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What's Up Magazine

Edgewater Escape

Sep 06, 2013 12:33PM ● By Cate Reynolds

Pleasant surprises abound in and out of this Glebe Bay beauty

Photography by TONY LEWIS, JR.

This is a story about the unexpected. You expect a remodeled home to incorporate conveniences and luxuries—you don’t expect the redo to have gone off without a hitch and in record time. You expect a waterfront property to take advantage of the gorgeous views—you don’t expect the restyled home to be a view in and of itself. And certainly, you’d expect a redone abode to integrate elements unique to the homeowners—but you don’t expect a house to perfectly mirror the unique personalities of the people who inhabit it.

Empty nesters who were looking for a new home with water access, a pool, and great vistas, Jeff and Teresa DeCaro are the type of fascinating individuals distinctive to this area. Both have extraordinarily busy careers—Jeff is a partner with the DeCaro, Doran, Siciliano, Gallagher & DeBlasis law firm and Teresa oversees health policy and health care reform for the federal government. Despite their complicated work worlds, both are extremely approachable, warm, and gracious individuals, with diverse interests in art, photography, and music. Their deep appreciation for craftsmanship and artistry is directly linked to connections in their lives: Teresa sews, for example; Jeff ’s sister-in-law is the award-winning nature photographer Gale Gatto; and their middle child is Dru DeCaro, musician with the chart-topping band Miguel.

When they came upon this 38-year-old Cape Cod-esque cottage in Edgewater, the DeCaros were enamored with its stunning setting on Glebe Bay just off the South River. The half-acre, four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath waterfront property had a heated pool, dock for multiple boats, and mature trees in a quiet neighborhood. The original structure had been lovingly maintained by its second owners, with a first-floor remodel back in the 1990s, as well as a separate building connected by a breezeway that housed an extensive woodworking shop. Yet various aspects—including a small entryway, few baths and a limited upstairs—didn’t quite fi t the needs and wants of the DeCaros. “Our absolute favorite thing is to have our grown children home. We’re happiest when we have our kids, our families, our friends here, celebrating. We wanted a Zen environment but we also entertain a lot,” Teresa says.

Their challenge, then, was to incorporate more space, added functionality, and a design aesthetic matching their unique style, as quickly and economically as possible.

Tight Timeline

Enter Tom Borden, a designer/builder with an extensive commercial construction background, who has various custom residential projects under his belt, and is a longtime friend of the DeCaros. Borden, along with his wife, Diane, often accompanied the DeCaros during their house-hunting expeditions, and both provided suggestions and feedback on design, layout, and space planning.

The DeCaros bid on the home (originally listed for $1,479,000, it ultimately sold for $1,135,000), enlisting Borden to take on the hefty task of a main- and second-floor reconstruction, all in the limited timeframe it would take to sell their previous home. “We timed it and asked for a hard delivery date. We didn’t want to live in an apartment temporarily during construction,” Jeff DeCaro says. The house is now a stunning Craftsman-style design spotlighting its surroundings, with a total of five bedrooms and five-and-a-half baths, expanded first and second floors, and extensive new landscaping and hardscaping. The interior incorporates countless details that stay true to the Craftsman emphasis on simplicity of form and visibility of handicraft. In essence, the home, like its owners, is open and approachable, relaxed and original. And amazingly, the project was completed in just four-and-a-half months, for less than $500,000.

Fastidious Planning

In an era when nightmare remodeling tales abound, the Edgewater project went smoothly, in part because of intense scheduling, strict organizing, and quick adjustments as obstacles arose.

Borden began drawings and designs as soon as the DeCaros submitted their bid. To avoid complicating the permit process and added construction costs, he kept to the home’s original footprint, reconfiguring areas and building over existing spaces. Advanced meetings with the land reviewer to share the construction plans helped with planning, and all permits were in place by the settlement date. “I knew there were certain intricacies to building on the water. I made sure we weren’t opening ourselves up to permitting roadblocks,” Borden explains.

This type of pre-planning was key to completing the project on time. “We settled on a Friday and on Monday, the roof was off the house,” Jeff explains.

Similar pre-construction meetings with all the subcontractors and subsequent follow-up meetings reinforced the many deadlines and expectations. “It really comes down to being proactive. I call it driving a schedule. I drive the schedule, I don’t watch the job get built. That’s the key to four-and-a-half months delivery,” Borden explains.

From custom wrought-iron window boxes to exterior and fi re pit stonework by to specially milled ceiling crown molding created by Borden himself, a slew of area craftsmen contributed to the project to incorporate the myriad changes and uncommon elements both inside and out. “Every room has a little something that makes it interesting,” Teresa says.

Through each phase of construction, Borden and the DeCaros worked closely, usually with a series of elaborate spreadsheets, to tweak and finalize materials and budgets. Partway through the project, the DeCaros changed their minds about keeping the home’s original brick surface and opted instead for stone. While the change bumped up the original $300,000 budget, clever adjustments kept it from skyrocketing. “We looked at many different products to incorporate the look on the outside. In some places, we demolished the brick; in others, we went over top of it,” Borden says.

Magnificent Modifications

Certainly, the most obvious change is to the exterior, particularly the front elevation, which beautifully frames the water vistas around it. Previously, the driveway side of the home was composed of light-colored brick, lattice posts, and two different roof lines. Now, both sides of the home are balanced with matching roof heights, as well as a mix of cedar shingles, siding, and stonework, crowned with a distinctive Craftsman square-tapered column.

A conventional, closed-in entryway was reconfigured and rich, wide-planked hickory floors were installed, all opening to the rest of the home. “Walk in and you immediately get a sense of expansiveness and you pick up the water feature right away. That was a game changer,” Borden says.

A master bedroom/bathroom on the first floor was converted to an ample guest bedroom, with a luxurious handicap-accessible bath. The suite is lovingly called the Hazel Room, as both Jeff and Teresa’s elderly mothers are named Hazel and use the room when visiting.

The new master bedroom and bath were moved to the upper level by combining existing spaces and lifting the ceiling for a coffered effect. A new window wall overlooking Glebe Bay emphasizes the serenity of the space. The en-suite bath incorporates refi ned touches, including pocket doors, distinctive leather-finish granite, and subtle ceramic tile work.

The existing first-floor woodshop was converted into an expansive game room, and a second floor was built over it for additional bedroom and bath space. To connect the main part of the home with this addition, a unique hallway was constructed. “It doesn’t feel like a hallway; it feels like a study. It’s visually very appealing,” Teresa says.

While it may not be what you’d expect in a waterfront property, the end result fits perfectly with the surroundings and the family. The serene spot has already hosted numerous festive gatherings, including the spring wedding of one of the DeCaro daughters with a 130-person guest list. “It’s a perfect combination of a relaxing and entertaining space,” Teresa says.