Home of the Week: The Ockershausens' haven in Shady Side

Listening to Shady Side residents Janice and Andy Ockershausen converse during their “Home of the Week” interview was a bit like eavesdropping on a comedy act.

“We designed this house …” Janice said.

“Janice did it all,” Andy countered.

“He gave me an unlimited budget — and I exceeded it,” she retorted gleefully.

The two, married since 1993, have known each other for several decades. They met at the AM radio station WMAL. Andy was in management and Janice was an advertising sales executive and producer of several the station’s top shows.

Andy had also worked as a manager at WMAL TV and Channel 50. He was at WMAL Radio for 36 years before moving on in 1986 to NBC Universal/Comcast Sports Net. He was there for two decades until he retired. Sort of.

Janice’s career at WMAL spanned 32 years. Among her credits was 10 years as executive show producer for “The Harden and Weaver Show” and as sports producer for the Washington Redskins’ presence on the station.

In 2009, she founded Best Bark Communications, a marketing company. Last year, she convinced Andy to launch “Our Town,” a lively twice-weekly podcast at www.ourtowndc.com. During each 30-minute episode, Andy interviews a regional marquee name and two have a warm conversation laced with laughter.

“I have a perfect face for radio,” he said, striking a movie star pose.

Finding their own place

The couple had close friends who lived in Avalon Shores. The community was formerly a peach orchard owned by the Lerch family and, before that, a lumber mill which harvested and milled the area’s trees for shipbuilders. The Ockershausens visited frequently, loved the waterfront and Shady Side scenery, and noted the commute from the station was only 55 minutes.

“We visited all the time until our friend jokingly suggested we find our own place,” Janice said. “We did and found a great place. We wanted great views of the water. Not too pretty, not perfect.”

They purchased the Avalon Shores property when an old beach bungalow was the sole residence. It survived the devastation of Hurricane Isabel in 2003, but its underside absorbed quite a bit of water and mold eventually spread through the structure.

On a point of land, a tall oak tree, now more than two centuries old, survived Isabel’s wrath unscathed — as it has many in its past. It still dominates the point.

The couple had another one-bedroom cottage built nearby on the property. They lived there while plans moved forward for a new, larger home, built in 2013 where the former 90-year-old bungalow once stood. The newer cottage is now utilized as a chic, cozy, colorful guest house. And any guest who stays there is in for a treat — from the 1950s diner seating at a red formica-topped table set into a booth with red leather bench seats to the bedroom with “Dick and Jane” artwork on the walls.

Instead of bulldozing the cottage and dumping the razed debris in a local landfill, the couple hired a firm to take apart the bungalow and recycle what could be repurposed. A rough hewn wooden support beam, hidden underneath the structure, now has a more visible role as a decorative beam in the high, vaulted ceiling in the couple’s second floor master suite.

To maintain their grounds in an environmentally conscious way, two lush rain gardens ring the house. Rain spilling off the house during a storm filters through the gardens, significantly slowing the onrush of the rainfall into nearby waters.

They worked with John Nugent Design Build, based in Deale, to design and construct their new home. The result, which blends in with the community, is a two-story house with three bedrooms and 2½ bathrooms.

Splashes of red

Inside and outside, bits of scarlet red make a regular appearance. Outside, the red standing seam roof on the garage and a portion of the house are joined by vivid knockout roses. Inside, red flashes by on the walls, in vases of long stemmed roses or, more discreetly, as chair foot caps or in the shimmer of reddish copper cookware. Leopard and zebra patterns are favored motifs, on hallway, bedroom and stair runners, or on plump seat cushions.

“We like the dark, industrial look of the house,” said Janice, pointing out the kitchen lamps suspended over the dark polished stone island. They looked like cast iron pulleys from a 19th-century factory. Vintage-looking wood and cast iron chairs tucked under the ledge of the island’s countertop enhance the look, as does the black matte cabinetry accented with copper knobs and drawer pulls. The island features a copper bar rail and, like a bar, a couple hooks on which to hang a handbag.

The kitchen is set up to prepare for parties with a large Viking refrigerator with brushed steel doors, a separate refrigerator for their wine collection and a six-burner gas stove.

A large mud room, adjacent to the kitchen, is lined with repurposed barn wood. Black-and-white photos from Andy’s childhood line the walls.

The living room is warm, cozy and ruled by a life-sized, reclining mermaid carved from a block of wood, one of their finds from a trip to Ocean City. The spot in front of hearth of the gas fireplace is reserved for Buster, the couple’s 9-year-old rescue dog. Set around the hearth are a pair of comfortable couches for two, plus a butterscotch leather couch.

A sunroom, at the rear of the house, can be converted to a screened porch just by closing interior pocket doors and opening windows the room’s windows and outer doors. The room’s center piece is a retro kitchen table set which belonged to Ruth Alter, Jack’s grandmother. The seats have red-rimmed cushions and the chair and table legs sport red foot caps. The set is placed on a straw-colored rug with a red border.

The formal dining room, adjacent to the sunroom, features a modern dining set Janice found at Restoration Hardware.

“I just mixed and matched,” she said.

As for where they found the home’s vintage jukebox, she “googled a diner motif.”

There is a stream of humor throughout the house.

In “Buster’s Guestroom,” a portrait of a spotted dog hangs over the bed. Next to the dog, a fan’s blades are spinning, blowing the spots off the dog. Standing alongside the bed is a second spotted Fido, this one is a metal statue. A third dog, sporting a top hat, rides an early bicycle across a pillow placed on a bedside chair.

This guest room shares an elegant “Jack and Jill” bathroom with a second guest room.

Sunrise, sunset

A quick dash up the staircase, carpeted in leopard spots, leads to the master suite. But, pause for a moment. What’s that under the stairs? It appears to be six large file drawers. The twosome has found a creative way to use the dead space in the staircase for storage.

On the second floor, the view from the master suite is spectacular. There is a small deck off the bedroom overlooking a white wooden arbor. Beyond is a vista of sparkling water and vessels moored at piers on both sides of the creek.

Janice’s favorite time of day is 7 a.m.

“I take a cup of coffee, sit in the swing on the porch and listen to the birds.”

Andy nodded. “We discuss the day’s events. The sunsets are spectacular here, too.”

“We love watching the seasons change here,” Janice said.

“When the creek froze over in 2001,” Andy said, “we walked across it.”

What’s it take to be a featured Home of the Week?

Have you ever wondered if your residence could be a Home of the Week? We are always seeking homes to profile, whether it is a house, town home, condo, apartment, cottage or cabin cruiser. Contact Wendi Winters for details at wwinters@capgaznews.com.

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