Detailed in fieldstone, stucco and clay roof tiles, the front of Villa dei Fiori reveals the new wings architect Wayne Good added to the original 1900 structure.
An Old World-style vacation home inspired by the villas of Tuscany takes shape on the Chesapeake Bay.
Perched on a bluff overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, a home with stone and stucco walls and red clay roof tiles appears to have been plucked from the foothills of Tuscany. Which is exactly what its owners envisioned when they approached architect Wayne Good to transform the outdated circa-1900 home they had recently purchased. Itinerant travelers, the couple had long dreamt of buying a villa overlooking Italy’s Lake Como. But with children and grandchildren firmly planted on the East Coast, they passed up the Alps and instead decided to settle into a vacation property on U.S. soil.
The conservatory displays sculptures the owners acquired abroad.
The owners saw potential in the home that was built “upside down” as Wayne Good describes it, with the bedrooms on the lower level and the grand living room elevated to take advantage of the water views. The brick structure had two side wings added on in the 1950s, one of which contained “the most convoluted kitchen” Good had ever seen. They decided the narrow, poorly built additions would have to go, but the original house would be left intact as they planned an elaborate renovation and expansion according to the couple’s shared vision. “The clients are in love with Italy,” says Good, “so we set out to reflect an Italian sensibility in the design. It’s a collage of many different Italian influences. The stone reflects a Tuscan farmhouse but the form and symmetrical formality were inspired by Palladio’s Villa Barbaro [in Veneto].”
The architect wanted to establish a sense that the villa was built over time with a variety of materials. Fieldstone on the front façade gives way to stucco and limestone detailing on the sides.
The grand hall is the home's formal living and dining space, where the original trusses are still intact. European Faux Masters finished the walls in a creamy Venetian plaster.
Good’s plan enveloped the original home with new construction. On the eastern side, a library and private guest suite were added on the main level, with a circular stair tower leading down to the master bedroom suite below. In the western wing, a new family room and kitchen occupy the main level with a garage and staff quarters below. A loggia on the rear of the property connects the two new wings. Its walls are painted with Tuscan scenes and its French doors spill out to a renovated pool with water views. On the front façade, a new central pavilion plays upon Villa Barbaro with a basilica-like entry flanked by a pair of gabled forms (an exact reverse of Palladio’s design). A stained-glass window with a floral motif installed above the massive front door is a reference to the name the owners gave the home: Villa dei Fiori.
In the sumptuous powder room, designer Erin Paige Pitts combined rich Fortuny drapery and an antique terracotta mosaic floor from Renaissance Tile.
The entry leads to a conservatory displaying a collection of sculpture. Arched doors open to the grand hall where visitors get their first panoramic glimpse of the bay beyond. “In waterfront homes,” says Good, “I like to have the house unfold and choreograph how you ultimately get the view.”
When construction began, the owners hired designer Erin Paige Pitts to help execute their vision throughout the interiors. Acting as the liaison between the constantly traveling couple and the builder, Winchester Construction, she also managed the entire three-year project. During monthly client meetings, Pitts discussed finishes and furniture, lavishing attention on every detail down to register returns and hardware.
In the kitchen, Pitts worked with Monte Regalo to design the ornate range hood made of hand-carved travertine.
The designer remained true to the owners’ well-articulated vision. “Since they had traveled so extensively, our clients would take pictures of details, particularly in ruins and old historic structures. It was through this type of imagery that we established most of what we did,” says Pitts. “I loved the opportunity to work in a specific vernacular.”
A dramatic circular stairway with an intricate railing by Cardine Studios descends to the lower level, offering water views along the way.
No expense was spared on authenticity; composites, veneers and other shortcuts were not an option. From the floors to the mantels and the window casings to the columns, all of the stone is real and carved by hand. Teams of faux painters were enlisted to perfect the finishes, from the hand-stenciling on the restored trusses in the grand hall to the rich Venetian plaster in what Pitts calls the “voluptuous” powder room that combines silk Fortuny drapes, a custom marble vanity and antique mosaic flooring.
An oversized tub and mosaic tile floor embellish the master bath.
The couple requested a shared study where a terracotta relief by British sculptor Paul Day would take center stage above the fireplace.Wayne Good painstakingly designed the mahogany millwork to offset the art. “Trying to work the study was an intricate piece of sculpture in itself,” he recalls. “It was quite a feat to get the sculpture insulated from potential heat from the fireplace and lighted from above.”
A tray ceiling in silver leaf and lush silk drapes create a restful mood in the master bedroom.
In his design of the kitchen millwork, Good echoed the proportions of the adjacent grand hall. Pitts helped design the travertine hood, which was hand-carved by artisans from Monte Regalo, and adapted the iron chandelier, which was original to the house, with blown glass leaves.
Landscape architect Jay Graham designed areas for gazing at the water views.
A circular stairway with a decorative iron rail in a floral motif descends to the lower level. A picture of serenity, the master bedroom combines a silver-leaf tray ceiling, a blown-glass chandelier and luxurious silk draperies. “When I design any bedroom, I feel like it should be a tranquil, restful place where your heartbeat slows down,” Pitts explains. “The owners’ goal is for their entire family to use this house. At the same time, it’s nice to have a place to retreat to.”
The rear facade reveals the brickwork on the home's original structure; each 10-foot column is carved from a solid sheath of Indiana limestone.
A series of French doors in the nearby loggia opens to the gardens. Landscape architect Jay Graham restored and updated the pool flanked by two pergolas that provide dreamy waterfront views. The grounds include a vegetable garden, often tended by the owners and their grandchildren.
Indeed, Villa dei Fiori meticulously brings to life its owners’ dreams and expectations—for the enjoyment of all who go there.