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Legacy on the Magothy: A passion for waterfront living has played out several times over at this unique dwelling

Jan 13, 2017 11:37AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By James Houck | Photography by David Burroughs

When Lawrence “Larry” and Claire Fitzpatrick found their weekend retreat-turned-dream home on the Magothy River, they bought quickly, played there often, and, finally, renovated the property into their lasting sanctuary—combining the spirit of the original owners, their nuanced character, and contemporary craftsmen bungalow design.

The Fitzpatricks’ (he’s a software executive, she’s an adult nurse practitioner) side of this decades-long story began in the spring of 2012, when the couple started their search for a weekend-retreat, away from their primary Montgomery County quarters, that could, eventually, turn into their next, and possibly last, home. And in their words, “We wanted a property close enough that weekend visits wouldn’t contend with the ‘bridge’ or the ‘mixing bowl.’” Additionally, they had several caveats, or necessities, in mind at the time. “We also wanted: to be close to quality medical facilities because of Claire’s health [the potential recurrence of breast cancer]; a livable house that could be enhanced or replaced when it came time to leave MoCo; and waterfront for our own enjoyment, as well as a draw for our three, 20-something children, and our mythical future grandchildren,” Larry says.  

They, along with their Realtor, visited properties along many river fronts throughout the region, particularly in Anne Arundel County, even coming close to bidding on one such home site along the South River. But there was one more visit left, to a somewhat unassuming beach home situated midway along the bank of the Magothy River, on a Broadneck area peninsula with expansive water views, including Dobbins Island in the distance. The Fitzpatricks were sold.

They bought and quickly went to task, or play, dressing up the home to suit their weekend lifestyle there; often hosting barbecues and crab feasts for family and friends, with the river as their backdrop.
Then, in 2014, the couple decided the time was right to finalize their full-time move to the home and renovate it completely to their specifications while retaining the neighborhood’s architectural aesthetics. The search for an architect began and—“thank goodness for the Internet,” Larry says—they landed with Catherine Purple Cherry and her team at Purple Cherry Architects.

“Cathy stood out immediately because she wanted to meet us at the house and see the property,” the couple says. “We really liked that she asked both of us lots of questions, was accomplished at all aspects of the project from permitting to interior design, and empathized strongly with our reasons for the project and how that would shape the design.”

Cherry agrees. “They interviewed me as one of the potential architects to design their new house [more than] two years ago. Being with them is like being with the most fun members of your family. It was an instant connection for all of us.”

Among the desired qualities their new home would have was a seamless transition from house to yard. Thus, the rear porch and great room were the most important spaces, according to Larry.

“We wanted the porch to accommodate a dining area and a lounging area. Claire insisted that the sitting area must have a porch swing! The full-width steps ensure the yard remains an integral part of living, as it had in the old house.”

The open great room, which includes the kitchen, informal dining, and living areas, was also very important. And it had to flow into the porch. “I knew that the view was incredible and that I could maximize it from all of the interior waterfront spaces,” Cherry says about the design process, which included custom millwork and cabinetry throughout the entire house, as well as advice on interior finishes.

“We wanted a house that we could age with, but we had more short term requirements than most age-in-place projects,” the Fitzpatricks explain. “Neither of our elderly moms can use stairs. And, of course, should Claire fall ill again we didn’t want to have to leave. Cathy and [her] team made some great recommendations, like the elevator, low threshold shower entries, and a first floor sitting room that can become a bedroom.” Larry also needed an office, in place of an extra bedroom, and wanted to be nestled in the trees overlooking the water. Finally, the couple wanted enough space for visits from “our mythical grandkids, and their parents.”

“Claire had an incredible desire to provide touches of whimsy and delightful color within the design,” Cherry explains. “The kitchen island is a perfect example of her spirit. The master bathroom design is a separate perfect example of the Fitzpatricks’ overarching desire for serenity as well. The exterior of the home and the second-floor office were mostly Larry’s domain. However, throughout the entire process, these two individuals worked together as though they were newlyweds. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career.”
Today, the Fitzpatricks are enjoying their property as much, even more so, than when they purchased the site five years ago. “We spend a lot of time on the porch—the swing is already showing signs of wear!” the couple states enthusiastically. 

“As expected, we mostly live in the kitchen and living room. And, we spend a lot of time at the kitchen island—breakfast, reading the paper, and most dinners. The five seats, generous size, and lighting make it a very comfortable place for all of us to eat together, but is cozy enough when it’s just the two of us. The master suite is extra special. It’s our cozy enclave within the house.

And the office is getting a lot of use.”

Indeed, the fact that the property has received as much care, recreational enjoyment, and utilitarian use today as it did when it was first built in 1958 by the Lakes, is testament that a great location paired with grateful homeowners and thoughtful designcan create a legacy of appreciation and joviality.