Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the relationship of WRC (Channel 4) to NBC. WRC is an NBC-owned station, not an affiliate. This version has been corrected.
Wendy Rieger believes higher powers sent her to rescue a weathered sea captain’s house on Maryland’s Western Shore. “When the universe calls you, you don’t have a choice,” Rieger says. As the WRC (Channel 4) news anchor breezes through her house to an Adirondack chair on the patio, a sailboat appears on the horizon, as if on cue.
Twelve years ago, she moved from Bethesda to the land of ospreys and owls and set about rescuing a three-bedroom 1920s bungalow. The property is on the water, so Rieger keeps a small runabout and a kayak and jumps in the water for a swim whenever she feels like it. There’s a picture-perfect pier with a gazebo in the middle that was once a crabbing pavilion, and is now an ideal place to throw a cocktail party.
Inside, a former owner had torn down many interior walls on the main floor, giving the house an airy feel. When you come to the front door (painted mint and violet) you see right through the foyer, dining room and living room to the glass back door and then to the water. A couple of sleeping porches have been turned into places to lounge on white slipcovered daybeds and sofas while ceiling fans spin overhead.
Rieger’s rooms reflect a casual cottage style, and she has used paint to make the place her own. The walls and ceilings, which are repainted frequently, are the colors of Key West, Fla.: lavender, yellow and mint green. Island print pareus serve as curtains. She turned a downstairs bedroom into a den. Upstairs, there is a roomy master bedroom and a small guest room, both of which have balconies, plus a beadboard bath. A garage has been remade into a workout room.
Rieger, 55, grew up in Norfolk and studied broadcast journalism at American University. She started in radio at WAMU, NPR and WTOP and began her TV career at CNN. She joined News 4, the local NBC-owned station, in 1988, working as a reporter and, later, anchor. In February 1999, she was doing a stand-up broadcast in Annapolis and a gust of briny air slapped her in the face. “I told the cameraman that it was a message that I needed to move by the water,” Rieger recalls.
A couple of weeks later, she found the waterfront bungalow. By May, she and her Maine Coon cats Buddy and Rudy had left Bethesda (and a boyfriend) behind and started a new life on the West River in Anne Arundel County.
By the way, after the universe “called” Rieger to this spot, it also made contact with her brother. He and his family bought the house next door.
Rieger developed a new routine around waterside living. “When I first moved here, I said I had to let the house guide me,” Rieger says. “As Sarah Susanka described in ‘The Not So Big House,’ you want your house to fit you.” Rieger reshaped the interiors of the 2,100-square-foot home, putting in new windows to maximize the views. She hired a carpenter to add a knotty pine stairway and upstairs hall, details taken from a Bavarian ski lodge. She added lots of glass-front cabinets in her kitchen.
Environmental issues have long been a personal interest as well as a news beat. Rieger, who has won three regional Emmy awards, has lots of green design here. She planted native grasses by the water’s edge, added energy-efficient insulation, installed rain barrels and chose eco-friendly paints.
The cost of trading in a 24/7 inside-the-Beltway lifestyle is an hour long commute. She uses car-time after her 5 p.m. newscast wraps up to gather her thoughts. “You shed the city and lots of other things during the drive,” Rieger says. “By the time I see that water, I’m good.’’
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