July-August 2013 | SOUTHERN COMFORT




The craftsmanship, creativity and execution of Gateway Builders are on display inside and out on the Eastern Shore

Written By: Jonathan Westman | Photographer: Grant L. Gursky

When David and Lee Ann Fick began their pursuit of the perfect location on the Eastern Shore to build their vacation and future retirement home, the search began with a wide net. David emailed every real estate broker with waterfront property from New Jersey to North Carolina with his requests: waterfront, secluded, end of a long, winding driveway. A reply from a Realtor/schoolteacher in Onancock intrigued the couple and set their sights on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. 
After looking at dozens of properties, however, they were still searching for the ideal setting. Good things do come to those who wait, because when the couple happened down an old dirt driveway in Pungoteague, which extended for one mile and 20 feet and ended at a waterfront lot with dozens of mature trees and breathtaking panoramic waterfront views, David and Lee Ann were home. 
The search for the right builder to construct their home took even less time. After looking at examples of houses constructed by Gateway Builders throughout the community of Corbin Hall Plantation on the Chincoteague Bay, as well as other estate homes that they have built, and one meeting with Jason Lambertson, the Ficks concluded they’d found their man.
“We were looking at all of the builders in this region who’ve built custom homes,” Dave said. “We met with Jason and talked with him about our vision. He was willing to give anything a try. He was very flexible with us in that regard. Whereas a lot of homebuilders tend to stick with a prepackaged approach, Jason was willing to customize the home with us throughout the process.
“The home had to have a traditional Virginia feel,” David continued, “and yet be green and modern in terms of the technology in the house. It’s pretty hard to marry the two.” 
“The home was actually modeled after a historic plantation built in 1795, located in Beaufort, South Carolina,” Jason said. “David and Lee Ann had that theme in mind, and after learning their personal style and the historical representation of the building site, I had a very good idea of what they were looking for.”
Trust is always one of the key components in a relationship between a builder and a client. The Ficks’ trust level had to be high because they resided in Annapolis while the home was constructed, as well as having traveled numerous times around the world.
“We were traveling quite a bit when the house was being built, so Jason maintained very good email and phone contact with us so that we were always up to speed on the progress,” Lee Ann said. “We were always on the same wavelength with Jason about what we wanted, so we had no problems leaving the project in his capable hands.” 
“We’re able to build a high-end custom home with great lines of communication,” Jason said. “We take great pride in establishing that type of trust with our clients. It’s based upon our rapport and ability to create and manage their home’s construction as if it were our own.”
Lambertson is a Pocomoke native who graduated from the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University. Gateway was founded 11 years ago and specializes in homes of all sizes, from 2,000 sq. ft. beach cottages to expansive estates on plantation settings. Jason has been at the forefront of Gateway community developments such as a Corbin Hall Plantation and Olde Mill Pointe, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, in addition to numerous homes in Maryland. Jason’s priority is to exceed not only the expectations of his clients but also his own, which are extremely high on each and every project.
“That is always the goal,” said Jason, whose company builds from the Bay Bridge to Ocean City to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel for local residents, second homeowners and clients relocating or retiring to the area.
Before construction could begin, the original house on the property had to be relocated. Built in 1932, the “Cutler” house, along with two barns and a shed, were moved to other locations nearby. Left in the home’s absence was a massive hole (formerly its basement) that required hundreds of loads of dirt to fill. Construction then began on the Ficks’ home with the installation of a massive foundation finished with a radiant concrete slab that was strategically positioned one foot above the height required by FEMA at mean tide, to eliminate the need for any flood vents. 
The first level of the Fick home features a fully climate-controlled garage, where David stores his vintage (and all original) MG, his collection of BMW motorcycles (which he rides all over the world) and his new state-of-the-art electric Tesla sportscar. Radiant heated floors extend the entire level, garage included, and provide soothing heat underneath the custom tile in the gym, David and Lee Ann’s office and Cooper’s bathroom (the family dog). A creative and functional construction feature on this level is in the 10-foot ceiling’s coffered and tray appearance. 
As aesthetic and character-rich as it is, the function resides in its ability to house and hide the heating-and-cooling ductwork. Because the house was built on a slab foundation, Jason’s idea to solve this potential eyesore in this way works beautifully. 
“That’s another example where a standard builder would have said, ‘Here’s our traditional ceiling package, and it is what it is,’ David said. “But Jason went above and beyond for us.”
When it comes to controlling the elements of their home, the Ficks harness the power in their fingertips. Overture Home Electronics installed state-of-the-art Savant home automation and Lutron automated light systems that allow David and Lee Ann the ability to monitor, activate and modify every element of the home’s audio, visual, security, climate and lighting capabilities from their iPad and other mobile devices.
“This house is really set up to do everything but launch the space shuttle,” said Mike Patille, Overture’s director of Builder Relations and Custom Design. “David and Lee Ann wanted luxury, functionality and ease of use, and this system certainly accomplishes all three.”
There are an impressive 14 different zones of HVAC management and 64 different areas of lighting control accessible through the Savant system. The couple’s home office is outfitted with three 46-inch LED TVs — two of which serve as his-and- hers computer monitors. There are also 65-inch TVs positioned on automated arms for multiple viewing angles in the gym, family room and master bedroom. The entire property’s lighting functions and controls, including the boathouse, barn and landscaping lighting, can also be controlled with the touch of the screen.
