House reflects owners' fascination with Japanese culture AN EASTERN VISION

November 24, 1991|By Linda Lowe Morris

Easton -- Here along the banks of the Miles River, a house sits quietly apart. It is named for a haiku and patterned after geese in flight, and for its owners, it is a dream fulfilled: a house that draws its design from the traditional Japanese teahouse.

The owners are a retired couple (who do not wish to be identified). The husband is a retired Marine colonel who spent several years stationed in Japan and during this time he was captivated by the teahouse.

"The teahouse architecture evolved out of the tea ceremony where the Japanese celebrate purity, refinement and withdrawal from material concerns," says Wayne Good, the Annapolis architect who designed the house. "And so the architecture became very simple, devoid of ornamentation."

The house, called Asagao from the name of a haiku celebrating the morning glory, seems almost to grow out of the earth. The slant of the roof and the deep roof overhangs constantly draw the eye downward.

Not an exact copy of a Japanese house but rather a hybrid, the house pulls together elements of both American and Japanese houses. The tranquil feel comes directly from the East. Nearly every room has a view of the river, and throughout the house there are windows in unusual places that seem to frame a view of the outdoors. "Wherever you turn a corner, we have a window that creates a picture of nature," Mr. Good says.

But the arrangement of rooms -- with a den and a family room -- is typically Western. While a teahouse would be small, less than 1,800 square feet, this house, including its attached garage and utility room, is more than three times that size.

You enter the house along a meandering path. "Japanese

architecture is very earthbound and mysterious," Mr. Good says. "You never approach the front door directly on, you always go around a cor- See ORIENTAL, 0L, Col. 0ORIENTAL, from 1Lner. The house sort of unfolds to you."

Stepping stones lead up to a porch or walkway, called the engawa, that surrounds almost the entire house. Inside the door is a small entryway where the person entering makes a transition between inside and outside. Here, in Japan, the visitors would remove their shoes.

A partition blocks any view of the rest of the house, but as you follow the hallway and step down two steps, you come to the living room. One whole wall is glass, actually doors made with mahogany frames, which can be slid silently back into the walls. Screens can be pulled out to cover the wall or it can be left open to give the feel of being in a pavilion.

"The whole house is actually built like a cabinet," Mr. Good says.

Through these windows the owners can watch sunsets reflected in the river. Other windows off the living room overlook a small contemplation garden with a pond and rock fountain.

The ceilings of the house are low and painted a subtle shade of pale gray-green, slightly deeper than that used on the walls. "We have about six varying shades of green here," Mr. Good says. "The idea in Japanese architecture is to obscure the difference between indoors and outdoors. So the colors pull in the natural greens of nature."

Two large Japanese screens cover the only solid wall of the living room. The husband collected Japanese art and antiques while living in Japan. Other items, including some Japanese tansu chests, were inherited from his grandparents, who had also lived in Japan briefly.

The owners were married just as the house was being completed. The furnishings -- some Japanese, some American modern and some traditional -- are a mixture of the things each brought to the house.

One wing of the house contains the master bedroom suite which includes, in addition to the bedroom, a small sitting room with windows overlooking a pond, a bath with steeping tub and another room which is a combination closet and dressing room.

The master bedroom has two adjoining walls made up of windows which, as they do in the living room and several other rooms of the house, slide back into the walls. "Because there is no structural post in the corner," Mr. Good says, "the roof

seems to float overhead."

The second floor contains two guest bedrooms and storage areas. Each of the guest bedrooms has its own bath and its own private balcony.

Surrounding the house, which sits on two acres of what was once a soybean field, are several small ponds with a Japanese-style garden. Ornamental grasses have been used extensively in the landscaping, which was done by Andy Hobson of Easton, and a manmade salt marsh divides the lawn area from the water.

To one side of the house is a bluestone patio wrapped around a kidney-shaped pool painted black. "When you have a natural body of water nearby," Mr. Good says. "I think it's always best to have a black pool because the surface reflects the same way that natural water reflects the light."

Mr. Good, who grew up in Great Falls, Va., studied architecture at Clemson University. He moved to Annapolis in 1980 and started his own practice in 1986.

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