Crafting A Classic
BY MARY E. MEDLAND • PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA MARCOTTE
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT J. Mark White, President of GardenWise, Inc., had enjoyed a long and congenial history of creating gardens for the homes that architect Rob Morris designed and built. So when the opportunity arose for Morris, of the Arlington,Virginia-based Morris-Day Designers and Builders, to design and build a home for White, he jumped at the chance.
Morris had purchased a large piece of land in the Cherrydale neighborhood, which he planned to subdivide into four or five homes. He developed prototypes for these future homes that were loosely based on the turn-of-the-century architecture already there—“We’re known for doing a lot of work in old neighborhoods,” he says.“This was not an affluent area when it was originally developed but one that was full of hardworking, middle-income people. Then post World War II, it was augmented with colonials. This place was very quiet until the 1990s, when gentrification began.”
After working together on some modifications to the layout of one of Morris’s home plans, the two agreed upon a Greek Revival-style structure that mirrors homes throughout the South. Although the house boasts 3,000 square feet on two above-grade levels, it doesn’t appear overwhelming. “When we are designing new houses in older neighborhoods, we try to take care that the new ones are visually compatible with the existing homes. We also were careful that the house looked smaller when viewed from the street…we really do try to reinforce the earlier generations of homes,” says Morris. “We hid a lot of the additional space by using dormers and attic rooms, as well as front porches and bay windows that are more finely scaled.”
It worked perfectly for White, who notes that his sense of style is strongly based in tradition but with a dose of modern vitality. “One of the great things about working with Morris-Day is that their homes are very well crafted and true to a historical foundation at the same time,” says White. “I really appreciate their craftsmanship.”
Some of those well-crafted details include windows with individual glass panes, thick columns, and substantial exterior trim. By incorporating these details, the focus really is not on the size of the house as much as on the exterior architectural elements and White’s landscaping.
On the first floor are the living, dining, family, breakfast, and powder rooms, as well as the kitchen. Part of a butler’s pantry provided space for a bathroom that White’s clients can use when visiting. (White’s office is a sort of carriage house that is separate from the main house but still on the property. It is a light, airy place that opens onto the patio and fountain.)
The family room boasts details such as built-in bookcases and paneled walls. “Everything really flows from room to room, and the openings between rooms include very big arches,” says White, who adds that he requested built-in shelving to display his collection of white pottery that dates to the 1930s. “Then there are natural stone mosaic tiles around the fireplace.”
“But my favorite place is the breakfast room, which has plenty of windows and gets a lot of light. It is the room most closely connected to the garden, and it overlooks the water feature through the room’s French doors.”
The second floor has a master bedroom and bathroom, two bedrooms with access to a hall bathroom, and a guest suite that consists of a bedroom and full bath. Above this is an attic, which is strictly used for storage.
White and Morris collaborated on the interior design as well. “We worked with pieces Mark had, pieces we selected together, and things he chose,” says Morris. “Anything that is attached to the house—such as the Farrow & Ball wallpaper, the interior tiles, flooring, and paint colors—we were involved with.”
When it came to the landscaping, White notes that he has been strongly influenced by English gardens for their use of color and the Italian Renaissance for its formal vistas and structural stonework, which he believes, “probably typifies how Americans are influenced by different cultures.”
“Since the house is a Greek Revival-style building, I really wanted to make use of a lot of Southern plants such as magnolias, dogwoods, camellias, and crape myrtles.” White adds that when it comes to color, he was inspired by the English Garden style, which typically includes white, yellow, and blue. “In the garden, I planted a lot of different things that are growing at various times of the year. I wanted my garden to be multi-seasonal with a ‘Japanese Garden’ style incorporated into the design. This was achieved through the use of traditional Japanese plant material like bamboo, which represents resilience and strength, and evergreens such as azaleas, nandinas, and yews, which signify timelessness.”
The grassy front lawn sweeps up from the street to the house, showing off the surrounding plants, and it is this lawn that is perhaps the most labor-intensive area outdoors, notes White. His back patio is paved with bluestone bordered in Belgian block, as is the walkway in the front of the house. The patio is the spot where, weather permitting, White indulges his passion for entertaining. “The patio is sort of an extension of the house…I do a lot of entertaining and have a gas grill there,” he says.
From the patio, a gravel path leads to a round water feature, which is the primary image seen from the house. “The water feature is a very traditional caststone basin that spills into a lower pool. I incorporated cobalt blue glass mosaic tiles in the lower basin, giving it a more contemporary edge,” says White.
To acknowledge the usual headaches —the inevitable weather delays, errors, broken delivery dates, and so forth—that come with new construction or remodeling, Morris reports that, “if you are used to this, it’s more like managed chaos than a nightmare.”
But the final result was well worth the effort. “In the end, the level of detail people should expect in homes that are worth living in is often lacking in new homes,” says Morris, “but this house looks and feels as though someone cared about it. This is a timeless product.”
GardenWise, Inc.: www.gardenwiseinc.com or 202-543-3422 / 703-243-5982
Morris-Day Designers and Builders: www.morris-day.com or 703-524-5220
Farrow & Ball: www.farrow-ball.com or 888-511-1121
CHESAPEAKE HOME Story Link: http://www.morris-day.com/publications/ChesHome-MarkWhite.pdf