“When I first came to the home, I loved the look of its exterior and the beautiful wooded setting,” says interior designer Elizabeth Reich of Jenkins Baer Associates, recalling early days on what she fondly calls her “tree house” project. “Inside, you look around you and there are windows everywhere, filtering natural light, and you see tall trees and lots of greenery. It’s hard to imagine you’re in the city. It feels so separate.”
Don Abrams, a physician, and Jason Kissel, a musician and teacher, finished building the four-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot Arts and Crafts style house in 2003 on nearly four acres of woodland in North Baltimore’s Bare Hills neighborhood. From the start, they were inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and a good portion of the back—including the sunroom and parts of the kitchen and living room—is cantilevered over the hill behind the home.
“The goal was for the house to harmonize with the nature around it, rather than work against that,” Kissel says. “Though we’ve always liked the house from an architectural standpoint, by the time we were finished building, there was never a comprehensive interior design plan.”
The couple chose to hire Reich in 2014 to help them realize a more harmonious and complete space inside the home. The former paint palette was unusual and disparate, with colors like salmon and lavender, and the existing furniture felt spare and wrong.
“Don had bought a bunch of contemporary furnishings at once,” Kissel adds. “There was a lot of wood, glass and metal, hard, rather cold surfaces everywhere, and no flow or relationship from room to room.”
Reich—who chose to embrace the extensive Brazilian cherry millwork throughout the house and even extended the fireplace’s surrounding woodwork up to the ceiling in the great room—sought to add the softness and layering that truly make a house a home.
“I wanted to bring the softness and palette of the outdoors in, while warming up the masculinity and giving the décor a polished, but intimate and cozy, feel,” she says.
She began in the living room, working with some of what the homeowners had, like the leather sofas, which she softened with a mix of textured and patterned pillows, and the quartet of curved armchairs, which she reupholstered in gray-blue velvet. They are set upon a Moroccan rug and paired with an ottoman fireside. The previously too-small glass coffee table was replaced with a pair of suitably scaled reclaimed wood ones with wrought iron bases.
“The homeowners like rich saturated colors,” says Reich, who repainted the great room’s walls and ceiling in a rich neutral. “I found the overall palette in nature, earthy browns, mossy greens, silver blues and warm ochres. I used black wrought iron for accents, as well as antiqued brass and bronze finishes.”
Her fabric choices followed a similar holistic path with mohair, wool, velvet, cotton-linen, and leather, balancing the Arts and Crafts botanicals in drapery with menswear-inspired upholstery, including the dining room’s chairs which are paired with an existing table. The host chairs are in a textured blend, while the others are backed in a petite herringbone weave and fronted in smooth leather.
“Almost every room has some leather,” Reich adds. “It’s beautiful and durable and comes in so many colors.”
The Arts and Crafts influences also flow into all the rooms, from the gentleman’s library, with its William Morris wallpaper and its drafting-style table on casters, to the master bedroom, with its cabinet of natural curiosities. The homeowners have several other collections, including restaurant-style jadeite dishware and aqua-hued McCoy pottery, which are artfully integrated into the home’s design throughout.
“We love it very much now,” Kissel says. “It has that layering and feeling of having evolved over time. It’s beautiful and comfortable, though, not a museum.”
Architect: Stephen Glassman
Interior Designer: Elizabeth Reich, Jenkins Baer Associates
Contractor: Bill Hubbard