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Chesapeake Home - December 2001
By Mary E. Medland
Photography by Anne Gummerson

Jana and Jim Carey knew precisely what they wanted: a house on the water, a first-floor that included a master bedroom suite, an outdoor pool, a pier, an attached garage, and a kitchen that looked out onto the water.

“The first view we had of this property was from the water,” says Mrs. Carey. “We loved the land, which overlooks the Severn River and the Naval Academy, but not the 1950s-style rancher that went with it.”

Still, they decided to take a second look. The property had most of what they wanted and great potential. And, the view to the water was magnificent.

Because the property is on a critical area, stringent regulations made obtaining a swimming pool permit key in deciding to purchase the property. As viewed from the Naval Academy, the property boasts magnificent landscaping and a home with architecture reminiscent of the older houses on Nags Head.

Having renovated a 1920s bungalow in Severna Park, the couple called in Robert Hammond, A.I.A., of Annapolis-based Hammond Wilson Architects, P.C., to put forth his opinion. Could certain traits from the bungalow be incorporated with their other requirements on this particular site? Could they retain the character of the bungalow with the newer amenities they required?

“I looked at several waterfront properties with the Careys and gave them advice about what I thought could be done with each,” says Hammond. “What decided them on this house was, of course, the view and the neighborhood, plus the fact that they thought they could get a permit for a swimming pool.”

Because the property is on a critical area, there are stringent regulations for any development within 1,000 feet of the shoreline and, according to Hammond, even more stringent regulations for the first 100 feet from the shore.

Consequently, it was not until after the Careys had the necessary permits for a swimming pool actually in hand that they settled on the property. And, two years later, what they came up with was a spectacular, but understated abode that has very little resemblance to the rancher they first saw from the river.

“We wanted the house to have character to it, to have things flow together and to be comfortable along with a degree of elegance,” says Mrs. Carey, who adds that the model they drew upon borrowed much from the older houses on Nags Head. “We wanted something that was very open to the water.”

The main hallway on the home’s first level connects the all-on-one-floor-living area, which includes a formal living and dining area, the kitchen and family room, a mudroom or flower-arranging room, the powder room and the master bedroom suite.

As much as possible, they wanted to take advantage of the water view, to have a house that would accommodate overnight guests and family, and would lend itself to frequent entertaining.

To that end, the Careys assembled a team that included Hammond, interior designer Mona Hajj, contractor Steve Lacey of West River Builders, and landscape architect Gay Crowther. “At first we met with the team every two weeks or so,” says Mrs. Carey. “But as things got closer to completion, the meetings became weekly.”

The planning process itself probably ran between four to six months. “The contractor, Steve Lacey, gave us ideas that would cut down on costs and make the house easier to build,” says Mrs. Carey.

As the Careys had to get a permit for a swimming pool, landscape architect Crowther also had to cope with county regulations. “It was a challenge working within a critical area and working with such steep slopes,” says Crowther. “There was a nasty old retaining wall with railroad ties that were failing, and getting a grading scheme and reinforcing the existing wall with fieldstone was a lot of work.”

“Getting the garden completed was a major feat,” says Hammond. “The entire landscape was reconfigured.” But the result is a riot of flowers reminiscent of Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny, a spot that had made a deep impression on the couple. From the pool area just outside the house, there is a gradual descent to the water, broken by a mid-level lawn and garden.

On the ground level, twenty-four foot-wide sliding glass doors open to the swimming pool – the space is relatively informal inviting one to walk in from the pool area barefoot.

“The Careys are a very knowledgeable couple when it comes to plants and gardens, plus they have a very good design sense,” says Crowther. “We planted perennials with the intent of having big masses of flowering materials, including hydrangea, crepe myrtle, hollyhocks, lilacs, and lavender – but since it is very hot because of the exposure, we also planted trees and established a modified reforestation.”

Inside, the 8,000-square-foot house is arranged on three levels. The ground floor is a relatively informal area, the place where the couple does much of its entertaining, a spot where one can walk in from the pool area barefoot. Twenty-four foot-wide sliding glass doors open to the swimming pool and its mahogany deck, the latter of which is a nod to county regulations. (Wood, for instance, is pervious, allowing water to seep through the cracks, while rock is not. The house’s driveway also uses a paving material – concrete pavement with holes to allow water through – which acts to increase the permeable area.)

Also on the ground floor are a kitchen, theater, screened-in porch, and an area for storing wine. When the Careys are hosting a catered affair, the caterers can drive their trucks into the first-floor garage and offload trays to an elevator, which delivers food to the ground floor entertainment space. “We originally thought of a dumb waiter between the first and ground floor, but decided to have an elevator for the entire house because we expect to be here for a long time,” says Mrs. Carey.

In addition to entertaining, this floor is also a working part of the house. There is an office for each – he is a retired physician, she is an attorney – an exercise room, and a laundry area.

Upstairs, on the first level, is the couple’s all-on-one-floor-living area. Here one finds the heart of the house: a more formal living and dining area, kitchen and family room, mud room or flower-arranging room, powder room and the master bedroom suite.

The master suite itself includes: a sleeping area with a river view, separate closet and dressing areas for Dr. and Mrs. Carey, a kitchenette with small refrigerator and coffee maker, and the master bath – a remarkable retreat that includes a walk-in shower and spa tub and another view of the river.

“When we began working with Mona Hajj, we knew that we wanted to bring a lot of our furniture with us,” says Mrs. Carey. “Much of the size and shape of the rooms depended on our existing pieces – we measured our furniture and our rugs to make sure the dimensions of the rooms would be appropriate.” Working with the architect and interior designer from the beginning ensured that there would be little need for future renovating. According to Mrs. Carey, “We also knew where we wanted to put the light fixtures, for instance, so those sorts of decisions were made early on.”

The first-level family room, with high ceilings, comfortable furnishings, and a spectacular view, offers both respite and wonder.

Finally, the second floor has four bedrooms, each with a private bath. Three of the four suites boast a view of the water. “We do a lot of entertaining and have a lot of family who visit,” says Mrs. Carey. In addition to the bedrooms themselves, this floor has a communal library–sitting area.

“It was a great, fun project that I enjoyed very much,” says Hammond. “And, it did change and grow during construction. For instance, we found space over the garage and added an additional bedroom there.

“Of course, the owners saw opportunities they had not originally seen as the project went on, but the Careys were enthusiastic, as was the builder and that commitment is key to any successful project.”

Mary Medland is a regular contributor to ChesapeakeHome. Last issue; Mary wrote about lighting specialist Bob Jones and lower level renovations.

  • Contacts
  • Crowther and Associates, Gay Crowther, 410-267-9437
  • Hammond Wilson Architects, Robert Hammond, 410-267-6041
  • Mona Hajj Interiors, Mona Hajj, 410-234-0091
  • West River Builders, Steve Lacey, 410-867-7494

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