Architect Ken Pursley looked to early American churches, barns, and the surrounding rural landscape when designing this timeless retreat on Maryland's Upper Eastern Shore.
Tucked in a grove of trees on the bank of the Chester River sits a small cottage where architect Ken Pursley married practicality with beauty and form with function. "We wanted to create something simple and sturdy enough to weather the climate and also complement the idyllic location," says Ken. The cottage's shape and layout reference the basilica forms often seen in historic American Carpenter Gothic churches and barns. The steep metal roof of the main center section is practical for heavy snows and visually serves as a counterpoint to the shallow-pitched roofs of the side sections, giving the structure its graphic composition. The subtle silver- and wheat-colored palette comes from the surroundings. Ken chose a brick exterior with stucco veneer, accented with stained cedar, for its low maintenance as well as its tendency to look better with age. "Much like denim or leather, it will become more beautiful as it wears," he says. "That contributes to its 'always been there' feel."
Topped with a timber lintel to support the brick above, the oversize front door is wide and welcoming. "A distinctive entry makes a unique impression," says Ken.
The two-story-tall window in the living room maximizes natural light. An undivided lower sash and a window seat take maximum advantage of the serene exterior view.
Inspired by sliding barn doors, Ken mounted a pair of cypress shutters on a weather-resistant stainless steel sliding track to allow them to close completely over the lower window.
An arched doorway leading to the bath references the Carpenter Gothic churches often found in the rural South. Its shape also responds to the pitch of the stairwell.
Ken repeated exterior elements inside for a seamless and cohesive design.
The layout follows that of a basilica with a large central nave and side aisles. "The nave of the house is the living room," says Ken, "while the side aisles provide refuge for sleeping, bathing, and cooking." Upstairs, an open loft adds another retreat.
Origins: Mid-19th-century folk interpretations of European Gothic design, usually built of wood instead of masonry
Look for: Churches, barns, farmhouses, and outbuildings
Defined by: Steeply pitched roofs, pointed-arch doorways and windows, and exposed wooden bargeboards
See more: For barns and other rural structures that inspired this cottage, Ken suggests Eric Sloane's An Age of Barns.