When Beth Gansky began house-hunting in 2014, she sought a location with easy access to work and her children's schools -- but removed enough from the daily rush to be an oasis where a recently blended family that had been struck by tragedy could get a fresh start.

She found just the space in Pikesville's Anton Woods neighborhood. Here, dappled shade from trees envelope a 1980s house with a brick front patio set back from the street.


"When I saw it, it was a haven — a place where you could go and ground yourself," Gansky said.

When she first looked at the house, she remembered seeing natural light bathing the rooms. High ceilings on the main floor meant wall space for paintings by her mother and mother-in-law, both artists. The flowing layout would suit a family and lots of entertaining.

The 3,600-square-foot house would be the family's comfort zone, where Gansky would pull together two households, using their gracious but relaxed styles to create a homey atmosphere.

"We are rooted in family," Gansky said. She wanted the decor to reflect that.

Less than three years earlier, Gansky was a divorced mother of three in Owings Mills who wed Ari Zymelman, a divorced Chevy Chase father who was raising his two children. The couple knew they'd want one family home to indulge their love of cooking, entertaining, family and Judaism, and to fill with art, kids' photos and heirlooms. But with career commitments and not wanting to disrupt the children, they held off and kept their separate homes.

A year and a half after the couple wed, Zymelman was diagnosed with lymphoma. He died in 2013; they had been married less than two years.

Previously, the couple agreed that Gansky should bring Zymelman's children — Yossi, now 14, and Talia, now 16 — and Gansky's youngest, Sophie, now days from turning 17, under one roof in the Baltimore area, where Gansky had a support network. So Gansky set about to do just that.

Wendy Appleby, an interior designer based in Columbia who worked with the couple on the Chevy Chase house Zymelman bought in 2010, helped ready that and Gansky's home for sale, as well as working with Gansky on the new place.

"When I was looking at the house, she came looking with me," Gansky said, adding that Appleby's knowledge of the family's previous homes was a huge help in the process.

Together, they chose paint colors and decided how to reuse furnishings. "She knew what furniture I had," said Gansky, who works as the director of Acharai, a Jewish volunteer leadership development institute. "We were putting things from both houses in."

Gansky and Appleby stuck to cosmetic changes in the new home. The former owners' French provincial style gave way to new earthy paint colors — tans, taupes, rust and deep reds — drawn from the previous houses and their furnishings. The furnishings and decor layer colors — including cream, brown and green — are throughout the main level.

Most importantly, the decor incorporates pieces that had meaning to Gansky and Zymelman. In the living room, for example, paintings done by their mothers hang on the walls; a sideboard holds an arch of small candles that the couple brought home from California; and a grandfather's clock made more than four decades ago by Gansky's father sits at the room's edge.

There's a "family tree" decoration, flanked by old family photos, on the landing midway up the staircase to the second floor, and pomegranate tree wall hangings from Israel are in the two-story foyer. More family photos cover the hallway walls.

"I tried really hard to make sure everyone was represented," Gansky said.


Decorative hangings covered with positive affirmations abound. "Storms make trees take deeper roots," reads one near the first-floor office. The foyer also features a stained-glass window panel that she moved from the wood-paneled office, where she thought it looked too dark.

But Gansky didn't make many changes to the tan kitchen, where her three teens eat at the breakfast bar and put together school lunches. Many family meals are eaten at the kitchen's custom table, which has a whimsical tabletop covered in colorful panels in shapes such as a sun, flower and star.

The dining room has Judaic-themed prints on the walls, surrounding a table that every Friday night seats eight to 12 guests for dinner. "It's a nice question when the kids ask, 'Who is coming for Shabbat dinner this week?'" Gansky said.

A conversation area Appleby designed for the living room in the Chevy Chase house has the same role in the new home's living room. The furniture in brown and burnt orange from Zymelman's house "fit perfectly," Gansky said. Clustered around a brown leather and wood ottoman are four chenille-upholstered chairs — two textured and two patterned, punctuated by bright pillows. The arrangement sits on a flecked short-shag rug. There's also plenty of seating that can be arranged to accommodate company, such as a cream-upholstered rocking chair that belonged to a friend's grandmother.

The family room features a red couch and club chairs upholstered in rich, earthy colors from the Chevy Chase home, as well as a tile-topped table from the Owings Mills house. The setting provides a space for the family to relax in front of a TV. Gansky replaced the carpeting here, continuing the main level's hardwood flooring; she also removed a built-in wall unit.

The kids hang out with friends in the walk-out basement, where Gansky created a game and TV area and turned a small room into a guest bedroom.

Upstairs, three bedrooms plus a master suite can be found. The master is decorated in shades of gray-taupe and plum, with the furnishings coming from the couple's bedroom in Chevy Chase — including the plum draperies that Appleby converted into valances.

The teenagers chose various blues for their bedrooms, and combined their furniture with existing built-in shelves.

Gansky's favorite room in the home is the screened porch, a nest perched in the trees. She bought the previous owners' wicker furniture.

"When I sit in the screen porch, I feel like I am in a nature place," she said. When the weather is warm, it's a perfect place for Gansky and her blended family to eat and relax.

"I feel very grateful to be in a place where there is a lot of joy. I wanted to be in a place that was calming," Gansky said.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Send an email to homes@baltsun.com.

Making the dream 

Dream location: Crucial for Gansky was a good location to reduce daily travel stress of a single parent with three children in two schools. Her quiet neighborhood sits near the Beltway and Park Heights Avenue, and there's plenty of shopping nearby.

Dream realized: Beth Gansky needed to fashion a normal family life for herself as a working single parent of three children from two families — especially when two of those children were mourning their father and starting over in a new city. She capitalized on zones that would naturally draw a family together — even the dog's bed is in the family room — and loves the results.

Dream design: Gansky loves to entertain. She kept the previous owners' marble-topped built-in buffet that runs nearly the length of the dining room, covering that and the table with food for the many gatherings she holds. Interior designer Wendy Appleby urged Gansky to buy the previous owners' hutch — "It fit the space perfectly," Gansky says — and gave it a new look by painting the interior red.