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What's Up Magazine

Crossing the Bridge to a New Life

Nov 15, 2013 10:39AM ● By Cate Reynolds
by Carol Sorgen // Photography by Steve Buchanan

Ken Joy likes to say to his wife, Linda, that once she crossed the Bay Bridge, she never came back. “Or, in other words,” Linda laughs, “I didn’t realize the Bridge went two ways.” Before “finding their bliss” in postcard-worthy Oxford, the Joys lived full-time first in Potomac and then in a waterfront condominium in Washington, D.C., with Linda spending winters in Florida, where she was a competitive equestrian. After one typically steamy D.C. summer, though, Linda decided what they really needed was a weekend house in the country, preferably on the water.

The couple spent a month looking at homes on the Shore, not quite finding the perfect spot, until, that is, their Realtor showed them a home in Oxford’s Bachelor’s Point neighborhood. “It was only our first visit to Oxford and the house wasn’t directly on the water,” Linda recalls, “but after one whiff of that sea air, we completely fell in love with them both.”

The Joys initially planned to continue living in D.C. during the week, but Linda was finding it increasingly more difficult to head back over the Bridge at the end of a weekend…and not because of the traffic. But when the couple considered moving to Oxford full-time, they realized their vacation home not only wasn’t conducive to year-round living, but new homes built in front of it were now obstructing the waterfront view that had first drawn them in.

That’s when they turned to Oxford-based architect Timothy Kearns, who specializes in Tidewater residential designs. “It all started because I wanted a mud room for our Golden Retriever, Dylan [named after Linda’s one-time favorite singer Bob Dylan],” Linda laughs. And, as frequently happens, so began the slippery slope of renovation.

From a design standpoint, Kearns says, the main problem confronting him was that the waterfront didn't belong to the Joys’ lot, and the once-spectacular views realized from the home’s original one-room-deep plan—with a wraparound porch and French doors that allowed the outdoors in—no longer worked for a home that was now, essentially, situated on an inland lot.

“It made sense for the home to require full-time living spaces,” Kearns says, “including an identifiable front door, which it had lacked in its incarnation as a weekend house.” Because of Oxford’s restrictive zoning, Kearns’s challenge was to create a recognizable entry path and add more full-time living spaces—all within the existing volume—and to have the pool make sense in its front-yard location.

The key elements of Kearns’ design were the relocation of the garage and the expansion of a guest apartment that remained located above the garage. In addition, the French doors were replaced by windows, all strategically located to take in the water views. A back porch that was rarely used also was removed to make way for a two-story addition where the new kitchen is now located. “We had a limited footprint in which to make new space,” Kearns says. “It was a challenge—one I probably won’t come across again—but I solved the problem by reallocating the square footage, rather than adding more.”

Once Kearns and the Joys settled on the design of the house, Preston-based builder William Wroten turned the plans into reality, and then interior designer Suzanne Hanks gave them the “quiet and elegant” interiors for which they were looking.

“This is my favorite house that I’ve ever done,” says the Oxford-based interior designer, who has worked with the Joys on a number of projects throughout the years. “It has a really good feel to it, and the homeowners and I are on the same wavelength.”

“Suzanne and I are just simpatico,” agrees Linda Joy. When the Joys first bought the property, they were charmed by the original homeowner’s “modern country” vibe and, in fact, bought a number of her furnishings. Through the years, they re-covered some of the pieces, and added drapes for a warmer touch, especially in the winter. When they decided to make the home their full-time residence, they told Hanks to “amp it up.” “We wanted it to be a bit more formal but still comfortable,” Linda says.

Hanks gave the Joys the inviting feel they were looking for with cool tones of aquas and whites, complemented by accents of gold. More formal touches were added with the inclusion of a “saloon”—complete with velvet sofa and 17th-century mirror— that is a favorite place for the Joys and their guests to relax with a drink, especially during the winter holidays.

Enhancing the interiors is the artwork curated for the couple by design consultant J. Lynn Lawson in the Washington metro area. “I can’t resist anything she brings to show us,” Linda says. Every part of the home, Hanks says, from the top-of-the-line Smallbone kitchen to the Waterworks bath fittings, antique French fi replace, and formal butler’s pantry, is a study in elegance, but at the same time is also soothing and relaxing. “Ken and Linda are great people to spend time with, and their home reflects that,” Hanks says.

Linda no longer rides competitively; instead, when she and Ken aren’t on land, they’re enjoying their 52-foot Grand Banks boat. “Ken couldn’t ride with me, but we can boat together,” Linda says. “This is now our sport of choice.”

But when they’re not on the water, the Joys like nothing better than spending time in the house that has “grown and blossomed” since they first bought it as a weekend getaway. “We love everything about this house,” Linda says. “I love the different spaces where I can relax with a book, I love that there is plenty of room for guests (which includes the Joys’ grown children and two-and-a-half-year-old twin grandchildren), and I love the open floor plan so that no matter how many people are here, we’re not bumping into one another.”

The Joys also have been totally captivated by the welcoming neighborhood of Bachelor’s Point, where “there’s always a friendly face.”

“The town is so cool,” Linda says. “We have more friends here than we’ve ever had any place else. It’s almost like being in college…we’re always running into someone we know.” And best of all? She no longer has to cross the Bridge!