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Forever Home on the Bayfront: Planning for Retirement. Living for Today

Sep 10, 2015 10:56AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Carol Sorgen // Photography by Stephen Buchanan

When Eric and Bogusia Thoemmes began to consider their retirement plans, they thought they might move to Eric’s native California. But having made their home in Maryland for the last 30 years, the couple realized that uprooting their lives for the Left Coast when the time came just wasn’t practical. “This is home,” says the Polish-born Bogusia.

“So, we asked ourselves what did we love most after California, and Annapolis was it,” the couple says. In fact, through the years the Thoemmeses had spent so much time in the state capital that they used to joke that they lived in Annapolis but slept in Bowie!

The Thoemmeses planned to leisurely look for a house that could be converted into a home that would see them into their later years, assuming it would take quite some time to find what they wanted. Instead, within just a few weeks they found a small mid-century waterfront rancher on a 100'x100' property in the Annapolis Roads community. “We were the first people to see it,” they recall.
“They had us at the view,” Eric laughs, as he looks out at the Severn River, up to Spa Creek, and over to the Bay Bridge. They made an offer within 24 hours, and then, with the help of Annapolis architect Cathy Purple Cherry, set to work designing what they hope will be their “forever” home.

The house had already been renovated several times but in its present state didn't work for the Thoemmeses’ lifestyle. The couple entertains frequently but prefers small gatherings, so they wanted a series of intimate spaces throughout the house. Bogusia, a retired attorney-turned-artist who studies with the renowned American realist painter Robert Liberace, also needed a studio with northern light for her painting. And as most homeowners with waterfront property prefer, the couple also wanted 10' ceilings and windows that maximized the spectacular view.

"We knew just what we wanted," says Bogusia: A home for the future that they can live in today and one that reflects their preference for a design aesthetic that is both rustic and elegant and reminiscent of the European countryside.
With Purple Cherry at the helm, the Thoemmeses were able to achieve their vision with an essentially new home that sits on the original foundation and incorporates the existing structure.

“We retained the original first floor,” says Purple Cherry, explaining that she, the Thoemmeses, and the entire team (including kitchen designer Joni Zimmerman of Design Solutions Inc. in Annapolis and builder Matt Long of Gate One Builders in Annapolis) made a “concerted, sensitive effort” to stay within the existing footprint yet undertake a massive renovation, and all within the Thoemmeses’ allotted budget.

“Cathy read our minds when she put together this team,” says the couple. “They all executed the design flawlessly.”

“Our firm loved the intimacy of this home...special small scale spaces for intimate conversations...and all connected visually to an incredible view of the Chesapeake Bay!,” says Purple Cherry.

The couple’s first floor now includes three comfortable, connected rooms—a formal living/dining room, a cozy library/TV room (which was previously a screened porch), and situated between them, a chef's kitchen (both Eric and Bogusia are avid cooks and enjoy preparing meals together)—extended toward the water to include an intimate seating grouping so that guests and hosts can enjoy each other’s company while meals are being prepared.

Taking center stage in the kitchen—“the soul of the house,” the couple says, and from which the entire design springs—is the massive Lacanche stove from Burgundy, France.
Kitchen designer Joni Zimmerman took note of the couple’s style and needs as enthusiastic chefs—including providing two dishwashers, two sinks, and two trash compactors—and created an L-shaped counter which gives the impression that the kitchen and seating area are two rooms. The weathered granite countertop is both functional and beautiful, a custom-crafted refrigerator cabinet by Michael L. Huber of Chesapeake Cabinet & Woodworks in Annapolis has turned the refrigerator into a work of art, while Huber’s circular walnut butcher block island adds more functional working space while enhancing the custom details of the room. (Huber is also responsible for the built-in cabinets in the reading room, which complement the 150-year-old hand-hewn beams located in an Indiana barn.) A stone concrete composite oven hood by Francois & Co. based in Atlanta adds to the rustic European ambience.

The Thoemmeses were involved in every aspect of the house. “Everything you see, we have picked out,” they say. “Other than perhaps the wiring in the wall,” Eric laughs. “We have quite particular tastes.”

Among the features they’re particularly enamored of are the interior and exterior stair railings and the metal surround for the butcher block island, all custom made by Mathew and Karine Maynard, of Maynard Studios, Inc., in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The interior railing earned the Maynards first place in an international competition sponsored by the National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association.

When it came to home furnishings, the Thoemmeses went for pieces that would complement their casually elegant style—as well as stand up to their five cats! Though they brought some pieces from their old home, “Restoration Hardware came to the rescue!”

The rear of the house leads down to a newly completed dock but even without a boat (“that’s in the plan!”), the Thoemmeses enjoy sitting on the screened porch, taking in both the landscaping by Rob Graham from Graham Landscape Architects in Davidsonville and the incomparable views.

“As soon as I get home, the stress is gone,” says Eric, who still commutes daily to and from his job as an aerospace executive in Crystal City, Virginia.

Creating their new home was a labor of love not only for themselves but for everyone who worked on it, say Eric and Bogusia. “We all shared a sense of commitment to making this house what it is today. It’s been a wonderful experience.”