Photographed by Alain Jaramillo
“I wanted it to feel like it was springtime all year-round,” says the owner of this modern home in Pikesville as she stands in the two-story, glass-walled room that is the heart of the structure. This was one of the main desires she communicated to architect Doug Bothner, interior designer Jay Jenkins and landscape architect Carol Macht, who worked together on the project from the very beginning. The other was that the home’s main living level transition seamlessly to the backyard so she could live within the natural beauty of the property as opposed to separate from it.
These twin goals influenced every aspect of the house, which has garnered several awards from the Baltimore and Maryland chapters of the American Institute of Architects. Perhaps most fundamentally, they guided Bothner’s decision to design a “two-sided house” that appears to be one-story from the front, much in the spirit of the 1960s ranchers that are its neighbors, but then “spills down” to a two-story architectural structure in the back.
“That allows the owner to easily access the backyard from the main living level without feeling like she was living in the basement,” says Bothner, an associate at Ziger/Snead Architects. Just outside multiple sets of sliding glass doors is a bluestone patio featuring a canopy of ginkgo trees, a low hedge of lavender and three bubbling fountains. “The key ingredient is the relationship between the inside and outside,” says Macht, who is head of the landscape architecture division at Hord Coplan Macht. “The theme is expanding the sense of the space, and feeling that the landscape is always part of the space— not just the immediate site, but also the woods beyond.”
Though the architectural design may at first seem a bit unorthodox— with the main living level on the lower floor— the organization of the home demonstrates a great deal of clarity, says Bothner. “The spine of the building is a zinc-clad bar that’s parallel to the street and contains everything that is considered public— the garage and the entry on the top level, and the screened porch, kitchen and main living room on the lower level,” he says. “Then there are two small cedar ‘boxes’ that plug into the spine and contain private space: her home office to the north and her master bedroom wing to the south, which creates an L-shape and captures the backyard.”
After parking on the driveway in front of the glass-walled garage, one enters the front door into a foyer where mahogany built-ins designed by Jenkins, president of Jenkins Baer Associates, contain items that immediately convey the personality of the owner, who collects both “serious art” and mid-century kitsch. Displayed in the foyer, for example, are four etchings by American artist Elizabeth Murray, as well as a book about baton-twirling.
Just beyond an elevator that provides access to the lower level, a bridge spans the expanse of the great room and leads to the office, which is contained in that first cedar box that Bothner describes. A glass wall along one side of the bridge offers views of the enclosed front courtyard, where a double row of ironwood trees creates a formal European allée that can be seen even from the lower level living area. A sliding cedar door in front of the office— the cedar echoing the exterior of the home— pulls back to reveal an efficient space with a built-in desk and cabinetry that’s decorated playfully, with four Philippe Starck chairs covered in a bright floral Missoni fabric and a hot-pink reading chair. The walls, as in much of the home, are light beige, creating what Jenkins calls a “neutral envelope” for the owner’s art collection— which includes pieces by Sonia Delaunay, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer and Robert Motherwell, among others— and splashes of color throughout.
Beyond the office is a guest room that doubles as a workout area— the exercise equipment can be folded and stowed into tall cabinets that surround a pull-down Murphy bed. A set of glass doors leads to an upper level terrace that affords a bird’s-eye view of the backyard, where a series of terraces planted with crepe myrtle, magnolia, cherry and dogwood trees descend the natural slope of the property to an organically shaped pool and the surrounding trees.
One level below is the master bedroom wing, which features a large sunlit custom-designed closet and a bathroom that is, as Jenkins says, “bright and alive,” with glass pocket doors, a glass-walled shower, mosaic limestone behind the tub and gleaming white cabinetry. The bedroom itself is a relaxing yet cheerful space with an aqua blue and yellow palette defined by three large paintings by Baltimore artist Deena Feigelson Margolis. The walls are covered with a white nylon with luminescent silver threads. “This is the material they wrap around columns in parking garages because it’s indestructible,” says Jenkins. The silk taffeta window treatments were made by Drapery Contractors and bed linens were custom designed by Penny Green Ltd.
Back through the master bedroom toward the center of the home is the den, which is a study in “winter” in contrast to the springtime feel of the adjoining great room. “There is no natural light in here— you get a sense of brightness through the color,” says Jenkins. A hot-pink sofa sits below a colorful watercolor by Korean artist Minjung Kim while “May” by Margolis occupies a nearby wall. A flat-screen TV is mounted high on the wall with a two-sided fireplace below, making the room a cozy spot for reading or watching movies.
And then one arrives back at the heart of the home, that large open room with the wall of glass. A roof overhang blocks the most intense sun rays from entering the room on hot summer days but still allows the winter sun full entry into the big, tall space, filling it with light even on a gray day. Even at night, there’s something to see out the windows— the ginkgos are up- and down-lit with small low voltage lights, and there are floodlights that project onto the woods beyond.
A seating area of white wool sofas and turquoise upholstered chairs with leather-covered seats offers an elegant yet informal place for the owner to entertain— and for her dog to relax. “We built the room off the rug,” says Jenkins, referring to the floor covering from Warp & Weft, which features a graphic wave design that suggests a sense of water. “Bayonne, NJ,” a large painting by now-deceased painter Grace Hartigan, hangs on one wall, while above the mantel is an abstract canvas by Jules Olitski. Directly facing it is a painting by Ruth Pettis hanging above the kitchen. A set of stainless steel and walnut shelves displays the owner’s collection of original Kodak cameras, 1930s-era typewriters and first editions of books that have been made into films. “I needed to find a way not to let the collections get out of control,” says Jenkins with a smile.
In the center of the room is a dining table from Sunderland and chairs from Holly Hunt, and beyond is the small kitchen that Jenkins describes as “furniture-like,” with sleek dark wood cabinets from Schneider and honed marble countertops. The refrigerator and appliances are screened off behind wood panels, and no coffee maker or toaster clutter the counters— they’re hidden behind a set of bi-fold doors that connect to the adjoining service pantry. The pantry houses an extra dishwasher for entertaining, and provides storage for the owner’s vast collection of mid-century dishes, including Russell Wright and Franciscan ware dishes.
Most days, the owner spends her time in the great room or the adjoining screened-in porch, where everything she wanted in a home— sunlight and easy access to the outdoors— blends harmoniously. She has Bothner, Jenkins and Macht to thank, but also herself. “The owner was an incredible conductor,” says Bothner. “She gave us enough freedom to do our own thing, but she was working toward her own goal.”
- Architecture: Jamie Snead, Principal in Charge, Douglas Bothner, Ziger/Snead Architects, 410-576-9131, http://www.zigersnead.com
- Interior Design: Jay Jenkins, Jenkins Baer Associates, 410-727-4100, http://www.jenkinsbaer.com
- Landscape Architecture: Carol Macht, Hord Coplan Macht, 410-837-7311, http://www.hcm2.com