The Big Picture

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There are picture windows, and then there are windows that change the picture entirely. Such is the case for this view-centric Gibson Island getaway, where windows give way to full glass walls fronting Chesapeake Bay, turning living spaces into an aperture capturing the ever-shifting light. But light isn’t all that shifts; over time, a family’s needs and desires change, as well. The owners, a family of five from nearby Washington, D.C., wanted a retreat that would grow and shrink with them: able to absorb teenage friends for a long weekend or extended family on summer break, and still be cozy when just mom and dad sneak away for a night or two. And of course to feel just right after the kids have fledged. Lead architect Greg Ehrman with New England–based Hutker Architects and D.C.-area interior designer Lauren Liess created a four-inone compound that does exactly that—providing privacy (and teen soundproofing!) for guest and kids’ quarters, with cohesion and flow through a mod centerpiece dining room/entryway that’s all about the view. “We wanted this tension between the super simple and quiet but with a playful edge,” says Liess. Classic gabled roofs and white cedar shingles give an old-school contrast to the sleek boxy connector and glass walls, establishing the home’s both/and philosophy amplified by Liess’s upbeat decor: classic and contemporary, young and old, house party and cozy retreat, functional and fun.

OPEN TO THE GREAT OUTDOORS Situated high on a wooded bluff overlooking Chesapeake Bay, the home nestles into the landscape. The pool and lounges are located off to the side so as not to impede the view. Architect Greg Ehrman used large glass facades and extended exterior materials and textures, like cedar shingles, within the home to “blur the line between inside and out,” he says. He designed four individual volumes to have their own personality and orientation on the site “as though they drifted together over time,” he adds. “We like to keep it clean and pure—with an essence of traditional, like the gable roof, but always letting the building defer to the view.” Bob Hruby of Campion Hruby landscape design installed native grasses and plants to further marry the home to the natural setting. Summer 2022 COASTAL LIVING


INVITE THE UNEXPECTED The spacious family room is the home’s cornerstone. “With these soaring ceilings, fireplace, and panoramic views out to the water, it’s amazing,” says interior designer Lauren Liess, who ensured plenty of seating (including a rattan daybed) in a mix of solids, stripes, and patterns. The indigos and greens echo the surrounding grass and water; white walls and a plaster fireplace with no mantel “keep it a little quieter,” says Liess, who designed many of the paisley and floral prints, and covered Lucite-armed chairs in a fun Peter Dunham print. A custom white grasscloth coffee table adds texture, while steel beams and basket-style pendants punctuate the airiness: “With the architecture so strong, I wanted something not too serious and unexpected for the lighting, and these pierced baskets do the trick.”

TEAM UP TEXTURES The house’s small, wood-encased foyer opens directly to the dining room, which inhabits the architectural hyphen between the four cedar-clad wings and living spaces. Bringing the cedar shingles inside “adds interest and dimension, and even the concrete floor has a lot of movement in it,” says Liess. She liked the warmth and texture of rattan chairs around a huge table, ideal for entertaining, but overall kept a spare look. “Here, it’s all about the views.”

ADD NUANCED NAUTICAL TOUCHES Liess chose the kitchen as her starting point for material selections replicated throughout the house. The concrete island, she says, is “seamless and clean, but acquires a patina over time that makes it interesting.” It also relates to the dining and entry floors, while white oak pantry doors tie in with the wood elements in the foyer and powder room. A Lacanche range—“a big one”—anchors the non-window wall; a plaster backsplash echoes the living room fireplace. “Hardware is recessed—a tiny nautical nod,” says Liess, who also selected vintage pendants for a marine touch that felt “not over the top.” Open shelving within the island stores dinnerware and keeps countertops clear. “We got lucky,” says Liess. “The owners wanted an uncluttered, simple life here, so they left larger gadgets and appliances at home.” Summer 2022 COASTAL LIVING


LEAN INTO A COLLECTED SENSIBILITY The den’s lower ceiling and smaller traditional windows create a more enclosed, cozy feel in contrast to other bright, airy spaces, making the room ideal for card games and movie watching. “The owners love orange and pink, so this space was perfect for playing with other colors,” says Liess, who covered a vintage chaise in Barcelona Teal fabric by GP&J Baker, with shades of rich blues, tangerine, and peach. A burl wood coffee table complements the deeper hues, a midcentury-style swivel chair adds fun shape, and a Moroccan metal stool and geometric Kabba Kabba sofa fabric by Martyn Lawrence Bullard round out the “collected feel,” says Liess.

TURN DOWN THE VOLUME “For the guest bedroom, we wanted a peaceful, quiet retreat,” says Liess, who put colors on mute and relied heavily on neutral tones, including oatmeal and flaxen linens. A headboard of leather hanging from an iron rod makes a pared-down but striking statement, juxtaposing the hushed hues with a deep honeyed brown. “I love that it’s a simple, natural material, but so strong,” she says.



DESIGN WALLS THAT TALK “This kids’ room was so much fun,” says Liess, who navigated sleeping space for eight—four bunks per wall, each with its own reading light and charging station. The bunks are outfitted with industrial ladders, as well as new bed linens and vintage pillow fabrics in a sea’s worth of blues and stripes. A custom Gibson Island marine navigation chart by Scuba Steve covers the wall. More wall magic in the entry area’s powder room (inset): a floor-to-ceiling backsplash of Tabarka tiles anchors the concrete vanity.



EMBRACE A BOLD AND BRIGHT VISION Architect Greg Ehrman points to the cathedral-like effect of exposed structural steel beams as providing a sense of scale and contrast in an otherwise simple primary suite. The wall of steel and glass, he adds, was “carefully designed to fit within the tree canopy beyond.” And that it does. “It feels like another world, like a tree house,” says Liess, who faced a challenge dressing those immense windows. She and her clients debated between curtains and recessed blackout shades for months, opting in the end for a light touch. “I really love the gauzy, romantic feeling we get with these linen panels, pulled back with simple rope,” Liess says. Inset: A graphic-patterned jute rug, wicker lampshades, and a pen shell headboard underscore the natural tones. “The glowy browns add depth, which is important when it’s so open.”



PLAY WITH SPACE AND LIGHT The primary suite bath and closets are cleverly tucked galley-style behind the bedroom’s headboard wall, with glass separation continuing to the ceiling. Liess used the same milk glass pendants as the two in the bedroom, “so when looking in from outside, it looks like one room that got sliced by a glass wall,” she says. A concrete waterfall surround on the vanity mimics the kitchen island, and playful Ann Sacks tile jazzes up the shower.



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