As a 7-year-old, Steve Goozh used to tag along whenever his grandfather went to work on building the house where he later grew up. Nearly six decades later, Steve would remember those times fondly as he and his wife, Judy, undertook a major renovation of their second home.
The yearlong project turned into “a mystical adventure,” Steve says.
The Bethesda couple began searching for a vacation house near the water in 2007. They were leaning toward a condo in Ocean City, a spot they’d visited for years. But the desire to escape summer traffic jams on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge steered them south. Then one day, Judy’s personal trainer mentioned a 67-acre site near Leonardtown.
“The land had been owned by the same family for 100 years,” says Judy, 63, a retired social worker. “There was a house on-site surrounded by water on three sides.”
She and the couple’s son, Adam, embarked on a 75-mile road trip to look at the property originally known as Foxes Point Farm, which overlooks Breton Bay off the Potomac River. They learned from neighbors that the original landowners traced their roots to the Dove, one of two ships that brought British settlers to Maryland shores in 1634.
Judy returned to the site with her husband, who at 68 still runs his orthodontic practice in Haymarket, Va. The couple partnered with another investor and bought the property for $1.2 million in 2007. The partner later died, and today the Goozhes own it outright.
The property included two structures—one built in 1907, the other in 1912—that had been joined together. “It looked kind of like a hunting lodge,” Steve says. “There was a closet behind the bar where they kept fly rods, fishing tackle and guns.”
Judy imagined the space as a funky beach shack freshened up with paint, but her husband had bigger plans. “When Steve gets a vision, watch out,” she says.
Steve tapped Amy Gudelsky, an interior designer at Urban Country in Bethesda. The Goozhes had worked with Gudelsky years before, and she had an entirely different vision of what the home needed.
“The house was in terrible condition and had been neglected for a long time,” she says. “Everything in there needed attention.”
Over the course of a year, the 5,000- square-foot home—with six bedrooms, five full baths and two half baths—would undergo a $600,000 renovation.
Although the basic structure was sound, all the wiring and plumbing had to be replaced. Exterior sheathing was changed to HardiPlank siding; an interior wall was removed to expand the great room; and glass exterior doors with transoms were added to flood the family room with light. Because the extensive renovations didn’t include any major changes to the home’s exterior, there were no historic preservation issues.
Steve was interested in green technology, so the heating system was upgraded to a geothermal heat pump system, which entailed drilling a 100-foot well to reach groundwater. Fifty-two windows were replaced with high-performance, gas-insulated units. A whole-house audio system was installed, along with security cameras that can be monitored from remote locations—including from their home in Bethesda. The couple employed Paragon Properties, a Leonardtown builder, for much of the renovation.
As the home’s central nervous system got a major makeover, Judy and Gudelsky focused on making the place more family friendly, starting with the great room.
“This was the main ‘hunting room,’ ” Judy says. “The beams in the ceiling were probably hewn on the premises.”
Gudelsky notes that it’s a big room, “and with the dark beams and paneling, the overall effect was dark.” Ultimately, the beams received several coats of white paint with robin’s egg blue in between to brighten the space. The dark paneling was removed and the walls were painted bisque.
Original trim and oak floors were kept wherever possible, and a big-screen TV slides up into the ceiling when not in use above the granite fireplace, which has a wood mantel. Today, comfy, over-stuffed, neutral furniture from Urban Country gives the room a casual feel.
With a son and daughter and five grandchildren, the family room gets a lot of use. “There’s water on three sides of that room,” Gudelsky says. “Every piece in there was selected with fun and whimsy in mind.”
That means rustic sea chests, stools made from oversize steel cans, a wooden bench and a playful rug. The room is attached to the kitchen, and new double doors leading from the family room to the porch enable the family to better enjoy the view toward the bay. Electronically controlled shades protect the room from the summer sun.
The outside living areas also received attention. The house already had a gracious wraparound porch, but a new, screened-in veranda was added off the kitchen. The structure had to be anchored to the house with steel support beams, an anxiety-inducing process.
“They had to lift the whole house,” Steve says. “I could literally hear it groaning over my phone from Bethesda.”
The finished space features a casual table and chair set for eating while overlooking the water, which the family does whenever weather permits. The furniture rests on a carpet from Madeline Weinrib, a well-known fabric designer in New York City.
For more formal occasions, the dining room, painted a sea-glass hue, offers twin table-and-chair sets that can be pushed together for Thanksgiving dinners. The tables flank a working, wood-trimmed fireplace, and the room is illuminated by an eclectic chandelier from Persiano Gallery in Gaithersburg.
“I think of light fixtures as a room’s jewelry,” Judy says, “so I’m drawn to one-of-a-kind pieces.”
The simple, country-style kitchen suits the home’s rustic setting. But like the rest of the house, it received a major makeover. Oak floors were refinished, and painted oak cabinets were finished off with verde granite. “There’s a long farm table, and the clear glass cabinets allow us to see the turquoise-colored dishware that belonged to Steve’s mother,” Judy says.
Now that the house is complete, the Goozhes enjoy spending at least one weekend a month at the farm. Despite conventional wisdom about the hellish nature of construction, pleasant memories abound.
Steve used to make the 90-minute drive to the site every Monday to check the progress.
And “as soon as I left the Beltway,” he says, “I felt like I was off on an adventure. Doing a major renovation is something that I’ve always wanted to do.”
Scott Sowers is a freelance writer and independent producer living in Washington, D.C.