One of my favorite travel authors is Bill Bryson, whose very funny insights have given me hours of pleasurable armchair travel reading. After ten years of living in England, the Des Moines, IA, native returned to America and embarked on a journey through thirty-eight states to discover America’s small towns. The result was his delightful book, “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America”. One of his stops was Chestertown, where the brick sidewalks shaded by trees, Fountain Park in the middle of downtown and the historic architecture soon had him proclaim in his book that “This was as nice a town as I had seen”. Since his last stop had been Charleston, SC, that was quite an accolade!
Over the past seven years that I have been writing this weekly column, I have returned many times to Chestertown’s Historic District and today’s feature is located on a short block off High Street. The property is a highly desirable corner lot and has not only a two-car garage off the side street but also off street parking for guests.
Between the garage and the house is a fenced landscaped courtyard with tall trees that provide shade to this urban oasis and the neighbor’s tall hedge offers additional privacy. For an urban location, this house has plenty of “breathing space”. The house is sited with one property line along the adjacent neighbor’s driveway that maximizes the depth of the side yard at the opposite corner of the property, providing abundant sunlight and privacy.
A towering sycamore tree at the edge of the Town’s brick sidewalk frames the front elevation of the three-bay, two-story, side gable house. The exterior color palette of the complementary colors of very light yellow lap siding and blue shutters, brick porch with its light blue wood slat ceiling and deep red entry door is very appealing. The simple and elegant front elevation is enhanced by a cornice with eave brackets and the front porch with its low sloped red metal roof resting on columns with trim and plinth blocks. The front door is detailed with a full transom, half sidelights and the vented storm door captures breezes while maintaining privacy. The low row of shrubbery in front of the brick wall of the porch, pots of flowers on the porch and window boxes full of seasonal color are the finishing touches that give this house its great curb appeal.
The two-room wide, three room deep house was enhanced by two additions by previous owners. As an architect, I appreciated how the gable roofed additions were set back in homage to the original front façade of the house and how the blue awnings over the windows continued the blue accent color of the front elevation’s shutters.
The kitchen addition also included a deck that spans the full width of the house. The deep step down to the lawn accommodates pots of flowers for seasonal color.
When I entered the house, the glimpses of colorful walls beyond and the wall along the staircase filled with photographs of family and travel destinations introduced this house’s unique personality. The Owner told me his parents’ travels inspired the artwork and I soon discovered a safari theme in many rooms.
The living room’s white full height built-in millwork is accented by both the warm blue walls and the clever accent wall of zebra patterned wallpaper behind the shelving. The Owner explained he had admired the wallpaper in a New York restaurant and ordered the design from Scalamadre. The fireplace, period light fixture and antiques anchored by the large Oriental rug beckoned me to linger, but the telescoping effect of the framed openings into the next rooms with the wall color changes of blue to green and finally red drew me into the next room.
The green room was probably the original dining room with the high stained glass window providing a wall for a sideboard. The French door leads to the side garden and the room’s furnishings reflect the current owner’s musical talent. The double row of wood shutters allows the flexibility of opening or closing each row for views, sunlight and/or privacy throughout the day. The juxtaposition of the antique etagere with glass doors and the round red contemporary pendant fixture is refreshing and I could easily imagine my antique dining table in this spacious room.
The music room’s red light fixture was a prelude to the cherry red walls of the kitchen. I loved the minimum upper cabinets and the maximum storage in the adjacent pantry room visible beyond the French door. When I opened the pantry door, I immediately recognized bowls in the olive pattern from my sister’s shop, Simpatico, in St. Michaels. The kitchen’s white cabinetry, gray soapstone counters and stainless steel appliances are classic and the triple window overlooking the deck and the landscaping makes food prep a welcome chore. Next to the kitchen is the laundry with a window overlooking the rear landscaping and the French door between the laundry and the powder room leads to the side yard.
I completed my clockwise tour of the main floor at the room that is currently used as a dining room. I loved the vibrant apricot color of the walls against the deep stained wood of the pair of French doors to the music room, the Chippendale hutch, Queen Anne table and Windsor chairs below the Tiffany style pendant light fixture. The second set of stairs lead to the second floor hall next to the primary bedroom suite.
The primary bedroom suite spans across the rear of the house overlooking the garden. The main floor’s bright colors change to a serene mocha wall to encourage a restful sleep. This spacious room accommodates an antique sleigh bed and French armoire and is located between the bath and a walk-in closet. Like all of the baths on this floor, the primary suite’s bath has a white bead board wainscot and painted upper walls.
The main stair in the foyer leads to a hall off the upper landing between the two rooms at the front of the house, and two rooms in the middle of the house. The flexible arrangement of the rooms could be easily modified if one wished the front rooms to be the primary bedroom and sitting area. One middle room is best used as an office or sitting area as it leads to the rear primary suite.
The main stairs continue to the third floor room tucked under the roof framing that stretches across the width of the house for delightful interior architecture, with colorful kayaks floating below the ceiling. Painting the sloped portion of the sloped portion of the ceiling visually expands the space’s volume and the pair of windows provide bird’s eye views of Chestertown’s roofscapes. This multi-purpose space could be a great office, teen gathering space or another bedroom since there is a long closet for storage. Off the stair landing is another general storage room that spans the width of the house and has a window for daylight.
Great property on an oversized corner lot, close to the center of Town but removed enough for peaceful and quiet living. The garage, off-street parking, spacious side and rear yard, tall trees for shade and rear deck are bonuses to this charming historic house. Easy flow among rooms and flexible room uses Bravo to the Owner for his imaginative interior design that gives his house its charming personality. All this in the Town immortalized in “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America!
For more information about this property, contact Lynn Hilfiker, who helped sponsor this article, at Gunther McClary Real Estate, 410-639-2118 (o), 443-480-1163 (c), or [email protected]. For more pictures and pricing, visit [email protected] “Equal Housing Opportunity”.
“The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America” by Bill Bryson, originally published by Harper Collins in 1989.
Simpatico, Italy’s Finest, www.simpaticostmichaels.com , 410-745-0345.
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.