Dream home: Fantasy island in Anne Arundel
Couple's laidback Brewers Island retreat, in the middle of Marley Creek, is accessible only by boat
Gary and Debbie Schoenemann stand on the dock of their dream home, which is on Brewers Island in Marley Creek. They have owned the property for 25 years. The main house is on left; the guest house is on right. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / November 28, 2011)
However, few seem to mind the short boat ride from the pier of the Schoenemanns' undeveloped Anne Arundel County beachfront property across 300 yards of sparkling Marley Creek to the couple's 1-acre island.
"Our family has owned Brewers Island and the shoreside property for 25 years," said Gary Schoenemann, his hand on the rudder of the skiff. "This location has sometimes meant [that] a little more effort is needed, [but] it's always been well worth it."
A large bulkhead fronts the homes, and the boat sidles up to another pier, this one decorated in strung colored flags.
"Welcome to Brewers Island," Debbie Schoenemann says warmly. It is a cheerful greeting she has, no doubt, said thousands of times.
Twenty-five years ago, Gary Schoenemann, the 63-year-old owner of Super Kids Uniforms in Baltimore, bought the island property, its two homes and a shed, as well as the 65-by-120-foot mainland plot that the couple has yet to develop. Both parcels of land included long piers.
From the large square raised deck that connects the two island homes — a main house and a guesthouse — an unusual structural design is immediately apparent: A large oak tree thrusts through the roof of the main house's sunroom. Rubber is affixed to the old trunk, both where it meets the exterior roof and the where it meets the interior ceiling.
"All of the furniture and everything you'll see here came over on workboats," says Debbie Schoenemann, a 62-year-old Medicare and Medicaid specialist for the federal government's Office of Hearings.
Once past the sunroom, visitors are immediately put at ease by an open kitchen and dining room, an area the Schoenemanns believe was later added on to the original structure. A long, narrow dining room, brightened by two walls of windows and white paint over beadboard contains an equally long and narrow table with red painted, high-backed chairs.
Debbie Schoenemann credits her husband with the home's interior decor, which has a decidedly beach cottage feel.
"The intent wasn't to make the place glitzy," Gary Schoenemann says, standing in a corner of the home's great room where, from every window, a water view is the star attraction. "The decorating was purposely not intended to be fancy and delicate."
The interior has been updated with comfortable and neutral furnishings, and the great room's oak floor still has marks showing where the space had once been partitioned into several rooms. The Schoenmanns believe the house's foundation may be close to 200 years old.
"I have a deed from the 1700s and a little information on the Brewer family," Gary Schoenemann says. "Any other information is seen as 'legend has it' type of info. I've heard at one time ship building [and] repair work was done on the island, and there is a large 17-/18th-century boat anchor on the property. I'm also told the crawl space was part of the Underground Railroad."
The Schoenemanns, whose primary residence is in Owing Mills, have stayed on their island paradise for weeks at a time, enjoying the privacy and far-away feel. Their parties have been great fun and, while their children were growing up, there was ample room in the guesthouse for their friends. Today the couple still uses the guest home for friends and their adult children when they come to visit.
A few years ago, a friend convinced them to add the property to a website that markets private islands of the world. The couple said they listed it there out of curiosity and while they have no plans to sell, they are pleased to show off its unique location.
"Brewers Island is on the map, you know," Gary Schoenemann says proudly. "We've even seen the island from a plane!"
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Making the dream
Dream element: The Schoenemanns live on a 1-acre island in the middle of Marley Creek, with the shore 300 yards away. In addition to a wide variety of landscaping, a slice of the island is a dedicated bird sanctuary.
Dream design: The two homes on the island, according to Gary Schoenemann, are "early to midcentury structures that have been updated since then." He also points out, "There was residential construction done in the '30s in the area, and maybe reconstruction to [our two houses] was done at that time." Both of the one-story bungalows are vinyl-sided with exterior wood trim. The two homes are connected by a large deck that measures 20 by 20 feet. The deck "makes get-togethers very easy and natural," Gary Schoenemann pointed out. "'We've had parties for over 100 without it being crowded." The couple enjoys amazing sunsets from a balcony that juts from the side of the guest house.
Dream interior: Both of the one-story houses boast a contemporary, nautical cottage feel with light, neutral colored furniture. The couple have collected and hung poster art from galleries they visited in France, Switzerland and Spain. In addition to the main house's contemporary feel, 1950s blond Haywood Wakefield furniture fills the guesthouse's dining room, family room, small kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.