River Idyll

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Cathy Purple Cherry conjures an Old World-style compound on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Meandering up to an agrarian property in Centreville, Maryland, a pea-gravel driveway intentionally sets an even slower pace. Visitors are meant to savor the pastoral scene along the way, as a majestic, multi-structure estate and wraparound water views magically unfold.

David Williams, a business investor, had dreamed of owning such a place for decades. Securing a 150-acre point of land on the Eastern Shore’s Chester River provided a great start. David and wife Kathryn, who reside in nearby Annapolis, then enlisted architect Cathy Purple Cherry to conceive a grand yet welcoming getaway. “The vision was to create a generational compound that would consist of various functions to support their family and friends for years to come,” reveals the architect.

Under her site plan, the main house anchors nine thoughtfully positioned outbuildings—a gatehouse, guest house, garage, party barn, carriage house, pottery studio, sheep shed, pool house and boathouse. Additionally, there’s a bespoke playhouse for the couple’s eight-year-old daughter and a growing gaggle of grandchildren. (David has four adult children from a previous marriage.)

As the husband imagined it, the principal abode would sit on a gentle rise overlooking the river. One hitch: The terrain was flat. “First we had to create a knoll within the horseshoe of the shoreline,” recounts Purple Cherry. The team, which included builder GYC Group and Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, undertook a colossal grading effort to raise the construction site by five feet.

David Williams also had in mind a romantic design concept, focused on making the new house appear old. “He was committed to a traditional, Georgian-style home, with a center core and flanking pieces so it would look like it evolved over time and grew as a multi-century home,” Purple Cherry relates. “The massing is my response. It’s a symmetrical layering of structures.”

A mix of exterior building materials bolsters the Old World aesthetic while respecting rural vernacular. The core’s white-painted brick transitions to horizontal lap siding, which, in turn, segues to vertical board and batten. “As you come away from the formal house, siding on the appendages breaks down the mass,” explains the architect, who specified durable fiber-cement products from James Hardie. “We blended Georgian architecture with farmhouse style.”

At 24,000 square feet, the main dwelling indulges the owners’ every programmatic wish. A library lies to the right of the front center hall and the dining room sits opposite. Two seating areas in the rear center core constitute the social hub. A den, the husband’s office and a billiards room with a bar occupy the right appendage. The butler’s pantry, kitchen, casual-dining area and mudroom are situated on the left. Purple Cherry positioned a stair at each end.

And bedrooms abound. The second floor comprises the primary suite and five more ensuite roosts, while the third floor houses his-and-her bunk rooms along with two other guest quarters. The lower level’s pièce de résistance is a brick dining/wine room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Oodles of glass usher in natural light and splendor. “This property has magnificent views, so we put glass in the right places to make those connections,” says Purple Cherry. Lining the main home’s core, transom-topped French doors also encourage al fresco living; they open onto a covered back veranda bookended by a pair of screened porches. Adds the architect, “There’s inside-outside engagement at all times.”

Campion Hruby developed a landscape plan to elevate that engagement while preserving much of the original tract, some of which is still farmed. “The idea was to ground the entire experience in the daily narrative of Eastern Shore living,” shares principal Kevin Campion, who collaborated with firm partner Meredith Beach on the project. “We created spaces where the agriculture and their lifestyle could exist in harmony. There are lots of places to gather, and that was really part and parcel to the overall theme of a family compound.”

Beach concurs, “Our goal was to connect the buildings through garden rooms and to create an experience as you move between those rooms. We wanted the garden to bleed out into the existing agricultural landscape.”

Linear brick pathways, lush lawn expanses and boxwood hedges provide structure to the waterfront’s formal upper garden. Other plantings, such as roses and Hameln fountain grass, soften the effect. The pool terrace rests a few steps below so as not to obstruct the scenic panorama.

Purple Cherry finished the interiors with cocooning architectural flourishes—from the living area’s coffered ceiling to the library’s built-in reading nooks. “Beautiful millwork and little delights were important to David,” she reveals. “We had this constant, symbiotic conversation that allowed us to create unique moments throughout. Layers of detail bring human scale and add texture to the big spaces.”

An exquisite level of customization also sets off the kitchen, with its handcrafted cabinetry that includes homeowner-requested double islands. A tailor-made pot rack with integrated pendant lights from Ann-Morris crowns one island. What’s more, a coffee station precisely frames a particular painting of a silver cup from the couple’s existing trove.

Finally, Purple Cherry and her design crew outfitted the spaces with an eye toward instilling refined comfort. Their schemes combine classic upholstered pieces and unfussy antiques. “The interiors are traditional blended with a little bit of coastal, mostly in the blues of the palette and some fun fabric patterns,” she notes. “To me, this is an incredibly approachable home.”

The architect documents the five-year journey to complete this peerless retreat in her forthcoming book, The Design of a Country Estate, to be released by Gibbs Smith in July 2024. Just as the owners envisioned, the compound often bustles with activity. Other times, it’s a soothing sanctuary. “David and Kathryn love being here,” reports Purple Cherry. “I’m so happy that the home embraces them in the way it does.”


Architecture & Interior Design: Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP, principal, Purple Cherry Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Builder: GYC Group, Westminster, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Kevin Campion, ASLA, principal; Meredith Beach, PLA, ASLA, principal, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Contractor: Chester River Landscaping, Chestertown, Maryland; and Planted Earth Landscaping, Inc., Sykesville, Maryland.

 



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