I have often driven by this magnificent example of Queen Anne/Victorian architecture in Easton’s Historic District and savored its exquisite details of a steep pitched roof, multiple gables, bay shaped projections of rooms and the octagonal shape of the turret; multiple window shapes including bay, triangular, round, oriel and key shapes; variety and texture of siding of lap and scallop; the wrap-around porch with a bay-shaped corner that creates a delightful outdoor room;
ornamentation of horizontal and vertical overlapping ovals, fretwork and other moldings. The light aqua paint with white trim ties the exquisite massing together like the bow design over the porch’s corner room. I especially admired the trim around the third floor turret’s windows with blue motifs over the white trim and the striking design of the porch’s railing with black overlapping half circles resting on a base of diagonals resembling an open braid inserted between the cap and bottom rails.
I am not the only admirer of this Maryland Historic Property. It is not unusual to find a Plein Air Painter quickly staking his/her position to interpret the beauty of this house and its grounds. The house began its long life when William Pratt Chaffinch, a merchant, banker and later Mayor of Easton, built the house sometime after 1894. The Chaffinch family retained ownership of the residence until 1948. Then the house’s use became apartments and in 1993 Richard and Laura Brandt bought the property and made interior alterations to operate it as a B&B. Enter Nia and Mark Perry, who became owners of the property in 2015 and began their restoration that has surpassed the house’s original glory. This remarkable couple first turned their discriminating eyes to the interior architecture and design.
On the day of my tour, I slowly walked up the brick steps to the wrap-around front porch and admired the original wood entry door. The design of upper glass multi-panes over four vertical recessed wood panels above a final horizontal wood recessed panel and the finishing touch of the doorbell that one turns instead of presses was a prelude to other treasures within. The exterior concave walls by the front door make charming convex walls at the interior. Opposite the door is the original stained oak staircase with newel posts whose finials were originally bronze torchieres. The beautiful wood floors and moldings flow throughout the house and the carpet is one of many authentic handmade Central Asian creations found in many other rooms. Mark Perry is a retired diplomat and the carpets were obtained in Islamabad during his posting to Pakistan. The beautiful carpets were the foundation for the interior design by Nia Perry and their home is her third project.
A wide cased opening leads from the foyer to the living room with its focal points of the fireplace and the three-bay window overlooking the porch. An exterior door leads to the screened porch. The upholstered furnishings take their cue from the subtle pattern and neutral tones of the Central Asian carpet along with the antique mirror and sideboard. The living room’s shape is almost a square but the adjacent dining room is rectangular, ending in a bay shaped projection for diagonal views of the landscape.
I had commented to the Owners how I much prefer radiator heat and the wife pointed out the antique sideboard under the window where I then saw the bottom of a radiator peeking out under the carved panels. The panels cleverly not only hide but also provide venting for the radiator underneath. The top drawers are intact for use and the wooden top acts as a heating plate for serving pieces-genius! Both the sideboard and the other antique piece in the alcove by the chimney are family antique pieces.
The owners completely renovated the kitchen with neutral tile flooring and cabinets, accents of the black island cabinets and free-standing upper cabinet, different countertops for the perimeter base cabinets and island, backsplash of Marrakech lantern tiles which are reflected in the Roman shades for the windows and the Central Asian carpet. Between the doorway to the dining room and family room is a deep pantry outfitted with mini-refrigerator, wine refrigerator, microwave and open shelving for easy access. Along the other side wall is the breakfast nook and laundry.
The spacious breakfast nook’s wide table is centered below the window and my eye was drawn to the ceramic pieces on either side of the window that I learned were Portuguese designs. Paneling on the side wall of the banquette covers the adjacent family room’s chimney. The other side has built-in shelving filled with books and artifacts collected over the years during Mark’s diplomatic service. Just as I noticed two knobs on the paneling in front of the shelving, Nia opened the bottom panel to demonstrate the long pull-out drawers that was her clever idea of using what could have been dead space. I coveted this delightful nook for its deep wood tabletop on a darker wood, four legged base, sage green seat cushions, colorful kilim pillows and etched glass chandelier-what a delightful place to linger over a meal. Next to the nook is the laundry room and the rear wall has an exterior door that leads to an open porch with steps down to the garden.
The family/TV room’s exterior bay-shaped wall echoes the exterior wall of the dining room. The antique chest under the TV is another clever use of a family antique. The former victrola is now a bar and the long slots under the top fit a wine bottle perfectly. I loved the colors and textures of this room from the Central Asian rug with two ottomans in a deeper color of the rug’s motif, the slate blue sectional sofa, bright red throw, intricate design of the side chair and the matchstick blinds that create a relaxing spot for movie nights. Above the fireplace’s original mantel is a painting of an arched bridge between rows of trees receding into the vanishing point that provides a perspective to this wall. The Perrys acquired the painting at the Gorky Park art market when Mark was stationed at the Embassy in Moscow.
