Bright and Beautiful Ideas
On a bright, beautiful and freezing cold day in December, I was treated to a private “sneak preview” tour of “The Gloucester,” Coastal Virginia Magazine’s 2017 Idea House. It was similarly bright and beautiful.
The second such partnership between Coastal Virginia Magazine and Stephen Alexander Homes, “The Gloucester” promises to offer the same high quality and recognizable design essence for which the company has become known. But it also boasts some enticing “firsts.”
Principals, Stephen Quick IV, and his father, Stephen III, met me at the site where we stamped our feet and blew on our hands through all 3,800 square feet of open, airy space. (I hope the other principal, Stephen’s brother Alex, was somewhere warm.) Though still very much in the building stage and not yet furnished, the home’s casual elegance and 21st century livability was everywhere evident.
Despite the absence of lighting fixtures, the home’s open spaces with soaring ceilings (10-foot down and 9 to 11-foot up, plus a two-story family room) were flooded with natural daylight from some 55 windows of various shapes and configurations. The home’s exterior style, with its Dutch gambrel roof and pedimented front entrance, recalls turn-of-the-century Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. In fact, prior to building this house, Stephen visited the Kennebunkport and York, Maine area to study architectural styles and proportions.
The home’s pleasing spatial relationships and soothing sea-and-sand color palette are established on the exterior—where soft, romantic blue shingles and lap siding are happily married—and continued throughout. All the exterior materials (Allura cement siding, LP Smartside Trim, PVC, and Trex decking) are synthetic to provide coastal durability and longevity but look virtually indistinguishable from wood. Various architectural projections, such as boxes and bays, carriage house garage doors and a faux, purple martin house under the eve over the garage are only some of what makes this home special from the street. Invisible to the eye is the highly efficient Huber ZIP System: structural panels with built-in, protective overlays that function like shrink wrap to protect the house against air and water infiltration.
Inside, the custom, built-on-site nature of the trim and woodwork, like handmade board and batten wainscoting, is immediately apparent. In both form—lots of square, clean and simplified edges—and proportion, the artisanal quality of all of it is high-end, yet understated. Longtime partner, Susan Wilson of Susan Wilson Interiors, is responsible for the interior design with Chesapeake’s Esprit Décor providing all of the furniture—much of it from the Joanna Gaines line (of “Fixer Upper” fame)—and the trifecta of West Elm, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma layering on the accessories.
You needn’t take many steps inside either the front or garage doors to encounter two of the best ideas in this house. Located at the confluence of the dining room at the front of the house and the kitchen and family room just beyond is the “culinary space” consisting of a handsome island camouflaged as a half-wall and an adjacent pantry. But this is no ordinary pantry; it is a spacious room with ample cabinetry for food storage and infrequently used small appliances. With plenty of counter space, it even lends itself to food preparation and staging. The rectangular and unobtrusive half wall-island encourages 360-degree circulation and is designed with both functionality and aesthetics in mind. On the top surface, food and beverages can be served, while handsome serving pieces and glassware can be displayed on open decorative shelving below.
Immediately off the garage is a “family hub” and mud room with access both to the public spaces and to the downstairs master suite. Here, built-in cabinetry and countertops join with a stackable washer-dryer, roll-around hamper, benches and cubbies—all under the elegant light of a chandelier—to, as Stephen says, “make mundane chores as enjoyable as possible.” Hardwood-look ceramic tile stands up to high traffic in this “nerve center” of the home. A secondary laundry space services the upstairs.
Wide plank, driftwood-look hardwood flooring flows throughout the open first level public spaces, up the extra-wide staircase and through the loft-style bridge above. A railing provides visual access to the family room with its large dormers and white shiplap walls that serve to humanize the scale of the soaring space. The kitchen, adjacent to the family room, is outfitted with all of the appliances, lux finishes, and storage bells and whistles—lazy Susans, pullouts, etc.—that homeowners have come to expect and then some: an 11-foot furniture-style island with its coveted can’t-quite-pin-it-down, gray-blue color, a furniture-style range hood, white marble counters and backsplash and lighting fixtures with driftwood details. No breakfast nook, the eat-in breakfast room is an extra-large space that offers plenty of room for full-size furniture, including a dining table, as does the large contiguous screened porch.
The carpeted bedrooms—with a master suite down and a guest suite up, complete with custom closets—are all large spaces flooded with natural light. The upstairs kids’ rooms flank a Jack-and-Jill style bath whose dressing area is separate from the shower, tub and toilet. The upstairs guest suite includes a bath with hallway accessibility and full walk-in conditioned attic space. And the master suite’s bath is a study in understated elegance courtesy of shiplap on the walls, driftwood-look porcelain tile laid in a herringbone pattern, a “giant” shower with multiple rain heads and a free-standing pedestal tub. A separate water closet and double sink vanity insure maximum functionality.
An enormous room over the two-car garage accommodates a media center, bar, kids’ study area and game table plus storage. But there is plenty more to this home. For all the details, you’ll have to check back in the March/April issue for the big reveal.
Idea House Specs
Builder: Stephen Alexander Homes & Neighborhoods
3,800 square feet of living space
5 bedrooms | 3 1/2 baths
15,000-square-foot lot in Ashby’s Bridge
1 1/2 stories
Selling price in low $800,000s
Self-guided tours of the home and events to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will be announced as the opening date approaches. Stay tuned in subsequent issues for updates and the unveiling of the 2017 Coastal Virginia Magazine Idea House.