An idyllic stretch on the Bohemia River is a scant 40-minute drive from the hum of Wilmington where Tim Dewson runs his high-end custom construction company. In terms of peace and tranquility, this serene slice of Chesapeake City might be a million miles from urban life.
“We saw this as the perfect place for a second home,” Dewson says. “It doesn’t take long at all to get here, yet we’re in a completely different setting.”
Inside and out, the house is an incubator of sorts, a place where the builder can showcase a broad range of amenities, indulge his creative side, and escape from the cares of the workaday world with his wife Barb and her sons, Connor and Jake.
“We thought this house would help with the business, and also give us more family time,” Dewson says.
Dewson took his inspiration from Nantucket, where cedar-shake houses gray gracefully and there’s an emphasis on the home’s relationship with nature.
To help turn his vision into reality, he went with pros he had worked with for years, architect Art Bernardon of Bernardon Haber Holloway and designers Ron Fenstermacher and Zach Davis.
Photograph by John M. Lewis
Views of the river are enhanced by large banks of windows topped with transoms. In keeping with New England tradition, dormers and gables create a variety of roofs on the exterior—and interesting architectural angles on the interior. The materials are a classic mix, too, with cedar shakes on the first- and second-story roofs and a lead-coated, standing-seam copper roof on the third level.
Visual surprises are tucked beneath the peaks. Visitors who walk the perimeter of the property can look up and count the carved details, including an anchor, a star, the moon, the sun and nesting spaces for birds. Gutters and downspouts are copper coated with lead, an aesthetic compliment to the metal roof and silvery cedar. It’s a pragmatic choice, as well.
“They will last forever,” Dewson says.
Inside the house, Barb’s favorite place is an intimate sunroom with a view of the water. A cozy quartet of chairs upholstered in ultrasuede surrounds a tufted ottoman that also serves as a cocktail table.
“We want people to come to this house and relax, with children all around,” she says.
An exquisitely crafted built-in bar is made from tiger maple, a rare species of wood so named because of its distinctive stripes. The sink is hammered copper.
The floor is limestone, set on a diagonal; a coffered beamed ceiling is overhead. The fireplace was built from stone reclaimed from a barn. The raised hearth is an old curbstone from Philadelphia.
Repurposed materials are found throughout the house. They are designed to give the home an immediate sense of age and stature. The flooring throughout the great room and much of the house is 5-inch wide planks of salvaged oak. Reclaimed cobblestones border the driveway. Slabs of rescued wood went on to new lives as tops for vanities and built-in cabinetry.
“See the knots and the little imperfections?” Dewson says. “That’s what gives the wood character.”
Reclaimed brick and stone form a deep arch leading from the two-story foyer to the great room. The arch is lined with shelves that display decoys and models of sailboats. The room is furnished in a casual, masculine mix with a sisal carpet, large sofa and a pair of club chairs positioned opposite a herringbone brick fireplace.
Throughout the house, 21 five-pointed stars are inlaid in the floors, random delights for the eye.
“Every where you look, we created details,” Dewson says.
That passion for precision extends to a heated garage, which is outfitted with an auxiliary kitchen, additional storage and electronic boxes for the home’s systems.
Photograph by John M. Lewis
The kitchen is the hub of the public areas, open to the dining room and connected to the foyer through an arched portal. Inset, raised-panel cabinets are painted black in keeping with the New England vibe. Column-style legs define the sink and stainless-steel, commercial-style range and give the central island the look of well-crafted furniture.
A rustic antique work table bridges the space between the kitchen and dining room. A vintage green-painted cupboard provides storage and a touch of whimsy. The couple discovered both pieces in Canada.
“Barb and I spent months on the road, looking for just the right things,” Dewson says.
A pantry off the kitchen is equipped with a coffee bar and a wine chiller. And the house is equipped with an intercom system so the hosts can summon family and friends for meals and outings.
Flexibility is an important element of the design. A first-floor study has its own private patio with heated brick floor. But when there’s a houseful of guests, the space can be easily transformed into a guest room.
Only a few steps away, the onyx floor in a bath exudes a warm, topaz glow. Beyond the vanity and toilet area is a shower room, also sheathed in onyx, which instantly expands a powder room into a full luxury bath.
Upstairs, a dual bath is designed to accommodate guests, with two toilets and two vanities separated by a pocket door.
The expansive master bath is equipped with a walk-in closet and pocket doors to both the master bedroom and sleeping porch. It’s a sumptuous retreat with a limestone shower outfitted with multiple jets and a granite seat. The granite on the sink countertops is the pale green of spring leaves. The stone also tops a pair of built-in chests of drawers.
A barrel ceiling frames a panoramic view of the river in the master bedroom. The adjoining sleeping porch also offers jaw-dropping vistas, as well as a close-up look at one of the carved details at the roofline, a sun surrounded by 16 rays.
Photograph by John M. Lewis
The second-floor family room is a gathering place, with big-screen TV, built-in cabinets for electronics, a wine fridge and a wet bar. The raised-hearth fireplace is accented with insets in a herringbone pattern.
“We gave the craftspeople who worked on this house the freedom to come up with their own details, and this is one of the things they came up with,” Dewson says.
A steep staircase patterned on the steps found in ships leads to the third floor, an angular get-away with a porch that might be a captain’s bridge.
Back on the ground, a walk made from old bricks leads to the entry, a big mahogany door under an eyebrow roof.
Professionally, the house provides the builder with a sense of satisfaction. That good feeling extends to family life, as well.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Barb says. “We still walk in and say â€˜wow.’”