Getaway at Home

Hampton Roads Magazine sponsors Homearama Fall 2012’s Coastal Idea House, a full-time residence that offers a daily vacation

Coastal Idea House by Stephen Alexander Homes

Jonathan Edwards Media

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All photos courtesy of Jonathan Edwards Media

If you could have your (crab)cake and eat it too, wouldn't you?
That is, if you could live yearround in the ultimate vacation home nestled into an award-winning neighborhood with the charm of yesteryear and the amenities of today right on the epic Chesapeake Bay—complete with a highend, open-concept income property over your detached garage—why on earth would you choose not to?

Why indeed. The Blue River Cottage, Hampton Roads Magazine’s Coastal Idea House, the latest iteration of Stephen Alexander Homes’ (SAH) “Little Big House” concept, is a “vacation” home in the sense that it beckons with the appeal of a place you are privileged to visit only once a year. Yet it is a full-time residence—a “staycation” home if you will. Fourteen awards, including Best in Show in the 3,200-square-foot category, attest to its appeal, top to bottom, inside-out.

Dubbed “the ultimate in one-level living without a ranch footprint” by Stephen Quick IV, a principal, along with his father, Stephen III, and brother Alex, of their eponymous company, the house does boast a second level of two extra bedrooms with a Jack-and-Jill bath (yet separate water closets), a laundry closet, a multi-purpose space at the top of the stairs—with a view of the Bay Bridge Tunnel—and a spacious den/media room. (In classic whodunit style, one section of the built-in bookshelves that span an entire wall of this space opens like a secret door to reveal conditioned storage space.) Yet, homeowners need not go upstairs for anything unless, as Stephen laughs, the women of the house want to send the men up to watch loud football after Thanksgiving dinner.

From the welcoming front porch stretching the width of the home, one enters the foyer with open, yet framed views of the dining room to the left and the kitchen straight ahead. Spaces flow, but not without definition such as that provided by columns and low half-walls between the dining room and family room. And speaking of definition, the generous amount of artisanal trim, coffered ceilings, cove molding and built-in shelving throughout the home—as well as the tastefully judicious use of beadboard wainscoting and picture rails—is a signature feature of these builders and their architectural partners, Retnauer Baynes Associates. Like a wellironed shirt, this attention to architectural detail lends a sense of polish without fussy formality.

Adding to the breathability and seamless flow of this house are 10-foot ceilings throughout the first floor that soar to 14 feet in the master bedroom. Walls are punctuated by 6.5-foot windows and interior transoms—there are even windows in the master shower—that literally flood the space with sunlight, nature’s greatest home accessory. 

The medium-dark wide-plank engineered wood flooring, with its handscraped and “reclaimed” appearance, visually stretches the airy interior as well. 

Similarly helping to create a cohesive feel absent of any trace of monotony is creamy cabinetry and neutral granite countertops with bold veining in both the kitchen and master bath; neutral stone tile on all bath floors; sea blue glass accent tiles around the family room fireplace and in the master shower; oil rubbed bronze fixtures and hardware throughout; and lots of pendant lighting with hand blown glass shades.

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