Annapolis couple turn a modest cottage into a prize-winning, 3-story contemporary showcase

FROM SIMPLE TO SUBLIME

October 27, 1991|By Lynn Williams

Everybody loves a Cinderella story.

Changing pumpkins into golden coaches and mice into high-stepping chargers might be considered child's play for Scott Rand and Merrilyne Hendrickson, though. Even firm fairy-tale partisans might find the couple's transformation of a humble Annapolis cottage into a three-story contemporary showplace beyond the bounds of belief.

As fairy godmothers are in short supply, Ms. Hendrickson and Mr. Rand had to work the "magic" themselves. While they had some help with the foundation and systems, they acted as their own designers and draftsmen and carpenters and bricklayers and landscape architects. And they did it all in their "spare time." Both have full-time jobs; he is vice president of Beck, Powell and Parsons, a Baltimore architecture and design firm, and she is a graphic artist whose specialty is designing and painting boat names.

Working weekends and most holidays, it took them the better part of five years, but the finished product is all theirs.

The couple's efforts, as well as their results, favorably impressed the judges in Better Homes and Gardens magazine's national home improvement competition. The Annapolitans were awarded the $10,000 grand prize, and an additional $1,000 for best whole-house renovation; their award-winning project is on display in the magazine's November issue.

The poor Cinderella in question was a tiny one-story cottage in the Eastport section of Annapolis near Spa Creek. Elderly but not historic, the 80-year-old building was an asbestos-shingled Plain Jane with cramped rooms, and little to recommend it except for two very important things: location and affordability.

"We loved this area," Merrilyne Hendrickson says. "We lived one block over, and used to cut across this lot to visit our friends, who lived two doors down and on the water. When a 'For Sale' sign went up we said 'Great!' We were ready to buy something."

The couple, who had been living in rented quarters, bought the house in 1985. For a year, they lived in it "as is" -- despite the fact that their bed barely fit into the bedroom -- while they designed the dream house it would one day become.

Their first project, that same year, was to build a garage. This allowed them to experiment with the kinds of materials and external details that would be used for the main house.

Then, in the fall of 1985, they designed the house.

"We both like very contemporary things, yet this street didn't want to have any cutting-edge progressive architecture on it," Mr. Rand explains.

The street is a mixed bag of architectural styles, comprising tidy Cape Cods, expensive contemporary creations and no-frills structures that wouldn't look out of place on an Appalachian mountain top. Anything too enormous or too glitzy would be out of character and out of scale.

The couple built a scale model of their design, which underwent a number of revisions. Their final design included a variety of roof lines, a flowing open plan and plenty of windows to catch the sun and take advantage of the views. The living room at the front of the house has a cathedral ceiling, with a staircase at the rear that leads up to two second-floor bedrooms. Instead of a complete third floor, which would have made the house too bulky for its surroundings, they added a cupolalike loft with wraparound windows, reached by a circular staircase.

"We have a very similar design sense," Ms. Hendrickson says. "We like the 'painted ladies' and decorative shingles in San Francisco, so we thought 'How can we use that?' We also admire Frank Lloyd Wright's houses, so the horizontal linear quality and the overhangs were desirable."

And, she adds, both she and Mr. Rand have lived in New England, where many old houses are topped by "widow's walks" from which sailor's wives could gaze out to sea. The loft, complete with brass telescope, honors this tradition, as well as providing beautiful views of Spa Creek, the State House and, in the winter, the Bay Bridge.

The original house provided needed shelter for the couple while they built the additions. "We moved everything we owned into the basement," Ms. Hendrickson says. "We prayed for no rain."

The first stage, begun in the spring of 1986, was the addition of a family room off the old dining room. Later that year, the second and third floors were added to the back part of the house. By the summer of 1987, the back area was ready to move into, while the living room wing, which uses the space once occupied by the old house, was redone.

During the next couple of years, the two sections were "knitted together" and finished, and the landscaping, including a brick patio with a fish pond -- a constant source of interest for the couple's three cats -- was done.

"I knew more about the building side of it, but the two of us did it together," Mr. Rand says. "She painted 100 percent of the house . . ."

"Inside and out," Ms. Hendrickson adds.

". . . and she brought all the shingles, every one, up through the scaffolding," he finishes.

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