Parti Shot: Tidewater House by Robert M. Gurney, FAIA

When you’re a residential architect, you’re in the business of delivering dream houses. But what happens when your clients’ dream is of a traditional Tidewater house mixed with an Apple Store glass cube? One of the few architects in the greater Washington, D.C.,  area who can deliver such an unlikely combination is Robert M. Gurney, FAIA. 

“There is lots to draw from on this large rural property for what the house could be,” says Bob. “There’s an existing Georgian Manor house, another farmhouse, and a number of agrarian buildings, including stables and barns.” And the material palette is diverse as well—wood, stone, metal, and glass. Although, perhaps not Apple cube-level glass. 

The program here is also unusual: a house built not to entertain. It’s a retreat for the owners, who have other houses in Connecticut, Florida, and Palo Alto, California. They’re committed to fitness, healthy eating (there’s a separate kitchen for the private chef), and their dogs. The 5,000-square-foot plan has a small dining room and only one guest room.

“Our approach was to take these program elements and break them into different volumes and reinforce the volumes with materials you would find on a farm,” Bob explains. The front façade makes the greatest effort to evoke Tidewater antecedents, while the glassy rear elevation takes the biggest bite of the Apple inspiration—capturing the peninsula’s sweeping water views in the process.

Tidewater House

Oxford, Maryland

Architect: Robert Gurney, principal; Matt Stephens, project architect, Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Washington, D.C.

Project size: 5,000 square feet

Site size: 396 acres

Drawings: Robert M. Gurney, FAIA