In 2007, when Jay Jenkins drove through downtown Easton, Md., for the first time, it felt familiar to him though he’d never been there before. Then he realized why. “Easton is just like East Hampton,” he says. “But quieter.”
At the time, Jenkins, a longtime Baltimore designer who owns Jenkins Baer Associates, and his partner, T.J. Hindman, a senior business development manager with Allergan, owned a weekend home in Rehoboth Beach, and were tiring of the long drive and the hubbub. By the summer of 2008, they’d bought a lot in a New Urbanist-style planned community that faces the Tred Avon River and proceeded to create a “backdrop” for their lives in Easton.
As a designer who has worked on hundreds of homes— and as a regular host to house guests— Jenkins chose the builder’s plan for what he calls a “tidewater farmhouse” and started assembling a list of modifications. Atop his list was creating a bathroom for each of the four bedrooms, which the men gained by giving up a soaking tub in the master bathroom. “I wanted the guest rooms to feel like wonderful hotel rooms,” says Jenkins. Each of the three guest rooms features similar carpeting and furniture but is decorated in a different color scheme.
On the first floor, Jenkins’ modifications included adding more open doorways between rooms, rearranging the kitchen layout and enclosing the open breezeway connecting the house and the garage. The front door opens into a foyer where the walls are covered in a gray and pumpkin awning-stripe paper, a rare flash of color and pattern in a home where the majority of the walls are painted in quiet neutral shades.
The foyer leads into the living room, where a few formal pieces are mixed with comfortable furnishings to create a beautiful yet calm and casual space. “The centerpiece of the living room is the Robert Motherwell lithograph,” says Jenkins. “It was the inspiration to keep the room restrained and simple.”
On either side of the fireplace, two tall mirrors add depth while two single-legged Empire-style consoles (“on permanent loan from [former business partner] Alexander Baer’s collection,” says Jenkins) stand under the mirrors. A Portuguese Jacobean armchair covered in architecturally inspired toile provides variety from the upholstered sofa and easy chair. Nestled under the cocktail table is an ottoman from the late 1870s. “It has beautiful portraits of cats needle-pointed on each side and beautiful paw feet,” says Jenkins. “I’m not a cat person, but it adds character to the room.”
The living room leads to the kitchen, where Jenkins chose honed black granite counters for the perimeter and white marble for the backsplash and island. “I like having a lighter color countertop to cut vegetables on,” says Jenkins. “It’s fresher.” He added an antique Irish console by the windows, and added grillwork and liner curtains to the tall cabinets flanking the refrigerator, where he and Hindman “conceal” their bowls and plates. The floors in the kitchen, as throughout the first floor, are dark stained oak, which provide a natural base for the furnishings and collectibles.
Off the kitchen is the breezeway, where French doors open onto the back patio. “The garden and patio are enclosed by the breezeway and the den,” says Jenkins. “It has the feel of a walled garden.” The random pattern bluestone patio and various plantings were designed by Jenkins’ friend Bob Jackson, who was charged with creating a low-maintenance outdoor space.
If Jenkins is not in the kitchen, he’s likely in the den, where olive-colored walls provide a subtle backdrop to the men’s growing collection of contemporary art, hung salon-style. A 10-foot-long traditional sofa provides an inviting space to lounge, eat, read the paper or work at the round metal Regency camp table pulled in front of it. “This is the smallest room in the house, yet it serves many functions,” says Jenkins.
The men sneak away from their Baltimore work lives each Thursday night— or Friday afternoon, at the latest— to begin the weekend in Easton. Saturday mornings they visit the farmers market then get breakfast at the soda fountain at historic Hill’s Pharmacy on the square. The rest of the day they putter in the garden or kitchen before hosting guests for dinner Saturday evening. On Sundays they often roam aimlessly in the car, picking a road and turning off at whatever path lures them, hoping to discover some new treasure.
“We have a really deep connection to our lives in Easton,” says Jenkins. “It’s no longer just our weekend house. It feels like our primary house.”
Landscaping: Bob Jackson Landscapes, 410-356-1620, http://www.bjl-inc.com
Lighting: Jones Lighting Specialists, 410-828-1010, http://www.joneslighting.com
Draperies: Drapery Contractors, 410-727-5333, http://www.draperycontractors.com