Nine years ago, Jay and Nancy Guyther were supervising the construction of their custom-built townhouse in Fells Point while still living in Manhattan. Their initial idea for the 3,600-square-foot residence was to rent it out.
Circumstances, like construction plans, are often subject to change. When Jay Guyther was transferred from radio research media company Arbitron's New York office to its Columbia site, the couple sold their condo in the city and made plans to move into the Baltimore property themselves. They have been living there since 2001, comfortably "back home," since both grew up here.
A small foyer opening to a long hall at the ground-level entrance leads to an office at the rear of the home. Doors open off the hallway - one to the two-car garage, another to a utility room and one to a powder room. Jay Guyther's office, with its contemporary appointments that include a black and red laminate desk, opens onto a patio and brick courtyard. A variety of ferns and evergreens have been planted along the high walls that enclose it.
Steel handrails and frames compose the open staircase that winds to the home's upper three levels. The second-floor living area is a study in urban contemporary design and appointments and, like the two floors above, the juxtaposition of metal, glass, wood and fabric combine for a unified, progressive look. The level's open interior dimensions of 20 feet by 70 feet feature three distinct living areas in loft-like fashion.
A sunken living room is situated at the rear of the home. Here, beige microfiber chairs and a sectional sofa sit atop the birch flooring that covers the entire level. Black velveteen side chairs provide contrast while coordinating with an entertainment unit of metal, birch wood and black laminate.
Walls painted the lightest shade of mauve are capped at floor level with cream-colored molding. The draperies of dark burgundy fabric that swath four full-length glass doors are the darkest textile in the room. The doors open to a 20-by-17-foot deck with a retractable awning that ensures cool lounging against the glare of a southern exposure.
The home's modern, C-shaped kitchen, where the Guythers spend much of their time, is situated at the center of the second floor. Maple cabinets and a center island, also of maple wood, provide strong contrast to black granite counters, glass tile backsplashes and stainless steel appliances. A warming bin proves an invaluable appliance, keeping dishes and bread warm until ready to be served.
The dining room, situated at the front of the house, is fashionably contemporary, with glass tables, dark leather chairs and black velvet curtains that can be closed for a private dinner.
As important as furniture is to the interior design, so is the artwork the couple has collected. On the living level, for example, their eclectic pieces include two framed and numbered prints by Dr. Seuss of "Green Eggs and Ham" fame, Baltimore prints by cityscape artist, Paul McGehee and an original cel from Hanna-Barbera's animated TV hit "Top Cat."
A guest suite and a master suite comprise the home's third level. The hall between the two features a floor-to-ceiling glass-block window that is the third wall of the walk-in ceramic shower in the Guythers' suite. The bedroom's bay window looks out on the City Pier building that fronts on Thames Street, while the wall opposite showcases a Robert McClintock painting of Fells Point's iconic Moran tugboats.
"We call this floor our lounge," said Nancy Guyther, climbing the last set of stairs to the fourth level and a 20-by-40-foot room with decor much like the living room.
Light mauve paint on the walls, a beige microfiber sectional sofa, glass tables and lamps with artistically rendered metal bases fill the room, whose back wall opens out to the home's second deck. The window affords a view of rooftops and the water straight out to the Domino Sugars plant with its distinctive neon sign.
Of his involvement in the home's design and construction, Jay Guyther notes that it "turned out very well; we got 90 percent of it right."
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Making a dream home
Dream element: The Guythers' custom-built, four-story townhome is one of five that was constructed on a vacant lot off Broadway in the heart of Fells Point. Pleasingly congruent with the 18th- and 19th-century homes surrounding it, design is contemporary in style, with that most valuable of urban amenities - a two-car garage. Two decks on the back of the house, off the second and fourth levels, afford views of the City Pier on Thames Street, as well as delightful neighborhood rooftops and, from the top-floor deck, a water view. Design inspiration: Jay and Nancy Guyther were involved in every phase of their home's interior design. No strangers to urban living, having spent 15 years in a Manhattan condo, the two knew the contemporary look they wanted, referring to their furnishings as "casual sophistication." A particular treat was shopping for new pieces in contemporary galleries in New York and Washington. Personal touch: The Guythers' eclectic art collection includes many pieces by Baltimore artists. They range in style and period from black-and-white framed photographs by A. Aubrey Bodine to Charlene Clark's paintings of two iconic Baltimore eateries, Gino's and Ameche's.