The Evolution of Home
For Cynthia and Stuart Smith, their 1916 Mediterranean-style home
in Baltimore’s upscale neighborhood of Guilford is more than a reflection of their design style. It represents the evolution of their relationship—from the early days when serenity was key to today, when a bit of whimsy is in order.The couple teamed with designer Patrick Sutton of Baltimore to create this progression of sorts, a home that, as Sutton puts it, “has worked with them as their family evolved.” The result is an intriguing juxtaposition of space that soothes with simplicity on one end, and then bursts with a bold palette on the other.
“When I did the first home for this homeowner [Stuart], he was going through a divorce and wanted a fresh start. His Harbor Court condominium was all about something new, something modern,” recalls Sutton. “Then he met Cynthia, and there was a lot of change, including the move to this home in 2001.” Both Stuart and Cynthia have children from previous marriages so the two families were coming together as well during this transitional time. “There was a real desire to keep everything calm and soothing,” says Sutton. The formal spaces in the home—the foyer, living room, dining room and sunroom—all reflect this desire for simplicity.
To transform this once “over-decorated” home, which the previous owners filled with deep red and yellow hues and heavy traditional furniture, Sutton opted for cleaner, simple lines, accented by art the couple had collected over time. “I wanted to be respectful of the tradition of the home,” he says, “but make it more contemporary to reflect the homeowners and their lifestyle.” In what he calls a transitional approach, Sutton balanced the home’s Mediterranean architecture with the more modern pieces that once bedecked Stuart’s urban penthouse.
Black wrought-iron light fixtures and timely additions such as the “beautiful, romantic” Fortuny silk-screened light fixtures in the sunroom complement the home’s vernacular. “Because there is so much glass in the sunroom, I used soft, linen shears to take away the wall space between the windows,” Sutton says. The monochromatic palette—from the cream-colored walls to the light brown suede armchairs—reinforces the soothing style.
Once they had lived in the home for about six years, however, both Cynthia and Stuart decided it was time to experiment with the design in the adjacent rooms on the main floor, in what would hopefully become a family-friendly kitchen and gathering space.The first challenge Sutton addressed was how to propel the Smith house into the 21st century. “The servants’ kitchen was a series of smaller, butler’s pantry-type rooms,” he recalls. “It was buffered away and disconnected from the rest of the house. Nobody lives like that anymore.”
To open up the space, Sutton demolished two walls that sectioned off what is now the modern kitchen complete with a sitting area, breakfast room and cozy family room. The newly renovated areas have great flow and are Cynthia’s favorite part of the home. “It’s where we spend most of our time,” she says.
But it’s the high-end finishes and custom features that truly make this sleek project a conversation piece. Chef-grade appliances flank the custom-made cabinetry in figured etimoe, an African hardwood. Sutton chose Lagos Azul limestone to top the island and white Caesarstone quartz for the remaining countertops. He also covered the entire wall behind the stove in grassy-green and earth-toned rectangular glass mosaic tiles. “They mimic the garden outside the windows,” he says.
Cynthia also wanted to have some fun with color in the new rooms. “She wanted to brighten things up,” Sutton says. “She has a very young spirit and wanted to pop it up a bit.” Although she admits that fuchsia and lilac aren’t necessarily her favorite colors, Cynthia truly loves the way they brighten her home, especially the whimsical Murano glass chandelier adjacent to the kitchen. “It is my favorite piece in the whole house,” she says, “probably because it’s just so different.”
The key to using bold colors, cautions Sutton, is proportion. “Just like you wouldn’t load up all your heavy furniture in one corner of the room—you would spread it around so that it is balanced,” he explains. “We did the same thing here with color.” He points to the lilac chandelier in the sitting room, the fuchsia silk drapes with tangerine embroidery in the breakfast room and the throw pillows and Roman shade in Suzani-inspired lilac, fuchsia and acid-green fabric in the family room as examples of color extensions.
“The color is not all in one spot,” Sutton says. “It’s always a question of being appropriate.” Balance also means contrasting boldness with neutral shades. For example, darker design elements help to anchor the rooms, including the custom mahogany-stained distressed cabinet with gathered tangerine orange linen fabric and the chocolate brown medallion-style oval rug by New York-based textile designer Madeline Weinrib in the kitchen. The creamy plaster finish on the walls offers a texture that Sutton feels is important to make the home feel rich.
Patrick Sutton approached Cynthia and Stuart Smith’s home not as a challenge but rather as an opportunity to express his clients’ new, bolder aesthetic and infuse their home with color. “You can always tell someone who has approached the design of their home defensively because it is all beige,” he says. “They are afraid of making a mistake so they pick everything that matches. But when you do something from a place of joy, you can really have fun with it.”Kelli Rosen is a Baltimore-based writer. Lydia Cutter is a photographer in McLean, Virginia.
RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN: Patrick Sutton, Patrick Sutton Associates, Baltimore, Maryland. RENOVATION CONTRACTOR: Design Alternatives. Inc., Hunt Valley, Maryland.