An extensive surveillance system complete with numerous high-definition cameras monitor the property from all angles, which the Ficks can observe and control through the Savant application. Overture even installed a camera for David that closely examines an osprey nest in the nearby water, so he can witness chicks being born and raised each year.
“This system is important because the couple does a lot of traveling,” Patille said. “They can control everything from the lighting, thermostat, audio and video while they’re vacationing in Germany, for example.”
The Ficks’ electricity is generated by a series of solar panels positioned on the roof of the couple’s multipurpose barn, which includes an extra guest suite and movie theater. The system produces more kilowatts than three standard homes. 
“We are on a net-metered system,” David said. “During the day, we are putting energy back into the grid. At night, after the sun has set, we are off the grid but still using power. We are essentially spinning the meter backward.”
Consider this: The system generates enough energy to completely power the Ficks’ 7,600 sq. ft. home, their multipurpose barn, their on-site oyster company (yes, oyster company), 10 geothermal wells and exterior landscape lighting — times two.
Shelton Refrigeration of New Church, Va. performed all of the geothermal, electrical, plumbing and HVAC installations on the project, and their project manager, Jonathan Hamilton, said the Ficks’ property is one of the most technologically 
advanced and energy efficient on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
“This is a very, very green home,” Hamilton said. “We tried to utilize every possible element of geothermal technology available to us. The is probably the most complex, green home we’ve been a part of when you factor in all of the different aspects involved.”
Shelton officials worked closely with personnel from Overture during the installation of the automated Savant system, which is fully integrated to manage all of the electrical, heating and air conditioning and even portions of the plumbing work in the home. 
“The Ficks can even control and preheat their steam shower remotely, before they get home through this system,” Hamilton said.
And because the Savant system is so advanced, there was no need to install traditional thermostats on the walls of the home — it is controlled remotely.
The home’s heating runs on a triple redundancy system, meaning that geothermal radiant heat is the primary heating source, followed by on-demand radiant-heated floors and geothermal forced air.
“By the way we designed the system, if anything failed with the geothermal system, you could switch over to the on-demand system to heat radiant floors. If that happened to fail for any reason, the forced-air system could heat the entire house,” Hamilton said.
The home also has a dedicated hot water supply for every level and a whole-house water filtration system that also services the barn, boathouse and the landscape irrigation. Shelton Refrigeration even installed David’s whole-house charging system for his Tesla. 
The home’s extensive collection of cabinetry and countertops was designed and installed by Mike Donahue and Kitchen Concepts of Salisbury. The Ficks had a particular granite countertop and cherry cabinet look in mind, and Donahue ran with their vision. 
“This was a design/build on our part,” said Mike, who founded Kitchen Concepts in 1991. 
Donahue outfitted the gym, office and first-floor bathroom, as well as the kitchen, wine bar, master bathroom, laundry room, butler’s pantry and guest bathrooms with cabinetry and countertops.
“We were able to customize the entire project to establish a very high-end look while staying within their budget,” Mike said. “I think the project turned out fantastically.”
The second level was most important to David and Lee Ann because that is where they will spend the most time. This floor contains an expansive master suite highlighted by a beautiful bathroom featuring tile that extends from floor-to-ceiling, a spacious steam-generating enclosed shower with multiple jets and a state-of-the-art push-button toilet with more presets than a car stereo. The open theme continues seamlessly from the family room to the kitchen, which is outfitted with a large butler’s pantry. The formal dining room is strategically positioned to be separate from the kitchen, butler’s pantry and laundry room. Perhaps the best space on this level, which happens to be Lee Ann’s favorite, is the window-lined sunroom that is accessible from the master bedroom and family room and offers breathtaking, pano-ramic views of the picturesque landscape that surrounds the property.
“I really like the outside porches,” Lee Ann said. “You have a great view from almost any window, especially the kitchen and great-room areas. I also love the sunroom off the living room and master bedroom. I have my coffee and sit out there with the paper in the morning.
“We have the third level with bedrooms for our three kids,” Lee Ann continued. “Gotta have the kids come back.”
The exterior features brick reminiscent of old plantation-style homes. Modern features abound, however, including the deep-green-colored roof, which is finished with a special paint that actually appears to the sky to be silver and reflects solar energy. 
As a result, the attic temperature is an average of 15 degrees cooler than traditional homes. Pocomoke-based Land Escapes Unlimited was in charge of landscape selections and accent-lighting installation. Modifications continued throughout the project, and the set of stairs that extend from the second floor to the backyard were literally an afterthought. As construction was coming to a close, David and Lee Ann realized the only exit for Cooper “to do his business” was on the first floor — and he wasn’t proficient in operating the elevator. So Jason designed and built the dual-staircase to solve the potential puppy problem while still making the stairs to be a striking exterior component for people viewing the home from a leisurely boat ride.. 
“Jason made everything very easy. He took any changes that we wanted to make right in stride,” Lee Ann said. “He managed the project very well for us and kept everything running along very smoothly.” 
“We not only build homes for our clients, but we build lasting friendships with them as well,” Jason said. “That is very important to me. The process is a long and involved one, and earning the trust, satisfaction and friendship of my clients is exactly why I do this for a living.”

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