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Coming Full Circle: Modern Country Design Emerges at this Stevensville Horse Farm

Aug 06, 2015 09:00AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

By Carol Sorgen // Photography by Stephen Buchanan

For years, Wendy Costello was, in her words, a “frustrated designer.” Like most military families, the Costellos (Wendy; her husband, Marty, a graduate of the Naval Academy; and their two children) packed up and moved countless times through the years.

“I spent many years just putting away ideas that we could use one day,” Wendy says.

That day finally arrived when the Costellos bought a 20-acre property in Stevensville eight-and-a-half years ago. What drew them to the Eastern Shore were their fond memories of Annapolis, as well as their need to accommodate the sport horses they breed (at the time they moved, they owned 18 horses and one stallion).

“This property had an ‘okay’ house,” Wendy says, “but what sold us was that it also had a barn, a riding arena, and was close enough to Annapolis and to our budget.”

Though the existing house was livable, it did not suit the couple’s long-term needs, with its three upstairs bedrooms, an awkward spiral staircase that would have been difficult to maneuver as they got older, very little storage, and awkwardly placed rooms—such as a powder room in the kitchen.
Before tackling the house, however, the first project the Costellos turned their attention to after moving to the Shore from Wisconsin was the construction of another barn. They then took a renovation break for several years while they got used to the property and thought about how best to make it work for them.

“It took some time but we wanted to be sure of how things would fit in,” the couple says. “We really gave it a lot of thought, and between an extensive rehab and new construction, you wouldn’t recognize it today.”

Working with Bob Moreland, architectural designer at Lundberg Builders, the Costellos completely altered the exterior, built a new addition, and reworked the interior, entirely changing the “flavor” of the house.

“It has a different design perspective,” says Wendy, adding that she is inspired by both English and French country design mixed with eclectic modern.

When Moreland first met the Costellos several years after they purchased the property, their initial concept was to develop a master plan to reconstruct several areas of the house, with emphasis on new stairs and access to the second floor, a remodeled kitchen, as well as an addition that would serve as a new master bedroom and bath and a new office/library.

“As we worked on conceptual ideas, however,” Moreland says, “it became apparent that a complete rework of the first floor entry area was necessary, along with desires for a new outdoor lakefront living area.”

The design concept evolved to be an open, free-flowing interior space with a more modern farmhouse look. Wood ceilings and beams (some from the Civil War era) were to play a major part in the interior décor and heavy timber beams are a prominent element in the newly designed kitchen.
As the Costellos are race horse breeders, it was also important that several areas of the home have views out to the horse pastures and stables. “We like to say that our second home is outside in the pasture,” Wendy says with a laugh.

The entire exterior appearance of the home was changed from a standard vinyl-sided two-story box to an updated farmhouse with stone, copper, and stucco accents.

“Wendy and Marty were very hands-on when it came to working out details and in the selections of materials and products for the project,” Moreland says.

Wendy laughingly admits that she probably “drove Marty crazy” with her attention to detail, but says, “I have a great eye for color and for design!” Not to mention all those years of pent-up design frustration!

Though Wendy initially considered painting the interior a stark white, she softened the look to include shades of grey, lavender, cream, and beige accented by crisp, white trim with accessories in blue and red for additional shots of color.

Unfinished ceiling beams (some still with their original hardware), floors in custom-stained oak or travertine, and a stone fireplace are in keeping with the Costellos’ desire to have a home they could dress up or dress down. “I call it Ralph Lauren meets the beach,” Wendy says.

“This is a home where we can both entertain and relax, and not worry about dogs, horses, kids...everyday stuff happens here,” says Wendy, adding that the couple has also become very involved with the Naval Academy, sponsoring midshipmen and entertaining Marty’s former classmates.
Among the distinctive elements of the home are works by local artists—such as Nancy Hammond—that the couple has begun to collect since moving to the Eastern Shore, a custom-made stair rail, and a screened-in porch (at the top of Marty’s wish list) with an industrial chic vibe.

Each Costello has a favorite spot in the house. For Marty, at the moment it’s the library, which he finds calming and relaxing (though he expects the porch to surpass the library in his affections). For Wendy, the master bedroom is her refuge with its ceiling interest (“I’m a ceiling person!”) and the spaciousness that it gives her, Marty, and their dogs—plenty of room “without stumbling over each other.”

And they’re both partial to the beautiful views to Northwest Creek.

For now, the Costellos don’t have any immediate plans for additions or changes other than perhaps to add to the landscaping (a pergola over the back deck is in the idea pile!)—something they couldn’t often enjoy in their many moves.

Whatever they may do in the future, the couple is just happy to have a place they can call home—for however long they want. “This house represents 46 years of marriage, many relocations, and returning to the area where it all started for us,” they say.
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