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A Lifelong Homestead: Bay Ridge Beach Cottage Grows Up

Jul 28, 2015 12:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds

This Bay Ridge beach cottage built in the early 20th century was renovated in stages to accommodate a growing family.

By Carol Sorgen // Photography by Stephen Buchanan
Annapolis architect Cathy Purple Cherry loves the Bay Ridge home of John and Po Martin almost as much as the homeowners themselves do. Not surprising as it was one of the first projects Purple Cherry took on after establishing her firm in 1996. In the almost two decades since, both she and the Martins have grown their businesses (the Martins own Jack Martin Insurance Advisers) and their families, and the home Purple Cherry designed for the couple has withstood the test of time.

The Martins—he a longtime Annapolitan and she a “Jersey girl”—bought the house 20 years ago from the estate of a gentleman who had owned it since the 1940s. “It was just one of the many cottages built in the early 20th century,” Po Martin says. In fact, when the Martins bought the home, they actually purchased the lot the cottage sat on with the expectation that the cottage would be torn down.
But after moving in, John took care of some renovations himself before bringing on Purple Cherry to bring the home up to date. Accomplishing that meant that Purple Cherry bulldozed the rear addition the former owner had added, while retaining the original cottage and expanding the property from two bedrooms to five (along with three baths). Further extensive interior renovations and detailing were completed on the existing cottage, including the large deck with wraparound benches.

Po was pregnant with the couple’s first daughter (they now have two) but knew that this was going to be their lifelong home. “We wanted to be able to remain in it comfortably through the years,” she says, “making it large enough for a growing family but keeping it at a scale that once the kids were gone, we wouldn’t feel that the walls were echoing!”
The Martins and Purple Cherry agreed that the house shouldn’t have a second story. “If it had, it would no longer have been a beach cottage,” Po says.

The first part of the renovation was completed in 2001 and the second in 2006. Among the significant improvements Purple Cherry made was converting an almost useless narrow screened porch into a year-round room with fireplace, as well as designing a kitchen around a large Irish breakfront that the Martins preferred to built-ins. “The kitchen evolved around that piece,” Po says.
The goal of the design, says Purple Cherry, was to connect the kitchen to the living room, with skylights providing extensive natural light to each of the linked rooms. The arched openings were also added between the living and dining room for easy flow and access to the outdoors from either the front or rear door.

Purple Cherry’s design stayed true to the home’s modest and cozy roots, accomplished with the use of heart pine floors, wainscoting, interior clerestory openings, and beadboard, but re-envisioned for the present day, now with pine beadboard on the ceiling rather than the walls, for instance.
While the home has more than enough space for the family (whose older daughter is now in college), the couple spends most of their time in two chairs by the windows enjoying the expansive views, or sitting on the “nautical” themed porch, chatting with the neighbors who walk by.
“My favorite thing about the house is its location,” Po says. “This is such a neighborly community. Everybody walks by and stops to talk, and we all have access to the water across the street, instead of just some people having waterfront access on their own property. It’s just a wonderful neighborhood.”