by Katherine Hafner
Linda Haberman and Russell Lynn knew they’d have some doubters when they moved from New York City to Eastville. The Eastern Shore is a small community, often wary of outsiders, and here were some big-city showbiz folks who’d bought six acres of land on a whim.
But the couple were more than happy to take a chance, trading both their Manhattan apartment and Long Island home for a beautiful modern farmhouse on the western side of the Shore. And now, after building the house and moving in two years ago, they see that gamble paying off. They love their new way of life, harvesting clams from just off their backyard, planting fresh goodies in their garden and burgeoning vineyard, and lounging by the pool that overlooks the Chesapeake Bay.
“When I first came in, it felt like I’ve lived here my whole life,” Haberman says. “It just worked for us.”
The two met at Radio City Music Hall in the early 1990s. He was a sound engineer; she helped choreograph the Rockettes. Haberman had arrived in the city from Albuquerque at age 16 on a scholarship with the New York City Ballet. She later worked on Broadway as a dancer and then choreographer in shows such as Can-Can, La Cage aux Folles and Guys and Dolls. Eventually she became artistic director of the Rockettes and directed the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
Lynn, a Long Island native, also had an early career start, at 18, traveling with music acts. The sound company would send him out every few months on tour with groups including Earth, Wind & Fire, Van Halen, Journey and Run-DMC. Eventually he tired of the nomadic life and got the gig at Radio City. They’re both mostly retired, but he still works on Billy Joel’s stadium shows each summer.
Remnants of their careers are subtly displayed in their new home: framed costume designs from shows Haberman choreographed, a photo of Lynn up in the mezzanine running sound at Radio City, big group photos of the Rockettes. Haberman didn’t hire an interior designer, instead choosing to follow her own vision. “When I directed shows at Radio City I had to pay attention to every little detail,” she says. “To me, it felt like more of that. Like directing a show.”
Their farmhouse lies at the end of a maze of winding dirt and gravel roads off U.S. 13, at the mouth of where Mattawoman Creek meets the Chesapeake Bay. It’s on what was once part of a 3,700-acre tract owned by Sir George Yeardley, who’d arrived in the colonies in 1610 and became Virginia’s lord governor eight years later. When he died in 1627 he was one of the richest landowners in Virginia.
Haberman and Lynn, now 64 and 63, respectively, were thinking years ago about where they wanted to retire and started looking around online, intrigued by the Delmarva Peninsula. They got a Realtor and looked around but didn’t see anything that stood out, until the last place on the list – an empty plot of land on the water.
“The second we drove onto this property, we were like, ‘This is it,’ ” Haberman says.
The couple worked with architect Clay Dills and builder Matt Hylton to construct the roughly 4,200-square-foot house, which has three bedrooms, three baths and two half-baths. The idea was to have “a modern farmhouse feel,” Haberman says.
Looking at it head on, one would assume the house is even bigger than it is; Lynn says the house is “long and skinny” to highlight the view. Large, tall windows without blinds help achieve that goal. “Every place you’re in the home, you’re seeing that,” he says. It’s nice to “look and think, ‘Wow. This will never suck.’ ”
Guests enter into a large living room at the center, with a TV room tucked off to the side to preserve the openness. A light-filled open kitchen, pantry room full of fresh veggies, and dining room sit to the right.
The guest room downstairs is large, a duplicate of the master one floor up, Haberman says, in case they have trouble when they’re older getting up the stairs. Its bathroom is modeled “like an old New York hotel” with black and white tile. The master bath features lots of shiplap, subway tile in the shower, and a freestanding bathtub. The couple don’t yet have a boat but they do have a boathouse, which they use for canning fruits and vegetables.
It was important that the house looked as if it belonged on the Eastern Shore, Haberman says. Not long after the two moved in, someone asked if it was a renovated old farmhouse, which the couple took as a compliment.
There are also many hidden or subtle eco-friendly touches: geothermal solar panels, a stove using magnetic induction, super insulation for energy efficiency. Haberman and Lynn spend a lot of time in the garden, where they grow a variety of plants, including tomatoes, cucumbers and asparagus. And in a few years the couple will be able to start producing Albariño wine from their small vineyard.
Though there have been some adjustments – getting snowed in last winter, for example, or realizing there aren’t too many restaurant options nearby – the two say they made the right choice.
“This is where we’re going to spend a lot of years,” she says.