Visitors to Crosiadore Farm, a working horse farm and residence on Maryland’s eastern shore, arrive via an alle´e of trees. The verdant 81-acre farm is teeming with wildlife: Seagulls glide over the water, and a bald eagle might be spotted, as well as nesting ospreys, deer, and perhaps even the bright flash of a red fox on the move. “You eventually come around to the main house, which faces Chesapeake Bay,” says Sandra Nunnerley, the homeowners’ designer. The woman of the house is a renowned breeder of Oldenburg and Hanoverian horses for the discipline of dressage, and both she and her husband relish the outdoors. “Family and friends come down to ride and to just enjoy being in nature,” Nunnerley says.
When the couple initially found the sprawling waterfront site, they wanted to build a home that was rooted in tradition, but fresh. So they hired architects Bernard Wharton and Don Aitken, who designed a traditional Shingle-style home as well as equestrian facilities. The house incorporates a rich variety of shapes and decorative elements—from elegant millwork, to dormers and elliptical windows, to a conical roof over the breakfast room with a copper finial—with every detail carefully considered. “We use a vocabulary of elements in our Shingle-style houses,” says Aitken, who worked on the project with home builder Bob Johnson and project manager Peggy Sharp.
A center hall runs all the way through the home—from front to back. “When somebody arrives, it pulls them through the house,” Aitken says. Adds Nunnerley, “When you walk in the front door, you see straight through to the bay, and the room is infused with a crystalline light that is reflected off the water. That large center hall is crossed by another corridor that forms the central axis of the house.” The latter opens onto the main spaces: living, dining and breakfast rooms, which all look out to the water.
The couple enjoy maintaining the fine old traditions of horse breeding and sharing it with friends who visit to ride, fish, and reconnect to the countryside. So Nunnerley’s goal was to lend the look of a centuries- old home to a new estate. “It’s a very active house,” the designer says. “There are dogs; there are visitors; there’s family. It was important to make the rooms functional so they could actually spend time in them, but it also needed to be comfortable for conversations after a long day of riding, and for entertaining.”
To that end, Nunnerley mixed some of the homeowners’ existing furnishings—such as an inherited piano and an elegant long dining table—with new finds from shopping trips to New York and Europe. And she didn’t shy away from saturated color. “The dining room’s such a beautiful space, with French doors opening up onto Chesapeake Bay,” she says. “I wanted the area to be warm and comfortable, so I punctuated it with apricot walls.”
Of course, accommodations were also built for the horses, including an oak post-and-beam stable. “I have horses myself, so I love working on stables,” Aitken says. “In this case, the homeowners wanted a couple of birthing stalls, which are larger so the mares have more room. We also built an indoor riding arena.” Now that Crosiadore Farm is complete, both the horses and the humans are well accommodated. “Every space is usable,” Nunnerley says. “The living room is very comfortable, for just the couple or for a large group of people. They have a family room with a big roaring fire and television. You can take one of the boats off the dock and go out into the bay or go bird-watching. There are so many things to do. It’s such a magical place.”