Chris and Jim Peterson’s first home together as newlyweds was a modernist fantasy—white leather couches, black lacquer furniture, and wraparound decks set in seclusion along
Annapolis’s Severn River. But in 1996, when baby made three, the couple decided they wanted to be in a neighborhood where their daughter, Alex (now 14), would be able to walk out the front door and find playmates. So the Petersons started looking for a new place to call home.
By 1999, they had found what they were looking for: a two-acre property in Annapolis.
Since their lifestyle was changing, the couple put aside their modernist leanings and, with the help of Annapolis-based Pyramid Builders, decided to build a more classic structure, heavily influenced by Shingle-style architecture and British West Indies colonial design.
“Chris’s dad lived on St. Kitts, and we had property in St. John, so we had a dramatic interest in West Indian or British colonial architecture and the casual lifestyle of the island,” says Jim, a veterinarian who owns the Bowie-based Highway Veterinary Hospital. The Shingle style, which flourished in the northeast U.S. in the 1870s and which features open floor plans and porches, was also a strong influence.
“Chris always went to her grandparents’ home in Shelter Island [New York],” says Jim. “The first time I went there, all the Shingle-style houses there amazed me. It doesn’t matter if they are large or small, they are all called ‘cottages,’ and they all have an extremely comfortable feel to them—they were developed as summer homes.”
Indeed, the Petersons’ sprawling five-bedrooom residence, with its 45-foot observation tower and year-round sunroom, does feel like a summer home and exudes that same gracious informality. Surprisingly, despite its 12,000 square-foot size, the home manages to feel cozy. “The nicest thing is when people come here and say, ‘I felt so comfortable here,’” says Jim. “It wasn’t intimidating.”
For the interior areas, the couple charged Baltimore-based designer Mona Hajj with creating a space where family and friends could unwind. “We told her we wanted it to be timeless,” says Chris. “Everyone comes here and tucks their feet up on the couch. They don’t even have to ask because they know they can.”
Hajj’s advice to the couple: “A house should look like a collection of personal things that you have gathered through the years.” To that end, the house incorporates items that reflect the couple’s trips to India (a great source of British colonial antiques) and Turkey (such pieces include a set of antique colored-glass lanterns, a magnificent Syrian set of drawers with mother-of-pearl inlay, and intricately adorned silk and velvet pillows).
“As time goes on, and the world keeps changing, you tend to want to hold on to something from the past to give you a sense of stability,” says Jim. “With this house, we wanted the amenities of today with the sense of yesterday.”