Over the past three and a half years of writing articles celebrating the houses of the Eastern Shore, many of the most interesting houses in Kent County have been designed by the architect Peter Newlin, FAIA. Being elected to the AIA’s College of Fellows is the highest honor my profession can bestow and of the current 90,000 AIA active members, there are only 1,250 active FAIA architects and 500 emeritus architects in the US. Only a gifted architect like Peter would tackle a project like the house he and his wife Gale Tucker discovered during their search for a waterfront property which ended with their purchase of a dilapidated house that was advertised “as is”. The previous owner had gutted the house with the intention of a total renovation but it soon became a “money pit” and he abandoned the project. Peter had the vision to realize that the hodgepodge of disparate architectural styles had potential but what closed the deal was the site on a high hill above the Chester River with pastoral views on the opposite shore.
Peter is a master of geometry and daylight and soon his sketches began to transform the grandfathered hodgepodge’s footprint into a house with an easy flow from room to room with expansive views of the water from French doors and multiple windows. He added a steep roof to create a second floor that contains the master suite and office. From the front, the house appears to be a simple rectangular shape articulated with a large center gable dormer, bay window, skylights and a porch with a curved metal roof. The rear elevation opens up to the river with two shed dormers at the second floor, one on top of a first floor gable, main floor French doors set back slightly to create a full height box bay of windows across the living room. The rear porch with its curved metal roof spans the full length of the living room and is a delightful space for watching the sunsets over the river.
When I stepped up to the front porch, the vista from the French front door is aligned with the rear French door and the river view beyond for total transparency. As I walked through the entrance hall, it is was clear that fellow arts and crafts lovers lived here (along with four cats). I loved the flow of the living and dining rooms and the furniture, accessories, art and decorative touches made me linger to savor the delights. I realized when I sat down that Peter had designed the large rear windows’ narrow muntins so they did not interfere with sightlines whether I was standing or sitting down. Peter’s signature curved wall free-standing chimney has corbeled sides that become ledges for artisan treasures. The offset dining area with the table custom designed by Peter centered with the rear and side windows offers a panoramic view of the water. The large kitchen completed the open plan of the living areas.
On the other side of the entrance hall are two rooms and a full bath. The front room is another sitting room and much appreciated by one contented cat. The rear room next to the full bath could easily be a main floor master suite with the adjacent full bath in the hall. I was struck by the view to the water through the trio of windows and the hazy light reminded me of a Plein Air painting.
Another of Peter’s signature designs is a curved stair and this one is daylit by a square shaft that pierces through the roof above to a skylight inset into the roof slope for an ingenious layered effect. The master bedroom at one end of the house has a pitched ceiling with a skylight and a trio of windows on the gable side wall. The center unit is slightly higher than the end units and the accent window above completes the composition. The rear shed dormer between walk-in closets creates a cozy inglenook- all it needs is a gas fireplace and bookcases to complete this restful retreat. Next to the master bedroom is Peter’s home office with a pitched ceiling from the shed dormer and exposed wood collar beams. When he is seated at his desk the vista through the window is water, water, everywhere.
Since the Second Annual Spy Tour of Houses Designed by Architects cannot occur this year due to Covid, I am grateful to Peter and Gale for sharing their home with me. Bravo for another great design!
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.