Kersey. Charcoal-gray grout provides contrast and relates to the dark gray, honed-soapstone perimeter countertop.

A precise budget led to cost-effective choices including asphalt shingles, prefabricated fireplaces and a patio of ipe wood rather than stone. Pared roof overhangs and minimal trim emphasize a clean-lined, modern aesthetic while inside, builder Pilli Custom Homes excelled at detailing—case in point, the distinctive square beams and boxed planks on the great room ceiling, which are set vertically to emphasize height.

Landscape architect D. Miles Barnard of South Fork Studio in Chestertown complemented the streamlined architecture with a restrained palette of ornamental grasses bordering the waterline and native shrubs planted around the house. He achieved all-season interest with chokeberry, clethra, summersweet, fothergilla, oakleaf hydrangea, inkberry, winterberry, Virginia sweetspire and Southern bayberry. A pair of Sweetbay magnolia trees graces the front entrance.

The heated, 14-foot-wide screened porch off the great room boasts a fireplace of stucco and rough stone. Jeld-Wen windows finished in Chestnut Bronze influenced both the trim color and furnishings selected by Kersey and team. The porch is a mainstay, making possible the kind of intimate evenings among close friends that the clients envisioned; at the same time, the easy indoor/outdoor connection makes the house expandable for larger events. “Porches are a lot about nighttime use,” notes Purple Cherry. “It’s not about the view, it’s about the camaraderie.”

Architecture: Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP, CAS, Purple Cherry Architects. Interior Design: Annie Kersey, Purple Cherry Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Builder: Guy Pilli, Pilli Custom Homes, Millersville, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: D. Miles Barnard, RLA, ASLA, South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture, Chestertown, Maryland.

 



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