Home & Living

Making a Splash

Preserving the character of a historic Bay Ridge home that’s now perfect for gatherings.
Bay Ridge Pool 3
Stephen Buchanan

Here’s a perfect tableau: a charming century-old bungalow perched on the Severn River in an upscale Annapolis community. That picture, however, needed to be just a little more perfect for John and Po Martin, who—despite stringent regulations on new waterfront construction—also wanted a great property for entertaining, complete with a striking and contemporary pool.

A party on a recent spring afternoon was proof the couple achieved their goal: They effortlessly hosted more than 100 guests, mostly past and present members of the sailing team at the University of Maryland, where their daughter, Jaimie, graduated in May.

“My mother went there in the early ’50s, and she was on the sailing team, so there were multiple generations of kids who grew up on the water and appreciate it,” says John Martin.

Hosting these types of gatherings has become something of a habit for the family, whose house is nestled in the historic Bay Ridge community, once home to a Victorian-era vacation destination known as “The Queen Resort of the Chesapeake.”

Bay Ridge Patio
Stephen Buchanan

Born and raised in Annapolis, Martin, an insurance broker, was attracted to the property not just because it was on the water, but because of its acreage. “It was a big piece of land for the neighborhood, so we just decided to make the most of it,” he says. “The lot is an acre and a quarter, and half the lot we weren’t using at all.”

So a little more than 10 years ago, the big—and ongoing—re-do got underway: The Martins, who bought the property in 1995, called on Cathy Purple Cherry, of the eponymous Annapolis-based design firm, to customize both the interior and exterior living spaces, and Jones Contracting to do the work. “They chose to maintain the one-story bungalow character and not to build up,” Cherry recalls. “So the main house was renovated and expanded to a 3,000-square-foot footprint, with another living space below.”

The outdoor area, which includes a 14-foot-by-40-foot pool, a 650-square-foot deck, and a screened porch off of the main house with views of the Chesapeake Bay, presented its own special challenges because of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Protection Program. “It’s a state law to minimize the amount of hard surface that you put on your property in order to reduce the erosion and runoff into the waterways that lead to the Chesapeake Bay,” Cherry explains.

Bay Ridge Pool 1
Stephen Buchanan

The pool’s placement adjacent to the house was dictated by the bungalow. “The house was expanded for maximizing its water view, and there’s no place for the pool to have gone between the house and the water—the pool could only go in the side yard.”

Because pools count as hard surfaces, the redesign of the surrounding area, which features grass and additional landscaping, had to be careful not to violate the Critical Area Protection rules. “The Martins have an amazing landscaper,” says Cherry of local firm Campion Hruby Landscape Architects (Martin also credits Estrada Landscaping, which did the actual plant installation). “They created this wonderful vegetative surround that is so successful on this property.”

Despite living in the home for 23 years, Martin says it’s still a work in progress. A recent project included tearing down and rebuilding the small guest house to offer better views of the pool and bay. “We wanted to have a place for my kids to do art and for me to do different projects,” says Martin. Today the new three-bedroom, two-bath guest house, with its large screened porch and expansive deck and open lawn, is perfect for playing games such as croquet and bocce. “It’s just set up to be the playhouse,” he adds with a laugh.

“I love to play with the landscape, and the outcome is going to be phenomenal,” Martin says. “I think we planted over 100 hydrangeas and another 50 trees. When all that matures, it’s going to be like a little Alice in Wonderland.”