Dream home

Annapolis couple make room for present (and future) family

For The Baltimore Sun

When Patty and John Flynn built the waterfront home of their dreams, they thought their mostly open floor plan and accommodations for a big family would ensure exactly what they sought: “I want every room of my house lived in,” Patty Flynn said.

In three years there, that worked out — except for the dining room.

“I just never used it,” Flynn said. Everyone gravitated to their farmhouse table, brought from their former home to the new digs’ sunny eat-in kitchen area — a space the builder enlarged to make room for the table for 10.

This past spring, Flynn decided to do away with the dining room. She called interior designer Amanda Martin, owner of Amanda Elizabeth Interiors in Odenton, with whom she had worked to create an informal but sophisticated look — with a touch of farmhouse style — for other spaces in the Annapolis home.

“It’s the future grandchildren’s room now,” Flynn said.

Not that parenthood is imminent for the couple’s four sons, who are in their 20s. This is now a study, a go-to quiet space apart from the family room-kitchen hub. It’s where Flynn curls up with a cookbook on the new gray-and-slate herringbone sofa.

Martin designed a room adaptable for the (potential) future use with unobtrusive storage. A custom wall unit features a bridge of display nooks between white bookcases flanking the sofa. With a grass-cloth back for outdoorsy texture and character, the bookcases’ shelves hold books and mementos. Their cabinets hide office supplies and a few of Flynn’s nephew’s toys. “You could put away toys there,” Flynn said.

The lid of the coffee table — a reclaimed wood trunk — is hinged to rise to become a higher tabletop.

“I can sit here [on the sofa] and I can have coffee and I have my laptop on here [on the raised trunk top]. It’s the right height.” Flynn said.

A face-lift saved the couple’s 30-year-old rolltop oak desk.

“I almost gave that away. Amanda suggested painting it,” Flynn said. “And I love it.”

Chalk-painted in warm gray, it enhances the room’s character and complements the gray walls.

One wall features a shadow box, made by a friend, with John Flynn’s ribbons and the program from his Coast Guard retirement ceremony. He retired as a lieutenant commander after 25 years of service.

In a wicker chair sits a bit of whimsy — “The only other female in the house” — a mink stole-clad doll from Patty Flynn’s childhood.

“You can’t take everything too seriously,” Flynn said. Like the room’s chandelier: “I saw this, and it’s so different and fun.” Its inverted bowl is rimmed with dangling keys. Around the house, other furnishings would make anyone grin; there’s a stinky-face medallion in the main level’s powder room, and serigraphs by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and surrealistic artist Rob Gonsalves.

Initially, Martin worked with the Flynns to create the family room they wanted in greens, grays and creams. She pulled together a light sage to complement the soft spring-green main wall color Flynn chose for much of the main level, with cream and taupe for ceiling-high buffalo check drapes.

Those colors, plus some gray, are on the rug. Traditional couches are a pale gray weave that’s washable — critical for a casual space where someone’s always snacking — and side-by-side sturdy oak coffee tables hold lots of food and get shifted by the boys. Two chairs in a wheat pattern bring out the farmhouse theme.

The real challenge has been the size of the males in the family: John Flynn is 6 foot, 8 inches, and the couple’s shortest son is 6 foot 2, so all the furniture had to be deep.

Similarly, builder Mark Stevens of Dayton raised the height of all doorways — main-level ceilings were already at least 10 feet high. In constructing the two walk-in closets for the first-floor master bedroom, he installed a porthole window at John Flynn’s eye level because the former Coast Guard officer likes watching birds at the backyard feeders stationed near the stone patio.

Martin made the living room a cozy gathering spot, with a round cocktail ottoman at its core, surrounded by four cream-toned chairs. The family piano — one son plays — a new glass-front china cabinet and an old bar cart that Flynn distressed and chalk-painted form the backdrop.

The basement is for fun — with darts, a game table, old electric trains and some furniture from the former house. “I had four boys, active boys,” Flynn said. “There wasn’t a picture or lamp in my house that wasn’t broken.”

A wall of bookshelves holds many children’s classics. Flynn acknowledges losing herself in the dozens of cookbooks there. “I love to cook,” said Flynn, a retired nurse who attended a weeklong cooking school at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

That’s why she wanted an expansive kitchen. Hers has ivory cabinets, a 10-foot-long island, a stove with two wall ovens — one is “John’s pie oven; he loves [to bake] pie,” Flynn said, noting the smaller oven — and a warming oven, all in use when there’s a full house.

Having the kitchen open to the eat-in area, family room and a beverage center, whose cabinets also hold an heirloom tea service that was John’s aunt’s and other mementos, keeps the cook at the center of the action.

“I’m making things, there’s food put out on the other side [of the island] and people are hanging out there,” Flynn said.

When it’s just the empty-nesters, meals are typically at the island, the couple perched on bar stools in a pale paisley print fabric.

Last year, the couple hosted a big family dinner. “I set the buffet in the dining room and set [another] table here [extending the farmhouse table] so we were all sitting together — 22 people — the day after Thanksgiving,” she said.

And the family’s old dining room set? It’s in one son’s home.

DREAM REALIZED: A spacious place for everybody to return to is what the Flynns sought. “When they come home, there’s got to be room for them. And I love it. It’s hectic, but I love it,” Patty Flynn said. Upstairs, four bedrooms provide a room for each son and for when out-of-town guests visit. One of bedrooms, a few steps up, with a large gray sofa-bed, also is a hangout for the boys — who’ve been known to creep out the window and stretch out on the porch roof — and perhaps the generation to come.

DREAM DESIGN: Flynn loves the cohesive look and palette of the main level. The family room drapes can hide the screened porch that’s off the eat-in area; the off-whites of the kitchen cabinets, and the wood tones from the kitchen island and the farmhouse table, are picked up throughout the space, carrying through to the living room and study.

DREAM LOCATION: The couple’s home is within commuting distance of John Flynn’s work with a consulting/lobbying firm in Washington. A draw for his wife was “the fact that I was closer to Mom;” her mother and a sister live in Ellicott City. The Flynns, who have a powerboat and rebuilt the boathouse, enjoy getting to downtown Annapolis by water, and their sons love going boating and fishing.

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