Amy and Wayne Bartholomee had always dreamed of waterfront living. After years of searching, they found the perfect property just a stone’s throw from their house in the development of North Shore on the Magothy in Pasadena— across the street, to be exact. By moving into the neighboring Cape Cod, they traded distant views of the Magothy River for a property on the waterfront. But the 1929 home, with its choppy interior and knotty pine paneling, didn’t exactly fit the family’s dream.
“We really wanted something different, a home where public spaces were public. [But also] we really wanted something that was going to fit in when people approached from the water,” says Amy Bartholomee. “You know a lot of times when you go out on the boat and you see houses on the river, and there are these smaller homes next to this huge monstrosity and it looks so silly. So we wanted something that was going to fit in aesthetically.”
To that end, they decided to tear down the traditional Cape Cod and build a modern home a la Frank Lloyd Wright in its place.
The first task was to find the perfect architect— “We went through half a dozen with egos bigger than mine,” says Wayne Bartholomee. Finally, the family struck gold when Robert Greene, a 69-year-old former apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, agreed to come out of retirement to do the project. He left his home in Atlanta to stay with the Bartholomees for a few days, getting an idea of their lifestyle and taste. Then he produced conceptual drawings suited to the family’s wants (a refined modern home) and needs (a livable space that accommodates growing preteen boys). They couldn’t have been happier.
Then, one day in 2003, the Bartholomees logged on to their computer— after Hurricane Isabel stranded them for five days without power— to find an e-mail from Greene’s son announcing his father’s death from an aneurysm.
“We both had nothing to say. We were just staring at the screen like, ‘What? I can’t believe he died,’” says Amy Bartholomee. “So we had to start all over again trying to find somebody who would honor his work, because we just loved his drawings. They were so beautiful.”
Their search led them to Taliesin Preservation Inc., the prestigious Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Spring Green, Wis., where Greene began his apprenticeship in 1958. “We knew [Greene] was very connected with the alumni association there,” says Amy Bartholomee. “Wayne called and said, ‘You know, do you think you have an architect who would be willing to finish what Robert started?’And so that’s how we got our current architect, Jamie Kimber.”
Initially Kimber, who lives in Madison, Wis., and has an office there and in Minneapolis, planned to implement Greene’s vision to a T. But the more he got to know the Bartholomees, the more he realized Greene’s design, however beautiful, was not exactly what the family was looking for. After making a series of major changes, including revamping the home’s floor plan, Kimber realized he was fighting Greene’s design.
“The more I talked to Amy and Wayne, the more I got a sense that they wanted a really modern home. So we had to alter a lot,” says Kimber. “Because I studied at Taliesin, I could look at Greene’s designs and understand a lot of what he was going for— the scale, the situation on the river, the materials. But many things have changed over time. Newer ideas have emerged. We had an opportunity to bring the design to present day. We had to put [Greene’s] drawings in the drawer and start over.”
Kimber essentially redesigned the entire home, letting the interior space be his guide. “One of the many design philosophies that one takes away from Taliesin is that the architecture that you see from the street is shaped by what you need to contain the interior space,” he says.
What you see from the street now is a geometric structure made of hardy plank concrete, natural stone and titanium Tegola “siding.” With its walls of windows, the new structure capitalizes on the view. On a clear night the family can see car headlights streaming across the Bay Bridge and streetlights flickering in the Annapolis skyline.
In the new design, a great room containing the open-plan kitchen, living and family room is the heart of the house. Golden brown Zebrawood floors bordered by chocolate brown Wenge wood run the length of the space. In the kitchen, designer Brad Crockett of Kenwood Kitchens chose custom cherry veneer cabinets in dark brown with pops of red and a bold tile backsplash to offer a kick of color, and canyon creek stone walls to bring the outside in. A wall of windows overlooking the river stretches the length of the great room and continues upward into the second-level sitting room, master suite and boys’ “wing.”
A signature stairwell located in the front of the home, with rectangular windows, walls of American Hemlock and industrial handrails is designed so that each landing is a small, intimate space. Intentionally sheltered from the river’s view, it creates drama as one leaves the shielded stairs for the “open air” of the first and second levels.
Upstairs, the home’s three bedrooms feature large windows and sleek furniture from Nouveau Contemporary Goods. Interior balconies, which are partitioned by wrought-iron rails, overlook the great room and emphasize the free flow of space.
Wayne Bartholomee requested the master bedroom shower be “window side,” but he still wanted privacy. So Kimber designed a bathroom that sits in the interior of the master bedroom, a location that allows Wayne to overlook the Magothy in the buff without flashing his neighbors in the process. Conscious of the male dominated household, Kimber also installed urinals in every bath and finished off the boys’ bath and mudroom in subway tiles.
The result is a modern waterfront family home that honors the Bartholomees’ mix of sophisticated palates and playful spirits.
“The house feels very warm even though it’s modern. You can touch stuff,” Wayne Bartholomee says. “You can live in it.”
Architect j.kimberDesign, 608-333-8812
Kitchen Kenwood Kitchens, Lutherville, 800-211-8394
Furnishings Nouveau Contemporary Goods, Baltimore, 410-962-8248, http://www.nouveaubaltimore.com
Floors County Floors, Warrensburg, N.Y., 518-623-9339, http://www.countyfloors.com