A sister design team reimagines a diminutive 1932 abode on the Magothy River with an eye on chic, coastal style
Tucked beneath leafy trees, the aptly named Shady Point Cottage sits on a navigable peninsula off the Magothy River, a mere three miles north of the Chesapeake Bay.
“It was love at first sight,” says Tracy Schlegel of the Pasadena, Maryland, abode that she and her husband Mike purchased in 2003 as an easy getaway to enjoy with their daughter and son, now 15 and 17. “We were looking for a weekend home close to DC.”
Over the years, Schlegel and her sister Kelcey Huff, co-owners of Bethesda-based Waterlily Interiors, transformed the dated, 1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom house into the charming retreat it is today. “We wanted the cottage to keep its character, but added a bit of color for fun and whimsy,” says Schlegel, whose primary home overlooks the Potomac River in Bethesda.
“Initially, our goal was to lighten and brighten the cottage, as well as open it up to the views,” adds Huff. Though they didn’t alter the home’s footprint, the designers expanded the living room by absorbing a closed-off sunroom that blocked direct sight lines to the creek.
“It’s hard to imagine, but there was no water view at the back of the house,” Schlegel recalls. “We removed a non-structural wall, vaulted the ceiling and added glass French doors and picture windows on the creek side.” Today the enlarged space is anchored by the home’s original stone fireplace on one end and the waterfront on the other.
The duo raised other seven-foot ceilings throughout the residence, cladding many in beadboard and beams to convey a cottagey look. Original dark-brown woodwork received five coats of Benjamin Moore’s Simply White paint to achieve the fresh, airy look the sisters wanted. Says Huff, “Once everything was painted bright white, it was impossible to tell the old from the new.”
Meanwhile, existing pine floors were stripped, stained and finished to achieve their best luster—with the exception of the kitchen and dining room flooring. “In the kitchen and dining room, we found the original wood floors under ugly linoleum, but decided to have fun there by painting the boards in an overscaled black-and-white harlequin pattern,” says Schlegel. Like the cottage itself, the floors have a vintage vibe, yet also feel playful, vibrant and current.
The designers took the furniture plan in a coastal-chic direction. For example, the dining room features an antique table, contemporary faux-wicker chairs and a glorious pair of emerald-green beaded chandeliers. The ceiling here, as on the screened porch, is painted pale aqua, a take on Southern light blue.
“I love blue but wanted to stay away from traditional nautical themes on the main level,” says Schlegel. “Our palette is more seaglass with hits of teal.”
A 122-inch-long sofa anchors the living room, flanked by pairs of swivel armchairs. But it is the turquoise flower-shaped ottomans from the Ambella Home Collection, as well as the patterned throw pillows in teals, creams and black-and-white, that introduce a sense of playful sophistication to the space.
A large ottoman upholstered in an overscaled Kravet pattern was designed to fit under the coffee table when not in use. “It can go from a makeshift dining table to a movie-time footrest with a single push,” says Huff.
The screened porch off the living room was also treated to new vaulted ceilings and fresh paint; new screens better showcase the views. Classic white wicker furniture and fun accent furnishings in blues and yellows enliven this happy indoor-outdoor space that spills onto a flagstone patio.
In 2015, the Schlegels tapped Annapolis landscape architect Heike Nolker to upgrade their one-acre property. “While the interior had been beautifully updated, the landscape definitely needed some TLC,” says Nolker. “The existing plantings were minimal and the beds needed realigning and enlarging. Individual shrubbery, planted here and there, felt disjointed.”
Nolker’s plan preserved mature trees, whose dappled shade provides heat relief, while maximizing water views. For example, she kept the newly expanded and realigned patio open to embrace unencumbered vistas down to the creek. “The patio enjoys filtered shade from large canopy trees,” affirms Nolker. Throughout the project, she introduced a variety of new shrubs and perennials, such as hydrangea, astilbe, iris, summersweet and ornamental grasses. “The plantings are low-maintenance and offer spring-through-summer interest,” she says.
Whether you are inside or out, nothing about this waterfront escape feels too precious. The furniture is user-friendly and the upholstery mainly consists of indoor-outdoor textiles—all intended for an outdoorsy family that comes here to sail, kayak and go crabbing.
As Schlegel reflects, “Entertaining was always a big part of our goal. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and pre-covid, we always had a full house with lots of guests and family visiting.
“There’s really nothing better than sitting on the patio with a cocktail at sunset,” the designer adds. “This tiny cottage lives large.”
Renovation & Interior Design: Tracy Schlegel and Kelcey Huff, Waterlily Interiors, Bethesda, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Heike Nolker, ASLA, RLA, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Contractor: E-Landscape Specialty Solutions, LLC, Davidsonville, Maryland. Styling: Charlotte Safavi.