When Sarah Griswold Johnson and Lisa Sokol—the duo behind locally based Johnson/Sokol Interior Design—accepted their client’s charge to update her and her family’s getaway in the woman’s hometown of Severna Park, they expected to collaborate closely with their pal Baltimore architect Patrick Jarosinski. They planned to completely make over the Severn River vacation home—belonging to a young family with other residences in San Francisco and Jackson Hole, Wyo.—for more efficient five-person living. They didn’t anticipate Jarosinski’s crew literally raising the roof, but this redo got semi-radical—well, as radical as riverfront zoning restrictions would allow.
While the “before” version of the Severna Park house that Jarosinski set out to update internally and externally—making creative use of the water views and interior retro cues—possessed charming potential, many awkward quirks required imaginative repurposing.
“The owners were really into the idea of upgrading,” he says. “We reworked the built-ins, removing old trim and redoing doors. It ended up really cool.”
Jarosinski’s team also “bumped the windows out” of the 4000-square-foot, luxury “cottage,” maximizing views without actually enlarging the original windows.
Sokol says the owner is a “decisive woman, very sophisticated and well traveled, who wanted the house to look beach-y and kind of Maryland-specific inside.” Johnson/Sokol had redecorated her Jackson Hole place, so they knew that their client loves edgy, beautiful fabric, bright colors and fine art.
“The taping on the sofa is custom Samuel and Sons,” Sokol says. She rattles off designer references like she’s speaking rapid-fire designer patois.
“Maybe that’s what makes us a little bit unique,” Johnson says, referring to the two-person design firm thatworks both long distance and locally. “With Lisa’s background in art”—Sokol worked for Sotheby’s out of college and comes from a family of painters and collectors—“we’re interested in curating every aspect. We value little details as well.”
For instance, the living room lamps, with shades by Hillary Thomas, are sculptural vintage koi that echo the continuing notions of history, beach life and idiosyncratic luxury—like surfing photos Johnson/Sokol scored by Leroy Grannis.
The fearless Beverly Hills Hotel palm frond wallpaper in the dining room is the same pattern that hangs in the famed Beverly Hills Hotel, in case the name doesn’t clarify.
Carpet is Tibetan jute—unlike sisal or sea grass, Tibetan jute is very soft to the touch but still brings the natural fiber look and, as a bonus, hides dirt well. A multicolored runner by the Rug Company covers the first-floor hallway and sets a tone upon entrance that’s playful and childlike—appropriate for a now five-bedroom house that the owner has chosen as her annual homecoming location.
Worth noting: The owners are tall, and they wanted the compact house to feel more open in lots of ways.
“At the top of the stairs was a door leading to the master bedroom, then two other bedrooms,” Jarosinski says. “You had to walk through the master bedroom to get to all bathrooms and bedrooms. We extended the gable of the roof—the master shower is now in that gable.”
Jarosinski—his firm is PDJ and Associates—gutted the upstairs, created a common second-floor hallway and built a master bed/bathroom, two smaller bedrooms and a single bath.
“The family travels a lot and needs to catch up on rest, so we used blackout shades,” Sokol says. “The drapery person lined them for us. In her master bedroom, we wanted to make [Jarosinski’s added] sitting area extra serene.”
The soft wallpaper fuels the calm energy, and the headboard serves as a centerpiece.
“All linens are from Walker Valentine, out of San Francisco,” Sokol adds.
On the first floor, the design team updated vintage furniture that the family had lying around—for example, they painted old cherry beds in a bold red lacquer in one guest bedroom and reupholstered one existing bench in another guest room and a wing chair in the master suite.
“We also made the basement into a beautiful basement,” Sokol says. “We wanted to do a lacquered epoxy floor in a Kelly green, because they’re a big golf family. Patrick and his contractor [TD Albright of Winchester Construction] came around to the idea!”
“I’m a very interior designer,” Jarosinski says. “When I design a redo, I put furniture in the drawing. Of course, that may change … But I work very closely with the interior designers. It’s much more fun when you have a group working together.”