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A Maryland house was built from unexpected finds

The owner built an eclectic house on the water in Nanjemoy, Md., using reclaimed and castoff items. The marble tiles in the main living area are left over from the installation of flooring at the Tysons Corner Macy’s. The dining area has a pergola built with reclaimed white Oak. The columns are from an abandoned house. (Jonathan Powell/C3D Imagery)

Using reclaimed and castoff items, Norman Palmer created an eclectic house on the water in Nanjemoy, Md.

Palmer came to Nanjemoy — a rural area in Charles County bounded on one side by the Potomac River and the other by Nanjemoy Creek — in 1976 to help his brother build a boat. He turned his boatbuilding skills into a career as a design-build contractor.

He was building a house in Nanjemoy in 1986 when he discovered a piece of land on the water with a garage on it. He bought the property, planning to turn the garage into a house. In between jobs, he worked on the conversion. But it wasn’t until Palmer married Peggy in 1996 that he began building in earnest.

Palmer was drawn to Craftsman-style houses with steeply pitched roofs. But he said the design was influenced most by the materials he found.

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After spotting brand-new Pella windows leaning against a barn, he talked the owner into selling them cheaply and then figured out how to integrate them into the house to take maximum advantage of the woods and water.

Driving to a grocery story, he noticed eight-foot columns on the porch of an abandoned 200-year-old house. He rescued the columns before the fire department used the dwelling for a practice burn. They adorn the main living area and loft space.

Marble tiles left over from the installation of flooring at the Tysons Corner Macy’s are part of the main living area floor and the kitchen countertops. The pergola over the dining area is reclaimed white oak.

“I was accumulating quite a lot of materials that were castoffs . . . so I can incorporate them into their next life in my house,” he said.

“We built the house on Pennysaver finds,” Peggy jokes.

The outdoors was another major inspiration for Palmer. The area, which the Nature Conservancy has called one of Maryland’s most pristine watersheds, is a refuge for migratory waterfowl and wading birds. Through their windows, the couple has seen bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, geese and ducks. They named their home Midori upon the Nanj. Midori means green in Japanese.

There are decks or balconies with water views on every level of the four-story house. A sunburst motif can be found throughout the house, including on the heat shield behind the stovepipe in the living area. The cypress wood slats that make up the barrel ceiling above an arched window are stained blue to mimic the sky. The enclosure around the bathtub in the master bedroom resembles a pebbly grotto.

“What we experience here is the sunrise directly across the creek,” Palmer said. “Everywhere in this house, there’s an ode to some level of nature — whether it be the weather, the sky, the water, the trees or animals.”

Palmer likes the many places to experience nature in and around the house.

“It has many destinations,” Palmer said. “We’ve got three window seats to go and reflect on. We’ve got three fire pits to go and reflect. . . . The long views, not only from outside looking across the water, but the long view in the house is fantastic.”

And Peggy, who is also the listing agent for the house, likes the atmosphere.

“My favorite part is the peace, quiet, solitude and nature,” she said.

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 6,000-square-foot house, on nearly two acres with 183 feet of water frontage, is listed at just under $1.5 million. An adjacent 1.5-acre lot, with an additional 216 feet of waterfront, is also available.

Listing: 4610 Friendship Acres Rd., Nanjemoy, Md.

Listing agent: Peggy Palmer, Exit Landmark Realty

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