As I passed through the cased opening in the family room’s interior angled wall, I ended back at the foyer next to another angled rear wall with a door to the powder room tucked behind the space behind kitchen’s pantry for privacy.
The stairs to the second floor are sunlit from a triple unit window set high for privacy. The stairs end at an enlarged landing that becomes a hall connecting three en-suites. The owners extensively and creatively renovated the second floor by combining four of the bedrooms into two ensuites in addition to a sumptuous primary suite. My favorite bedroom is defined by the interior architecture of the turret’s windows and the keyhole window. A cousin of Mark’s who is an artist was inspired by the circular upper shape for his stained glass creation. I also appreciated the touch of whimsy in the artwork of a turtle and an elephant, which are the work of the famous Georgian artist Zura Gomelauri. Here the wood floors have a dark stain, in contrast to the white paneled wainscot. The adjoining four-piece bath’s design would please any guest.
As I walked through the primary bedroom and entered the ensuite sitting area, I was soothed by the sound of water from the fountain below in the garden. The sitting area has the triangular window and two other standard windows for sunlight. The sitting area slightly narrows to become an office and its exterior door opens onto the screened porch.
A short hall off the sitting room is between the large walk-in closet and the primary bath. I had noticed all of the interior doors on this level have the original transoms and when I saw the high window at the bath’s side wall opposite a window in the office area, I assumed an original door had been converted into a high window for the bath’s shower; however, I discovered the window was new but designed to match the same moldings as the original transoms. At the end of the hall is a balcony that now houses a portable sauna to complete your spa experience in this unique suite.
More visual delights awaited on the third floor so I eagerly climbed the stairs that end at a hall connecting the two front bedrooms with a large unfinished room at the rear for storage. The front bedroom turret shape creates a cozy sitting area framed by the curvature of the opening into the sleeping area. If I were lucky enough to be a guest in this room, I would find it hard to leave its calming interior design of serene wallpaper of birds and flowers on a light aqua background above the white wainscot, dark wood floors to better accentuate the delicate floral design of the Central Asian carpet, quilted coverlet on a black iron bed with bronze finials and wood pieces both stained and painted. The room also has both a side window and a front bay window with a deep ledge for display of family photographs and ceramics. The other guest room has a quirky, fun space-a small loft overlooking the landing off the stairs.
As I slowly retraced my steps down to the entry foyer, I took one last look at each beautiful room. As stunning as the house is, I looked forward to exploring the rear garden that Mark designed. How fitting that the two outdoor rooms of the main floor’s open porch and the second floor’s screened porch offer a preamble to the totally open garden to enjoy either “worm’s eye” views from the main floor or “bird’s eye” views from the second floor.
At the garden level, I discovered a magical space defined by antique brick paths that meander through plantings that convene at the Williamsburg fountain which the Owners now share with a family of barred owls.
The majestic deodar cedar is on the list of Easton’s historic trees and I resisted the temptation of sinking into one of the cobalt blue Adirondack chairs to be cooled by both the shade of the tree and the mist from the fountain. I usually rely upon my friend Jan Kirsh, the Landscape Designer, for planting ideas for my property so I was very impressed by the depth of Mark’s knowledge of using color, proportion, scale, volume and fragrance in his design of the planting beds and the planting of new trees. Other paths lead to a large Quaker shed for garden maintenance and a single car garage with access to the side street.
Brava and Bravo to this remarkable couple who over an eight year restoration/renovation have lovingly restored this gem to its former glory so she can proudly reclaim her place in the streetscape. With information and advice from the National Trust Registry and the Maryland Historic Trust, the Owners thoughtfully preserved the numerous original features throughout the house while adding touches of contemporary style and better functionality. They have generously included the front porch’s custom-designed antique rosewood furniture for the next very lucky owners. After my tour, I believe the “Queen of Easton” has now been crowned the “Empress of Easton”!
For more information and photos on this property please visit https://apps.realtor.com/mUAZ/9iuud12y
Photography by Janelle Stroop, [email protected], 410-310-6838
Jennifer Martella is an architect with Bohl Architects’ Annapolis office and a referral agent for Meredith Fine Properties. Jennifer is an integral part of Bohl Architects’ design team for projects she brings to the firm. She is also the writer of Bohl’s website’s bi-monthly blog “Tango Funhouse” where she highlights the firm’s vision and other fun aspects of life by design. Her Italian heritage led her to Piazza Italian Market, where she hosts wine tastings every Friday and Saturday.