Since this is the last Wednesday before Christmas Day, today’s feature is a house that has been decorated for the holidays as my Christmas card to all of you. This year’s house was part of the Christmas in St. Michaels celebration. It is a great example of a historic house that has undergone seamless renovations and additions that enhance its original architecture.
Like many Eastern Shore houses, the original structure consisted of the two-story portion with porches that span across both levels that contained the foyer, living room and dining room on the main floor with two bedrooms and a bath on the second floor. The current owners appreciated the original architectural elements of fireplaces in both the living and dining rooms, beautiful pine flooring, nine foot ceilings and tall windows. The story and a half secondary wing that telescopes down from the main wing contained the kitchen and two other rooms that became a blank canvas for the creative owners (one of whom is a celebrated wood artisan) to undertake an extensive renovation that transformed this part of the house. The third telescoped one-story wing overlaps the second wing and contains a garage. On the day I visited, I admired how the yellow lap siding glowed in the sunlight and the white trim and black shutters create a classic look.
The rear waterside elevation dramatically with several additions. A full bath was added to the first-floor bedroom to make it an en-suite with French doors leading from the bedroom to steps down to the lawn. Along with the windows that flank the French doors, the rear wall of the bedroom now has a full view of the water. A wide gable adds both architectural interest and provides better headroom for that portion of the second floor.
The front door opens into the foyer with a vista through the house to the waterside family room. I admired the warm wood stained pine flooring and stair treads that contrast with the white walls.
I also admired the three-dimensional design of the wallpaper and the festive seasonal decorations in the stylish powder room.
From the foyer, a wide wall opening with a beautiful low elliptical arch trimmed with multi-layers of molding frames the living room beyond that spans the depth of the original house. The pendant light fixture with its leafy pattern and candlestick type light bulbs is the perfect finishing touch.
The festive Christmas decorations complement the red rose upholstery pattern of the loveseats flanking the fireplace with its antique mantel below the mirror’s curved design in a dark frame. On either side of the fireplace are built-in millwork with arched tops and open shelves outlined by moldings. I admired the granite caps of the radiator and the half vented/half paneled shutters at the window.
The corner chest is a perfect place for more family photographs and the artwork with its perspective of Sacre Coeur in Paris adds perspective to the wall. I loved this room’s beautiful interior architectural symmetry.
The waterside family room is clearly the hub of the house with a large sitting area, bar and TV. The slate floors float below the coffered ceiling with a white grid outlining the ceiling plane of lightly stained pine planks. The Owner designed and built both the bar and the coffered ceiling.
The family room is now three times the size of the original four-season room. I stood and savored the proportion of this exquisite room with its seven foot tall wrap-around windows and French doors with transoms above for views to the landscape and water. I especially appreciated how the transoms are the perfectly scaled to the muntin pattern of the French doors to create harmonious walls of transparency.
The room between the family room the main floor bedroom was redesigned and christened the Pine Room for its paneling and beams of pine to create a coffered ceiling. Seeing the dollhouse a doting grandmother built for the Owners’ daughter brought back my happy memory of a Christmas Eve long ago. I was banished from the basement where my mother and uncle were busy late into the night on a special project. The next morning they presented their creation, a fully furnished dollhouse, which probably planted a seed for my becoming an architect!
Opposite the living room and next to the foyer is the elegant dining room with pairs of French doors to the sunroom at the rear of the house. I loved this room’s mix of light and dark woods in the table, chairs, sideboard and corner cabinet along with the mix of the two styles of dining chairs. The beautiful china and crystal sets the scene for many memorable meals over the holidays.
The dining room is detailed with layers of molding around the ceiling above the walls with a faux finish in vertical bands in contrasting subtle shades of gray. The fireplace mantel is beautifully designed with projections, moldings and slender columns with a marble surround for the firebox. The niche in the wall next to the fireplace is infilled with an open shelf serving piece below colorful artwork.
The kitchen is the original size and design, but the former black cabinets and traditional hardware are now updated with the cabinets repainted grey and new sleek brushed nickel hardware. I liked how the crown molding around the perimeter of the ceiling was painted the same grey color and the Mexican tile’s hairline joints. The tile color blends well into the pine flooring of the adjacent dining room. The festive reindeer rugs add the perfect accent for the holiday season.
Part of the kitchen renovation was the addition of a bay projection from the front wall that creates a delightful space for the free-standing island with pendant light fixtures that echo the curvature of the island’s wood counter. The unusual wood species is spalted maple. The Owners share my admiration of Toulouse Lautrec as I had this same poster in my dorm room at school.
When I saw the main floor bedroom I assumed it was the primary suite. In fact it is a guest ensuite and I imagine the Owners have a very difficult time encouraging guests to leave. Who could resist the privacy, views of the water and the proximity to the pool for a nocturnal swim?
The second floor was not part of the St. Michaels tour but it also underwent an addition and renovation when one of the children’s bedrooms was enlarged and redesigned to make a master bath and walk in closet. The daughter’s bedroom was enlarged and re-designed by installing new windows to take advantage of the water views and a very dated, small bath was converted to her walk-in closet.
Highly desirable location just outside of the St. Michaels town limits, situated on high ground at the end of San Domingo Creek, this peaceful and private setting is surrounded by farmland and trees to lend a sense of history few homes can offer. Wonderful outdoor rooms of porches on both levels of the original two-story part of the house’s traditional Maryland center hall floor plan and a terrace around the waterside pool with deep and wide stone steps leading down to the lawn and San Domingo Creek. Bravo and Brava to the Owners whose deep love for their historic house guided their additions and renovations to respect the original features while making the house their unique home. A loud bravo to the husband for his talent and woodworking skills found in all the rooms with layers of molding, coffered ceilings and unique wood species that make the interior architecture so special.
Owner Monica Penwell spent many years working in the political arena in DC prior to settling in St. Michaels in 1989. She and her husband Cory raised their three children in St. Michaels. In addition to being a full-time realtor and Associate Broker at TTR Sotheby International Realty’s St. Michaels office, Monica’s community involvement includes serving on the Miles River Yacht Club’s Jr. Sail Committee and Finance Committee, and actively supporting Christmas in St. Michaels, Habitat for Humanity and the St. Michaels Community Center.
Jennifer Martella has pursued dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. She has reestablished her architectural practice for residential and commercial projects and is a referral agent for Meredith Fine Properties. Her Italian heritage led her to Piazza Italian Market, where she hosts wine tastings every Friday and Saturday afternoons.