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What's Up Magazine

On Point: A Timeless Waterfront Retreat for Family and Friends

May 29, 2015 01:45PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Carol Sorgen // Photography by Stephen Buchanan

Rebecca and Mark Plaster raised their three children in Wilmington, Delaware, in a large contemporary home well-suited for entertaining. (Seventy-five teenagers for a sock hop, anyone?) But when the kids flew the coop, the Plasters decided it was time they did too. The only decision: Where to go?

The couple, who publish a journal for emergency room physicians, decided they could work from just about anywhere with an Internet connection. But despite considering far-flung locales such as Italy, the Plasters ultimately decided that the Annapolis area had everything they wanted.

“We love to sail, Mark is a physician with the Navy, and, at the time, we were thinking of moving closer to our son who was a midshipman at the Naval Academy,” Rebecca says. The couple spent two years looking at properties in Anne Arundel County, often having lunch in the historic village of Galesville. After one such pleasant afternoon, they decided, “This is the place.”
In 2002, the couple ultimately “stumbled” upon the land on which they now live, at the point where the West River and Tenthouse Creek meet in Harwood (and just across the creek from Galesville). “It had been on the market only two days,” Rebecca recalls, adding that the former owner had lived in the house since her wedding night in 1953. The Plasters were still living in Wilmington and using the home for weekends and vacations when, the following year, Hurricane Isabel pretty much destroyed the home. “You could have sailed a kayak through the living room!” Rebecca says.

Moving up the timeline, the couple turned to Annapolis architect Cathy Purple Cherry and builder John Nugent of Nugent Design Build to help them realize their vision of a new house with a “timeless” feel.

“We wanted something different from our house in Wilmington...we wanted something that a grandchild would love to play hide-and-seek in,” Rebecca says.

The design and build process was slowed a bit when Mark was deployed to Iraq, but by 2006, the couple had settled in their new with five grandchildren (and one on the way) who do, in fact, love not only to play hide-and-seek, but also swing from the hanging swings in their own “bunk room” and even climb a mini-rock wall up to the top bunk.
First on Rebecca’s wish list for Purple Cherry; to incorporate into the house a kitchen that included a fireplace (built using stones from the original house) and a full-size sofa...not a love seat, Rebecca insisted, but a sofa that you could sink into and have a cup of tea and a chat with a friend, or visiting offspring, or grandchild. Indeed, whereas their former home was designed for parties, this home is designed for intimate gatherings and cozy nooks for conversation.

“These rooms are made for no more than four to six people at a time,” Rebecca says, adding that it is not often that they actually need larger spaces.

That doesn’t mean that the couple doesn’t entertain anymore, and with approximately 6,000 square feet and six-and-a-half acres of waterfront property, there is more than enough room for everyone. The first year they lived in the house the Plasters had approximately 300 overnight visits, “and there wasn’t one I was sorry I had invited!” Rebecca recalls with laugher. While their son was at the Naval Academy, the couple frequently welcomed his fellow midshipmen as well. And in between family and friends, they host large-scale parties such as a recent fundraiser for an orphanage they sponsor in Africa.

“Rebecca and Mark wanted to create a home that could become a mecca for family and friends,” Purple Cherry says, “and I think we accomplished that.”

Contrary to the popular trend of “open concept” floor plans, the Plasters also told Purple Cherry that they liked the fact that in older homes there is “wasted space,” such as hallways, foyers, porches, and so on. “You can meander through an older home and discover new spaces,” Rebecca says, and that’s what Purple Cherry gave them, from a butler’s pantry to a child’s playroom to a second-floor hallway that serves as a family photo “album.”

The smaller defined spaces lend themselves to a sense of intimacy, says Purple Cherry, and the architectural features such as casings, moldings, and built-ins reinforce the feeling of an older home, one that has grown through the years and stood the test of time.

Indeed, Rebecca says, “The best compliment I can get is when someone thinks the house is in such good shape for being so old!”
Another advantage of defined spaces that the Plasters appreciate is that individual rooms can have different themes. In the mahogany-paneled movie room, for example, the well-traveled family displays art and objects from time spent in Peru and Africa, while the enclosed sunroom showcases an enormous Balinese teak table, and an upstairs bath holds remembrances from Japan and Vietnam.

Rebecca used her Internet sleuthing skills to decorate the house, from tracking down the wide-plank distressed oak kitchen flooring from Northern Maine to the massive double-sided concrete fireplace in the family and dining rooms that was shipped from Texas (another fireplace in the master bedroom is a favorite spot for unwinding, unless the weather is conducive to relaxing on one of the two porches off the bedroom).

In the end, the Plasters got the “grand old house” they were looking for, in a location that was perfect for them. “We’re a Navy family,” Rebecca says, pointing to photos of Mark’s father and uncles who also served in the Armed Forces. “We love the water, we love sailing, and we love the military. Coming to Annapolis felt like coming home.”