A Wooded Retreat JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2011
Baltimore real estate mogul Pat Turner of Turner Development Group has built a reputation over the past decade for turning neglected urban properties into stylish spaces designed to draw residents back into the city. He has converted structures as unusual as an old hospital and a 1920s grain elevator into contemporary lofts, both with the help of architect Christopher Pfaeffle of the Baltimore firm Parameter Inc.
“Chris is an extremely creative designer and he also has the ability to make his designs affordable,” says Turner. “He knows my taste.” So after the developer and his wife Jeanine purchased a home at auction on a heavily wooded site in Pikesville just outside the city, they tapped Pfaeffle to transform the shabby cottage into a modern dwelling that would be both sophisticated and practical.
The architect approached the assignment in much the same way he tackled his previous designs for Turner: “I look for existing elements that are important and give meaning to the project.” In this case, Pfaeffle preserved the stone chimneys and basement of the home, while demolishing most of the older structure to make way for a more spacious layout.
In cladding the building, he matched the fieldstone of the original house with stone from the same Baltimore quarry “so the line between old and new is indistinguishable.” The rough masonry walls are combined with smooth stucco planes and overhanging roofs to embrace outdoor spaces on every level and fuse the house to its natural surroundings. “We chose a dark color for the exterior because we wanted the architecture to disappear into the trees,” says Jeanine Turner, who is an artist and interior designer.
The intersecting planes of stucco and stone bring Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous house Fallingwater to mind, but in this case, they extend toward a swimming pool at the rear of the house. The couple keeps the pool open year-round to enjoy the watery vistas; their home’s geothermal heating system prevents the water from freezing. Further into the woods, a stream crosses the property and a pond attracts the local wildlife. “We get deer, foxes, possums, every animal imaginable,” says Pat Turner.
From inside the house, views of nature are unobstructed by large windows with intersecting glass panes at the corners and glazed doors opening to large decks. The living room, where the original stone fireplace remains intact, is flanked by a screened porch and a terrace with a raised fire pit.
“I set up the outdoor spaces like the rooms in the house,” says Pfaeffle. “They flow together and connect visually in a similar way to the interiors.”
The largest outdoor area extends off the lower-level media room to provide dining and living areas plus a kitchen with a grill tucked behind a slate-topped bar. Set into one side is the swimming pool with its shallow “beach” and shady “grotto” screened by a curtain of water. “My family calls this the Turner resort,” says Jeanine with a laugh. In designing the backyard retreat, Pfaeffle respected the landscape created by the home’s former owner, a horticulturist, by pulling back the pool’s edge to preserve several rare magnolia trees.
Inside the house, orchids and greenery found throughout the rooms testify to Jeanine’s green thumb. These plants and the couple’s extensive art collection provide most of the color on the home’s three levels. Concrete floors and furniture in neutral shades create a calm setting punctuated by walls finished in different textures.
Venetian plaster in the foyer forms a soft backdrop to the staircase crisply outlined in steel railings, one of several details in the house forged by Baltimore custom metalworker Matt Ludwig. Ceramic tile and metal panels reflect the light from the dining room fireplace, which is set into a chimney preserved from the former house.
Pfaeffle configured the main level so the kitchen extends along the front and the large living room faces the wooded views at the back. The two spaces only partially open to one another while the dining area is sequestered in its own cozy room to one side of the kitchen.
A stainless-steel-clad island, granite countertops and breakfast bar in the kitchen provide plenty of room for the couple to prepare for the frequent parties they throw. Jeanine Turner selected the appliances with the help of John Walsh, executive chef of Chef’s Expressions, a local catering company.
Overnight guests have their choice of three bedroom suites on the lower level next to the media room or an upper level apartment with its own entrance. Recent visitors include Tennessee artist John Henry who is creating a 236-foot-high metal sculpture for Turner’s proposed Westport Waterfront, a community on the Middle Branch, Baltimore’s southern gateway. A small model of the artwork sits on the kitchen counter while other rooms feature Jeanine’s paintings and photos of the grain silos transformed into the luxury Silo Point condominiums by her husband. These tokens serve as reminders of Turner’s efforts to revive the industrial parts of Charm City that, compared to his home’s sylvan setting, seem a world away.
Frequent contributor Deborah K. Dietsch is based in Washington, DC. Robert Creamer is a Baltimore-based photographer.
ARCHITECTURE: CHRISTOPHER PFAEFFLE, AIA, Parameter Inc., Baltimore, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: TOM GAINES, Hencken & Gaines, Cockeysville, Maryland.
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