A vibrant Federal Hill lifestyle is offset by the quiet of a country cottage on weekends Victoria Swinburne cherishes every moment at her country cottage on Maryland's Eastern Shore. She and her husband also love city life in Baltimore. To her way of thinking, there is no contradiction here, just the good fortune of having the best of both worlds.
Swinburne, a 38-year-old consultant for T. Rowe Price, and her husband Bill, have lived in Baltimore since 1990. Their Riverside Avenue home fulfills their desire for urban diversity and excitement. The Federal Hill lifestyle of walking to shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, of stepping out their front door into a vibrant community, enhances fast-paced weekdays.
Then, come the weekend, the two cross the Bay Bridge with 1-year-old daughter Emerson, and the two family dogs. An hour or so later they're in a different world, one that's a 180-degree change from the weekday hurly-burly.
"Get a vacation house that's close to your primary one," Victoria Swinburne advises. "Ours is 64 miles, door to door."
The Swinburnes found their little country cottage between Easton and St. Michaels, appropriately enough, on Memorial Day, the unofficial beginning of summer, four years ago.
The circa 1910 Cape Cod had been reworked into a two-story colonial with additions jutting from its steep sloped roof. The 934-square foot cottage sits on three-quarters of an acre off a relatively quiet, two-lane road in the town of Royal Oak.
The couple spent $147,000 for their vacation dream, only to find that the second-story addition needed reinforcing and that the first-floor bead-board ceiling had to be replaced. That repair cost them $13,000, with another $20,000 going for furniture and paint.
Tucked amid old maple and pine trees, the white clapboard cottage is entered through a bright red front door flanked by a set of double windows with gray shutters.
The interior is breezy, somewhat rustic, with the uncluttered homey decor befitting the arts and crafts style. It is cool yet cozy, with charming detail such as original oak flooring left unpolished.
The casual living room has been painted a light gray, a pleasant contrast to the white trim along the floor, ceiling, and around the windows. Light tan Roman shades cover the windows. A plump, double-cushion sofa is upholstered in soft red chintz, on white cotton, a pleasing complement to a white-painted wooden barrister's bookcase against the wall behind it.
A pair of multipaned French doors in natural oak lead into a country dining room. A long narrow oak table dominates the room painted in a warm terracotta. The table's wooden chairs, some painted, some natural, reflect various farmhouse styles.
"Everything we bought for the house was used," Victoria Swinburne commented, her eye for detail evident in a pair of sculpted tin squares hanging on the room's back wall.
The second floor features sharply sloped walls and country furniture that includes a brass bed in the master bedroom and a spindle crib in the nursery.
"We spend so much time here," she says of the enclosed screen porch, which occupies most of the cottage's rear. Wicker and Adirondack-style furniture is arranged around hanging pots of flowering plants. A screen door opens onto a large fenced yard with a variety of old trees, flowering bushes and an outdoor patio set.
"My goal for the summer is garden work," she said, eyeing her rosebushes. "And that's it. This place is for relaxing."
Here's Victoria Swinburne's philosophy for owning a vacation home:
Think of the home as a usable investment.
Make the vacation home a complete contrast to your everyday home.
Furnish the house for what it is. Make it the place you always want to go.
Go there to relax completely. Pay someone else to mow the lawn.