Weekend retreat draws family and friends to the bay

Third in a summer series highlighting dream homes on the water.

When Wendy and Alex Haig set out five years ago to find the perfect weekend retreat, they were torn between two different bucolic areas: the rolling horse country of Middleburg, Va., and the wide expanse of the Chesapeake Bay.


"The bay very clearly won out," Wendy Haig says.

Alex Haig, a lawyer and son of former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and his wife, a managing partner for a marketing strategy company, wanted a place where they could relax with family and friends and escape from the pressures of Washington.

Briefly they considered a beach house, but they didn't want the hassle of a long commute to the shore. The bay offered them waterfront views just 45 minutes from Washington.

But finding the right house wasn't easy. The Haigs spied a Cape Cod-style waterfront home in an old online real estate listing that seemed to be what they were looking for, but the house wasn't on the market and they didn't even know its address.

One day when a real estate agent was showing them a property in the Bay Ridge community south of Annapolis, they passed by the house they had seen online. After making some inquiries, the Haigs learned that the house was about to return to the market. They snatched it up before it went on sale.

Alex Haig says the location was what mattered. "What we really thought we were buying was the view," he says.

The half-acre property featured almost unobstructed views of the bay, and the Haigs could watch the sun rise and set from the large window in the family room.

Wendy Haig says the home reminded her of those she saw as a child vacationing on Cape Cod, but its original traditional design and dark jewel tones didn't reflect her own style, which she describes as "polished with an edge."


So the Haigs undertook an extensive renovation to turn the 7,000-square-foot home into their dream retreat.

Working with Annapolis builder Donald Dean and Washington-based interior decorator Scott Sabiston, the couple initiated a complete makeover of the property inside and out, mostly to accentuate the spectacular view.

Shrubs and trees that had obscured sight of the bay were trimmed or cut down. Mullions were removed from the lower panes of windows throughout the house so as not to mar the view.

Dean's crew removed load-bearing columns in the family room to allow water views from the kitchen and widened a sunroom to better integrate it into the family room.

Sabiston and Wendy Haig worked together to get the look she wanted. Workers installed recessed lighting and oak floors throughout the house and covered two stone fireplaces with manufactured sandstone. Sabiston says the trim was "beefed up" in the dining room and new banisters and railings were placed on the staircase. A handsome hand-carved Italian mirror now hangs above the stairs.

The Haigs disliked the bi-folding doors that separated the master bedroom from the living room and found an innovative solution with doors that blend into the wall paneling. The master bathroom was outfitted with heated floors for comfort and a TV because Alex Haig says he didn't want to miss a minute of Redskins games.


To set off the soothing earth-tone fabrics of the chairs, sofas and beds, Wendy Haig chose accents from Jonathan Adler and Peter Max. "They have a little bit of sass and brilliant colors," she says.

Keeping in mind their desire to create a retreat for family and friends, the couple reconfigured the layout of the house to increase the original four bedrooms to seven, and they added an apartment above the garage. The half-finished basement was completed to add a lounge area, two bedrooms and a home theater.

An unused alcove at the top of the stairs became a sitting area where guests can play games, thumb through magazines or peer through a telescope out onto the bay.

"We wanted a place where our friends could leave feeling restored," Wendy Haig says.

The Haigs furnished each bedroom with a king-size bed and sleeper sofa, and they tucked small workspaces into the guestroom closets for those who can't get away from the office. Each bedroom has its own bathroom, and Wendy Haig has furnished each guest suite with snacks, magazines, games and toiletries.

Other touches include a stack of flip-flops and a bin of brightly colored umbrellas in the mudroom. The house's three laundries are stocked with supplies.

The backyard yard was landscaped and leveled to provide areas for play and socializing. An outdoor kitchen assures easy poolside entertaining. The couple recently hosted a dinner party for 70 people, and Alex Haig says they didn't feel crowded at all.

Most weekends the house is occupied by the Haigs or their friends. "People come in and out all the time," Wendy Haig says. "We are most blessed to have it and want to share it."

Now settled into the home for about a year, the couple say they have grown to love not only the house, but the Bay Ridge community. They enjoy bonfires on the beach and the casual atmosphere of Annapolis. Alex Haig jokes that it took him some time to get used to the idea that he doesn't have to wear a tie when he goes out to dinner in town.

The renovation of their waterfront home took 18 months, but the Haigs say it turned out even better than they imagined.

"I absolutely love it," Alex Haig says. He says he enjoys sitting in the family room sipping coffee and looking out on the bay. Cargo ships and sailboats pass by and the Thomas Point lighthouse stands watch in the distance.

The Haigs credit Dean, Sabiston, the architect and the landscaper with helping them fulfill their vision. "This was a team effort, and we get to live in it," Wendy Haig says.

She says their hope is to pass the home along to their four sons so it will always be a family retreat.

"It has brought so much enjoyment to people," Wendy Haig says. "That's a very fulfilling feeling."