Spy House of the Week: Rive Du Temps


In my orientation class when I was a freshman in architecture at UT Knoxville, the instructor pointed out that most people do not hire architects. Thankfully many people in our area do. Beginning this month, I will add new houses or renovations/additions designed by an architect to the weekly mix of Houses of the Week. This house, christened “Rive Du Temp” by its owner, was designed by Peter Newlin, FAIA, of Chesapeake Architects.

In her preliminary programming discussions with Peter, the Owner asked for a “thoroughly interesting house” with “an intimate experience of the weather and nature”.  She also expressed a fondness for curved walls. Peter listened intently and their collaboration resulted in a site plan and house design that is tres’ magnifique!

The wooded site sits on the bank of the Chester River and the river curves and turns both upriver and downriver to provide broad long views from the house.  The vista across the site is a serene view of woods and off to the right the top part of a silo is the only building in sight. The wooded landscape on either side of the house gives it privacy from its nearest neighbors.

The approach to the house is via a sand colored gravel drive and suddenly you notice the garage and house quietly hidden in the woods by its bark-colored siding. The gravel drive is edged in red brick adjacent to large stone pavers that delineate the walk to the house. After meandering through the landscape you reach a short brick retaining wall with steps down to the clearing at the house and the path continues to the steps at the front door. A previous house had burned and this house was built on top of the original rectangular footprint to maintain the close proximity to the water. The detached garage and the hyphen from the main house to the “summerhouse” disguise the original house’s simple geometry.

The airy summerhouse is a delight with its screened walls and curved ceiling.  The roof decking is painted light cream to reflect the light from the clerestory windows at the rear and to accentuate the bark-brown roof joists.  I could easily imagine dozing in a hammock in this marvelous space through the summer.

In homage to historic Maryland houses, the center hall plan separates one sitting room from the kitchen, dining area and another sitting room.  A rhythm of two rows of beautifully detailed wood columns with headers float below the exposed ceiling joists. The vista ends at French doors to the deck overlooking the water. On either side of the center hall, bowed walls of windows capture the broad views of the river bends, opening the entire rear wall to the water views.  

Another curved wall of cabinetry becomes a boundary to the kitchen area and a soffit above echoes that curvature. Instead of walls, the dining area between the two sitting rooms is defined by millwork on each side and on one side upper cabinets with glass fronts continue the transparency. The cross-axis of the house leads on one side to the hyphen and summerhouse and on the other side are stairs to the second floor bedroom suites.

At the top of the stair is a quarter circle overlook with views through the skylights above the sitting area below that would be the perfect space to inspire creative work. The focal point of the master bedroom is the exquisite wooden carved headboard whose sinuous intertwined form is tucked under low windows that overlook the sitting room below and are opposite skylights for daylight or moonlight to filter within.

The Owner’s collections of Native American pottery and other artifacts from her travels, art, accessories and furnishings articulate this house’s unique personality.  The free-standing chimney that separates one sitting room from the passage to the hyphen and the summerhouse is also slightly curved and is inscribed with lines from a poem by Lamartine: ”Le temps n’a pas de rive, L’homme n’a pas de port “ (Time has no riverbank-Man has no port). A fitting coda for a visit to this remarkable house by a gifted architect and a client with a sophisticated vision. The jury for the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the AIA agreed and awarded  “Rive du Temp” a Citation of Excellence in Architecture. The house was also featured on an episode of HGTV’s “Dream Builders , episode 1207.

Architecture by Peter Newlin of Chesapeake Architects,  410-778-4899, peter@chesarch.com, www.chesarch.comContractor: Patrick Jones, Allen/Jones Inc. Custom Lighting: Deep Landing Workshop, 410-778-4042, www.deeplandingworkshop.com and Woody Labat, Cabinetmaker Area Rug Designs: Marcy RamseyCustom Headboard:  Sculptor Don Carslon and Joshua Miller, Cabinetmaker  Photography: Tyler Campbell, 410-778-4938, tylercam@friend.ly.net

Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.



Letters to Editor

  1. Yours is an extraordinarily informative review, Miss Jenny, packed with insights as to how the architecture is made artful. What pleases me most is how artfully you help us see.

    In your very first paragraph, you tell us right away that the owner gave her house, a French name: “Rive du Temp” – but we have to reach your very last paragraph before we can find out what that means, and why.

    Meanwhile, you string us along with a trail of French, such as the ending of your second paragraph: “Très Magnifique”. At the same time, that paragraph introduces: “a fondness for curve[s]”.

    In the third paragraph you have us seeing “…the river curves and turns both upriver and downriver…”

    The fourth tells us the arrival path is “meandering”.

    Paragraph 5 that “the airy summerhouse is a delight with its screened walls and curved ceiling.”

    “In homage” begins paragraph 6, followed by “French” doors, and “another curved wall”

    Paragraph 8 tells us “the top of the stair…” is a quarter circle, and in the master bedroom the headboard has a “sinuous intertwined form…”

    When we come to the last paragraph, you tell us the chimney is “slightly curved” and on its back is “…a poem by Lamartine” which ends “Le temps n’a pas de rive, L’homme n’a pas de port” (Time has no riverbank – Man has no port). Now we know what the architecture means to its owner – the curvature of time is to be enjoyed while we can.

    And then, as if your skillfully integrated writing weren’t amazing enough, Jenny, you give us a ladder of nine pictures, key to appreciating this homes appeal, in a sequence that substantiates your insights. And, you never mention that two thirds of these images are yours – photographs by Jennifer Martella.

    Peter – with his hat off to the artful Jennifer Martella!

Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article

We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.
We're glad you're enjoying The Chestertown Spy.

Sign up for the the free email blast to see what's new in the Spy. It's delivered right to your inbox at 3PM sharp.

Sign up here.