Acton Cove: Dreamy Family Home With Decks And Docks


Acton Cove is the home of a boating dream family on the Chesapeake Bay, surrounded by the nautical charm of Annapolis harbor. At first the family found a small but stunning plot of land with a house on it from the 70s. The existing house does not live up to expectations but the bulkhead and dock provide a unique opportunity that cannot be missed.

Redesigned by Bates Masi + Architects, the previous house was demolished, layer by layer the old bulkheads and contents reveal how generations of previous owners have extended the site into the harbor and strengthened it from the elements. This coating process provides a solution to today’s design challenges, harsh coastal environments and privacy concerns due to being in close proximity to neighbors and active waterways. This new design configures site feature layers and envelope elements to provide privacy and weather protection, while funneling the connection to the outdoors.


The bulkhead is the outermost layer of this house, above which there is a boardwalk from the deck that connects several docks on the property. Stepped weathering steel planters mediate between the boardwalk level and the ground level, which is elevated above the flood plane. Deep overhangs protect the house and provide shade to the deck that surrounds it. The second floor is also surrounded by a cantilevered deck and balcony, is wrapped in layers of fixed ipe screens and operable canvas drapes.

Riding on a continuous track along the perimeter, the blinds can be configured to provide privacy on the main balcony, block the breeze in the outdoor fireplace, or shade for the outdoor dining area. Large expanses of glass can also be operated, inserted into adjacent walls to fully combine indoor and outdoor spaces, or provide the option of insect curtains. Interior linen blinds and roll blinds provide the final layer of operable filtering. Multiple layers can be configured for different activities that require different levels of privacy, and for different weather conditions, extending the time the family spends outdoors.


Materials of various layers reflect the character of the port. Weathering steel planters reference sheet pilings. 3×14 reclaimed heart pine siding is reminiscent of heavy timber bulkheads. Oversize silicone bronze screws, left exposed to fasten the siding, are pulled from the ship building industry. Woven rope and sailcloth details draw on local crafts. These traditional materials, layered with modern insulation, glazing, and building systems create a high-performance structure, contributing to the LEED Certification of the house. In discreet layering of covers and site elements, the design connects the home and its owners with the best aspects of the environment, while providing protection from the challenging elements.












designer: Bates Masi + Architects


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