When Martha and Brian Gibbons began their design process, the couple possessed very definite, albeit seemingly unrelated, goals for their new 13,000-square-foot home, tucked away on 63 rolling acres of farmland in Ellicott City, Maryland. “We wanted the home, although large, to feel cozy, warm and comfortable,” explains Brian Gibbons, CEO and co-owner of development firm Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Corporation. “We wanted it to feel elegant and inviting for entertaining but also casual enough to be a place where our children wanted to stay and have their friends visit.”With six kids ranging in age from nine to 19, the Gibbons needed to factor durability into their design plan. But according to their interior designer, Dan Proctor, elegance and kid-friendly furnishings do not need to be mutually exclusive. Proctor, principal of Baltimore-based Kirk Designs, Inc., says it’s all about making smart, creative choices.
“There’s a lot of talk about the kids and they are very important in their lives,” says Proctor. “But [Martha and Brian] are also involved in charitable and business-related organizations, so it was important that they have a house that is built for entertaining, one that looks on par with their peer group.” As a result, when decorating the public spaces, Proctor opted for youthful elegance over practicality and toughness, emphasizing the home’s farmhouse style inherent in the architecture created by Finksburg, Maryland-based architect Stan Ryder, Jr.
Throughout the home, Proctor also helped his clients select artwork that would not only complement their interiors but that would also engage his clients on an emotional level. “Art should be an expression of the homeowner just as everything that we do should be an expression of the homeowner,” says Proctor, who worked closely with Rachel Rubin of Baltimore’s Renaissance Fine Arts in the acquisition of new art for the home. “I was very interested in the varying spaces portraying different characters. There were some wonderful pieces that have an Impressionistic bent to them or a European background to them. They add an air of sophistication and they add brilliant color. It’s kind of like putting the jewelry in the room.”
To one side of the home’s entry foyer, the intimate living room displays a landscape by Jean Duquoc over the fireplace, while an original lithograph, Femme de Face, by Henri Matisse dominates one wall. In the dining room on the opposite side of the foyer, Proctor selected painted French-inspired chairs and upholstered them in a bluish-green open-weave linen fabric. “I could have put them in silk and made them very formal, but I really wanted them to be more textural and hip—and a little more casual, too.” A Robert Motherwell piece above the fireplace adds a modern sensibility to the space.
The foyer leads to a family room that overlooks the back yard, the pool and farmland beyond. In this casual space, the works of art are “abstractions of organic images, which speak to the location of the house and the setting,” says Proctor.
The designer never strayed too far from the home’s bucolic, country surroundings, because, he says, “You just cannot separate this home from the site it’s in.” And although the Gibbons family doesn’t have horses of its own—“Brian wanted to have horses, but I did not because I knew I would be the one taking care of them,” laughs Martha—they enjoy watching the neighboring farmer’s animals. So much so, in fact, that they fenced in a portion of their own land so that the nearby horses, cows and sheep could graze closer to their home.
With such breathtaking scenery all around, Martha and Brian Gibbons insisted on lots of windows in order to make the outdoors feel like an intricate part of the interior. But all of the glass provided some design challenges, both practically and aesthetically.
According to Proctor, the ample number of windows made it difficult to allow for adequate storage, especially in the kitchen. “We didn’t have tall spaces to work with,” he says, “so our overhead storage was limited.” Rather than forgo the views, he tucked away amenities such as an icemaker, a second oven and a spare fridge for the kids below the granite countertops and fashioned a large cherry cabinet that resembled “an old cupboard” for the homeowners’ dishes.
Color choices, too, were somewhat determined by the number of windows throughout the home. “When you have a space this open, and with all this glass, you want to warm it up,” explains Proctor, who relied on deeper hues like gold and red to offset the glass and complement the stonework around the fireplaces.
It was the home’s farmhouse design that inspired many of its kid-friendly features. For example, Proctor chose wide-planked reclaimed fence-post oak for the floors, rather than a hardwood with a more pristine look that would very quickly convey the wear and tear of family life. “I wanted something that felt old and had character,” he says. “But at the same time, there’s an elegance to it.”
The moldings and wainscoting throughout much of the home also evoke a traditional feel while creating more hard-wearing surfaces, especially in high-traffic areas like the mudroom, where each member of the family has a locker to store sports equipment and backpacks. Wainscoting is also prevalent in the sitting and dining areas adjacent to the kitchen. “It really helps break up the walls with color and character,” Proctor explains. He adds that the cozy spot with two tufted herringbone-upholstered club chairs for mom and dad was intentionally designed as an adult seating area. “We wanted to create an inglenook type of idea with a fireplace and introduce tongue-and-groove boards all the way to the ceiling,” he explains. “That same material repeats itself on the ceiling in the dining area.”
For a romantic feel, Proctor chose a hand-hewn piece of reclaimed lumber for the mantel. “I wanted to bring back things from old farms into this farm,” he says. There’s even a copper built-in to hold firewood. “It’s got a quirkiness to it that makes the room feel acquired as opposed to planned,” Proctor says.
Martha and Brian Gibbons, as well as their kids, are all thrilled with their new home. “We absolutely love it,” says Martha. With its open-air pool house, basketball court, home gym and theater room, the house has become a popular hangout for the neighborhood kids. “When Friday rolls around, I know I have to go to the grocery store because once the weekend comes, there will be tons of kids here,” says Martha Gibbons. “But that’s really what we want.”
Proctor grins. “It’s Camp Gibbons.”
Writer Kelli Rosen resides in Monkton, Maryland. Kenneth M. Wyner is a photographer in Takoma Park, Maryland.
ARCHITECTURE: Stan Ryder, Jr., Stan Ryder and Associates, Finksburg, Maryland. INTERIOR DESIGN: Dan Proctor, Kirk Designs, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland. BUILDER: GYC Group, Ltd., Westminster, Maryland. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: Stuart Ortel, Stone Hill Design Associates, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland.
In the living room, a lithograph by Henri Matisse, Femme
de Face, hangs between the windows. A pale golden
color palette and a subtle mix of fabrics and textures
lend the intimate room an air that is dressy but not
In the dining room, interior designer Dan Proctor selected
bluish-green linen upholstery and a pale-colored Oriental
rug to play off the chocolate brown walls. The table and
chairs are by Hickory Chair Co. A 1966 lithograph by
Robert Motherwell above the fireplace adds a modern
The entry foyer leads to a spacious family room overlooking
the backyard and farmland beyond. Kid-friendly furnishings
and accessories prevail. The sculpture on the mantel is
made from an old wooden wheel.
and a serene color scheme. Another Robert Motherwell
lithograph, Three Poems by Octavio Paz, hangs above the
bed by Henredon.
From the family dining area in the kitchen, the Gibbons can
view the pool and watch horses roam the neighboring
pastures. Host chairs upholstered in Brunschwig & Fils
fabric and drapery by Schumacher brighten the space
with reds and golds. The homeowners requested as
many windows as possible throughout their home to take
advantage of the bucolic views.
Martha and Brian Gibbons and their six kids enjoy
their home’s outdoor amenities.
Tongue-and-groove exposed beams add a country feel
to the pool house’s open-air dining pavilion.