In 2003, Mike Dufton purchased a 2,200-square-foot townhome on tranquil Back Creek just outside Annapolis in the community of King James Landing.

The end-of-group design featuring a side entrance, along with views of the water just beyond the front yard, were both major attractions of the multi-level brick home constructed in 1985. A great room with a soaring ceiling and a wall of glass with sliders opening onto a spacious balcony were equally tempting.

Dufton, 58, was more than satisfied with what he saw, paying $450,000 for his waterfront dream.

"And then, I gutted it," he says, explaining that the bulk of the renovation was on the second and third levels, and involved replacing the kitchen, refurbishing the loft overlooking the great room, adding a new staircase and changing the great room fireplace from flat to two-sided. Aesthetic changes included replacing carpets with bamboo flooring throughout, purchasing new furniture to transform the traditional look of the house into the uncluttered contemporary interior that he wanted.

The eye is drawn to colorful modern art hung throughout the interior — the open layout allowing for many pieces to be taken in simultaneously. The paintings, typically executed in bold primary colors and some in collage-like fashion within shadowboxes, are done by artist Jorge Castaño and titled "Odyssey," The Mask," "Fellini" and "The Party."

Technically, the home features five levels, including a basement and the great room/living room, which is prominently laid out on two levels. From the side entrance, you can walk up two levels to the living area, or down one level to the bedrooms, in split-foyer fashion.

Climb one more flight — up the custom-designed staircase with steel railing fabricated in the Annapolis Boatyard — before reaching the open dining room and kitchen that take up the third-level loft. Where a railing once sat in L-shaped design overlooking the living room, Dufton created what he refers to as his "walls of wine." Hundreds of bottles are placed waist-high in open wooden slots as though in a vertical egg carton. Glass tops the "shelves" on which Waterford decanters and other large pieces of crystalware are placed.

Near the wall of wine, an inlaid birch-and-pecan dining table with a cylindrical pedestal seats six. An authentic English deco buffet of burled walnut sits on an adjacent wall under a stunningly realistic still-life painting of a bottle of wine by artist Thomas Arvid.

The kitchen is located at the rear of the third level, behind the dining room. Against walls painted a light copper shade, eucalyptus cabinets frame stainless appliances.

"Notice how the eucalyptus runs in different directions," says Dufton, senior sales director for an aeronautical communications firm, proud of his decision to opt for something different in design. "And I chose Corian countertops as opposed to granite, which you see everywhere."

Dufton and his spouse, Chris Coro, a 52-year-old federal deputy director of the Division of Adult Education and Literacy, lead the way down a short flight of stairs off the foyer to the lower level, containing an office, a guest room and the master suite. Wood blinds open onto a wall of floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that, like the windows above, offer a spectacular view out to the river and pier. Silk bedspreads in rectangular patterns of olive green, black and white top off the contemporary look of the suite.

While the couple considers the townhome their refuge from the hectic pace of day-to-day living, they can envision purchasing some kind of boat or smaller watercraft down the line to keep their lonely pier company. Beyond that, all is right with the home and the contemporary lifestyle they share there with friends.

"This home is an everyday vacation with Mike," Coro said.

"It's restful," agrees Mike Dufton. "Especially dinners on the deck."

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Making the dream

Dream element: Mike Dufton and Chris Coro live in a contemporary, end-of-group townhome on Back Creek off the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis. Sailboats and other watercraft are docked at the piers just beyond their front yard.

Dream design: The brick townhome features a side entrance. Visible from the yard and pier, the front elevation is one of a wall of windows on the two exposed levels. The second-level balcony is furnished with all-weather tables and chairs, and a standing space heater under a retractable awning.

Dream interior: The decor is decidedly contemporary with many pieces of comfortable and innovatively designed furniture. A Le Corbusier-style chair and chaise longue are placed in the upper tier of the bi-level living room. Strikingly attractive in its form and function, the furniture features stainless steel, hand-polished tubular frames with specially treated "pony skin" leather upholstery. A Maurizio Casigliani glass-topped coffee table is supported by marble shapes in the form of a cube, a sphere, a cylinder and a pyramid.