In this house of variegated Butler stone and stained pine, the eye is constantly drawn beyond each room's floor-to-ceiling windows and out among the trees and sky. The effect evokes the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and with good reason.
It was designed and built in the mid-1960s by architect — and Wright protege — Robert Fryer. His wife, Dr. Adele Fryer, lived there with him from 1980 until his death in 1995. In 2000, she married William Gammon, a certified financial planner with Ameriprise.
With marriage came the need for a decision: to leave or not to leave the house that cost $45,000 to build 50 years ago? Dr. Adele Gammon, an educational psychologist, seated at an intricately carved teak dining table from Thailand, recalls the dilemma: "Do we stay in a house designed by my [former] husband, or do we 'Gammonize' it?"
The coupled chose to remain in the two-story split level, remodeling it and building an addition that would jut into the craggy hillside by the west end of the home, turning the 2,000-square-foot interior space into 3,500 square feet.
"There isn't anything in the house we didn't touch, [and] these two men made it happen," she said, alluding to her friend and architect Henry Warfield, standing in the large, galley-style kitchen with her husband and another friend, builder Stephen Williams, president of Crossroads Building Inc.
The architect and builder doubled the size of the kitchen and created a family room, an indoor pool and hot tub, a large bedroom over the pool area, remodeled bathrooms for each of the rooms upstairs and new windows along the entire south end of the home. Original patios were reworked and a new patio constructed outside the pool and hot tub area. Bill Gammon says the total cost of renovation and new construction came in at a "seven figures-plus," amount, but would not itemize.
The dining room and kitchen, once the west end of the house, are now at the center. The ceiling remains low, in Wrightian-style, because the floors rise and fall from one room to the other, unified with a frieze connecting the overlapping levels. Stone columns, rather than enclosed walls, define the rooms.
Warfield and Williams expanded on the natural materials in the original house. The stacked construction of the Butler stone walls and columns serves as niches for the placement of picture frames and other small objects. In addition to the prolific use of glass in heavily framed windows, mirrors further open the rooms to the great outdoors. Many fool the eye into thinking there is a room beyond the glass.
Blue stone floors throughout the home's extend out to the patios, further leading the eye outdoors — most immediately to the patio and Ipe Brazilian hardwood deck along the entire depth of the south wall. Outdoor furniture, like several of the indoor pieces, is built of teak. A portion of the deck overlooks a one-lane road, while another portion and stone patio are at ground level, conforming to the grade of the land.
To create the indoor pool room, "this entire area was dug out of a bank," Adele Gammon said.
Mirrors along the entire back wall appear to double the area, which is home to an endless pool, "where you swim against the current while staying in one place," Bill Gammon pointed out.
The renovated kitchen, in addition to cherry wood cabinets and a raised mahogany counter over granite countertops, boasts a double oven and microwave, a glass-top stove, and a full-size, glass-front Sub-Zero refrigerator for wine.
"One [section] is set at 46 degrees for the white wine, and the other at 52 degrees for the red," he said.
Beyond the home's front entrance, an open staircase leads to an equally open upper hallway and three bedrooms, one now used as an office. A wood balcony off the master bedroom remains intact from Robert Fryer's design, while the new guestroom, built over the pool below, honors the original architect by keeping one interior wall (that was formerly exterior wood siding) intact.
With a state-of-the-art security system, providing the couple ease of mind, the renovation and addition is complete.
"We built and remodeled this house to make it ours," said Adele Gammon. "Here, you're never without beauty."
Dream element: The Gammon house, in the Ruxton area of northern Baltimore County, sits off the road on hilly and multi-graded land. Keeping company with a few other houses wedged into spots on the craggy terrain, the house and the land are integrated in a larger rustic setting of trees, foliage and deer.
Exterior design: In the grand "outdoors, indoors fusion" of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the low build of the Butler stone design and wood trim fits the land around it. Several thick stone columns line the walkway to the front door, creating a portico feel.
Interior design: Here form follows function in rectangular lines long and low to the ground. Organic and asymmetrical shapes go along with the home's interior flow. Furniture pieces are made of wood (many in Arts & Crafts style), leather, as in a pub-backed sofa, or softly upholstered barrel chairs. An ebony grand piano sits in the corner of the sunken living room, its front leg sawed down and wedged into the step leading up to the dining room and kitchen.
Renovation challenge: Because the house was built in the 1960s with no central air or heat, a major challenge was determining the placement of the ductwork and vents while keeping the integrity of the original design. This, while not an easy issue, according to Henry Warfield, was accomplished using frieze and lowered portions of ceiling.