The judges admired the quality of light and the clean materials in this house, on a small lot by the Chesapeake Bay. Without distinctive architectural precedents to draw on, the design evolved from familiar beach-house directives: privacy, low maintenance, and an easy connection to nature. The solution, however, is anything but typical. Anticipating a future house between his client’s lot and the water, architect Robert M. Gurney created a U-shaped house with a private courtyard at its core. High windows gaze into treetops, and, along the courtyard, a 20-foot-wide expanse of glass pockets into the living-room wall.

“In a community of one-story buildings, we worked hard to avoid a two-story house that lines up along the street,” Gurney says. Thus the abstract massing: two double-height flat-roofed volumes, linked by a one-story circulation space facing the street. Their materials—cement board on the east volume, corrugated metal on the west volume, and a ground-face cement block connector—provide durability with minimal upkeep. The result seems effortless, as good design often does. There’s a sense of “living inside and outside simultaneously,” said a judge, “and everything seems balanced.”

Entrant/Architect: Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect, Washington, D.C.; Builder: Gude and Conard, Ocean View, Del.; Landscape architect: JB Landscaping, Lewes, Del.; Interior designer: Baron Gurney Interiors, Washington, D.C.; Living space: 2,300 square feet; Site: 0.2 acre; Construction cost: Withheld; Photographer: Anice Hoachlander.

Product details

Bathroom and kitchen cabinets: Oceanic Ventures,; Bathroom fittings: Hansgrohe,; Bathroom fixtures: Kohler,, Duravit,, TOTO USA,; Cooktop, dishwasher, and oven: Miele,; Countertops: Silestone,, DuPont,; Garbage disposer: InSinkErator,; Hardware: Omnia,; HVAC equipment: York,; Kitchen fittings: KWC,; Kitchen fixtures: Just,; Lighting fixtures: Bega,, Lightolier,, Stonco,, Zaneen,; Paints: Sherwin-Williams,; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero,; Windows: Pella,

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.