Finding there's no place like home

A deal that fell through three years ago led to an unusually happy outcome for Manny and Gayle Levy.

The couple had thought a move to condominium living would simplify their lives and free them from the upkeep of the Pikesville mid-century modern, ranch-style home where they had lived for 23 years.

But after placing a deposit on their new home and hiring a decorator, the condo's owners changed their minds. So, too would the Levys.

"My husband asked me, 'What changes would you make in our house [for] you to be happy enough to stay here?'" recalled 77-year-old Gayle Levy.

That was an easy one for her. The couple had always retired to their bedroom after dinner to watch TV, and so, first and foremost, she wanted that routine to change. The couple's very large sun room, opening from the living and dining rooms, was the perfect place to start.

"We redecorated our sun room in order to have a large TV and a comfortable room to entertain small groups of friends," she explained. "I also wanted to have a card table as part of that room, so we did not have to continually put one up when hosting bridge and mahjong games."

Today, the sun room, which was once a screened-in porch, is a family room bathed in natural light from skylights and windows. Built-in shelving units flank a brick fireplace with wood mantel that frames a large flat-screen TV. Walls are painted a soft cream color while white shutters cover windows and sliding doors to the yard. Light ceramic tile flooring coordinates with furniture pieces both neutral and transitional. Of the many splashes of color in the family room, most prominent is the wooden card table painted red and placed in a far corner. Four wicker chairs with plump cushions await the Levys' bridge partners.

Over the past 35 years the Levys have acquired an extensive art collection, but found that light or taupe walls were not the only options for interesting backgrounds. Noting that many of their walls are Chinese red, they have found that shade to be, what Levy calls, "a perfect foil for the art."

In the dining room, for example, a large vertical paining by David Cochran — done in his Alexandria, Va., workshop — of a man and woman seated on a sofa in front of a palm tree in a light-washed, pastel-like room, is enhanced by its red background. It hangs in delightful complement to a dining table of chrome and smoked glass surrounded by pastel blue upholstered chairs.

Several paintings, both abstracts and still-life portraits, are arranged above the contemporary sofa in the Levys' formal living room. Rich accent pillows in jewel toned shades work in reverse to embellish the cream colored walls.

One of the first pieces the couple collected hangs over the sofa in the family room, a reclining nude by local artist, Tamara Sigler.

"I had admired it on display in the lobby of the Mechanic Theatre during an intermission of a show. Manny surprised me and bought it in installments from her," Levy said.

Likewise, there is a fair amount of whimsy in the Levy collection as well.

"The [piece] that causes the most comments is by Y. Edelmann," Levy said. "It looks like a paper house and amazes everyone when they realize that it is a painting; a true representation of trompe l'oeil, meaning 'trick of the eye.' Each piece of art that we bought was because it evoked a certain feeling or connection, not because it matched any color scheme in our home or because we hoped it might increase in value."

Her second wish was to redecorate the master bedroom, the place she decided not to use for after-dinner television. The color of choice for this room was Granny Smith apple green. On the walls, alternating vertical strips were painted in two tones of the shade. Bed linens are of rich toile material. A large two-door antique pine armoire sets off the green like a springtime garden.

Throughout the renovation, the couple realized the primary reason for the choices they made.

"We did not have to give up what we love the most — being able to accommodate our extended family for holidays and get-togethers," Levy said.

And true to that goal, she and her husband recently hosted 38 family members for a Thanksgiving and Hanukkah celebration, making it doubtful that condo living would have ever suited the couple.

"I'm like Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz,'" Levy said. "There's no place like home."

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