(Photo by HomeVisit) The floors on the main level are torrefied (heat-treated) birch.

While out for a walk in Cabin John, Md., Matthew Herrington and Shannon  Hawkins spotted this house under construction. The couple had been looking for a home that would accommodate their newly blended family.

“The flow and the layout of the house was exactly what we were looking for,” Hawkins said. “It was early enough — they were just putting studs up — we were able to completely customize the inside and the finishes without having to go through the whole process of starting from scratch.”

The planned design of the house was not in a style they preferred, but builder Carter Wilson willingly changed course mid-construction. For the most part, the couple kept the original floor plan. The biggest modification was adding another bedroom and bathroom for one of their five teenagers.

To make the house their own, Herrington and Hawkins pared down the embellishments to give it a more streamlined look.

“We had a design re-set meeting right after we signed the paperwork,” Herrington said. “It was mostly taking away. We subtracted a linear mile of molding.”

A trip to San Francisco influenced the color of the house, as well as some of the design choices.

“One of the things we saw a lot of out there was slate gray houses with black windows that had been de-ornamented,” Herrington said. “That was kind of the inspiration for us when we came back.”

Because of their tight timeline, many of the design alterations were back-of-the-napkin sketches — including the open-riser stairs made of steel and cable, and the wraparound mahogany mantle on the two-sided fireplace.

The floors were another change. A friend of theirs who is a master furniture maker recommended A.E. Sampson & Son, a family mill in Maine that produces torrefied (heat-treated) birch flooring.

“It’s a roasting process,” Herrington said. “There’s no finish on it. When you look at the side of the board, it’s the same color all the way through. It gives it a really rich, interesting appearance.”


(Photo by HomeVisit) The most dramatic feature in the kitchen is the marble wall flanked by two windows and bisected by a thick ribbon of stainless steel.

The most dramatic feature in the kitchen is the marble wall flanked by two windows and bisected by a thick ribbon of stainless steel. Because Hawkins wanted no upper cabinets to detract from its impact, all the storage is contained below counter level in customized drawers. The honed black countertops provide a quiet counterpoint to the marble wall.

“I like to cook, so it was really important to me to have a lot of big open space,” Hawkins said.

Herrington and Hawkins didn’t make every design decision. Their teenagers had a say, with each one allowed to design their bedroom.

“It was such a great, happy place for us to start our ‘Brady Bunch’ life together, and to know that everybody had a part in it,” Hawkins said. “It’s a very usable space. There’s not any part of the house that we don’t use on a regular basis.”

“We had a big, complex family with a lot of teenagers,” Herrington said. “This has worked with everybody feeling like it could be their place.”

The six-bedroom, six-bathroom, 6,535-square-foot home on 0.43 acre is listed at $2,595,000. An open house is scheduled for Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Listing: 8212 Caraway St., Cabin John, Md. 

Listing agent: Russell Firestone, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty

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