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What's Up Magazine

A Welcome Change in St. Michaels

Jan 07, 2014 10:06AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By CAROL SORGEN // Photography by STEVE BUCHANAN

Lisa and Frank Menditch thought they were retired when they moved to St. Michaels six years ago, but they have become so involved in the community that they’re almost busier than they were when they lived in the suburban Washington area of Montgomery County. Since moving to St. Michaels, Lisa returned to school and received her Master of Social Work degree and is now a full-time social worker, and Frank sits on four boards of directors and is a real estate developer. “I’m semi-retired,” he laughs.

Between them, the Menditches have six children and when the last one left for college, they decided it was time to experience a different lifestyle, especially one with less traffic! They agreed they didn’t want to move more than 100 miles away (“we were only willing to go so far,” they say) and they began their search.

“We started out looking in Chestertown because we thought the college would add a lot to life there,” the couple says, but they kept coming back to one house in St. Michaels, which they discovered on sailing trips on the boat they docked in Annapolis. “Our real estate agent—who was (and still is) a good friend— was very patient with us,” they say.

Ultimately, the 1930s Craftsman-style home won them over, even though it needed a total renovation. “It basically was rebuilt from scratch,” Lisa says. The 15-month project included drawing up new plans, getting permits, and construction, but it’s now “perfect—exactly the home I always wanted,” says Lisa, who credits the couple’s team of architect Suzanne Brigham, interior designer Sarah Fretwell, landscaper Kenneth Brown and Sons, and builder Keith Prettyman with turning an idea into their dream home.

“What I said I wanted from the very beginning,” Lisa continues, “was a home filled with love that family and friends would want to come to, congregate in, and feel welcome. And that’s what we have.”

Small-town living doesn’t necessarily mean a small-size property, and the Menditches home—at 4,000 square feet, with 4 bedrooms, 3 and a half baths, and a 2-car garage that has additional sleeping space available—is amply sized, but it’s certainly not wasted space. “This house is filled all the time,” say the welcoming hosts.

The couple started out thinking they were just going to do a remodel, but the 70-year-old house had other ideas. Floors were different levels, which made ceiling heights uneven, and rooms were blocked off, the couple recalls. In the end, it just made more sense to tear down the original center of the home and its existing additions, open the space and raise the ceilings to 9 feet, so that now “everything just flows,” Lisa says. Of course, renovating a Historic District home means numerous meetings and permits, but since the Menditches were keeping the original frame of the home, everything worked out.

Inside, the home is a “mix and match” of the Menditches style, which Lisa describes as “casually elegant.” “It’s comfortable and inviting with lots of areas where you can just curl up with a book or have a conversation,” she says.

Besides no longer having to live in a “cookie-cutter suburban home,” the Menditches appreciate the small-town friendliness of St. Michaels. “We know our neighbors!” they exclaim. And though they’re now among the “full-timers,” they have friends who are both full- and part-time residents. “It’s so easy to meet people here,” they say, adding that knowing their neighbors makes them committed to being involved in the community. “You feel that you want things to succeed, so you participate,” they say.

Now and then, the Menditches think of whether there will be yet another chapter in their lives when they are truly fully retired, but they say, “We can’t come up with what would be better than this.”

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