Lisa and Greg Barnhill like nothing better than returning from their many trips to their cottage home in one of northern Baltimore’s scenic valleys.
Greg, a partner in Brown Advisory, and Lisa, an associate broker with Yerman Witman Gaines & Conklin Realty, purchased their 1920s-era stunner just months before they were married.
It had been an extensive search, the couple recalls.
"Greg would dash in and out of homes at lunchtime, rarely lingering, until he saw this one," Lisa remembers.
“Once inside the door, Greg exclaimed to the owner, ‘I love it—let’s buy it!’ We laugh about what that must have done for our negotiating position."
The house, named St. Anthony’s Delight after the original tract of land first surveyed in 1719 under the reign of King George I of England, was built in 1929 by Louise and Felix Leser, who lived there until 1940.
The Barnhills, who have retained the name of the home, are only the fourth owners in its almost 100-year history.
Once a small cottage, the place has been expanded by each of its owners but retains its original character, albeit now with a few more rooms in which the couple and their son, Scott—when he’s home from his studies at Villanova—and friends can enjoy.
Built in the “revival” style popular at that time, the home resembles a close-to-the-ground Cotswold cottage, with easy access to the outdoors and a swayback, cedar shingle roof. One of the unique features of the house, say the owners, is that there are few square angles, giving it an organic feel.
“This was no easy feat,” says Greg, crediting architect Thomas O. Gamper and custom builder Matthew Slater for the innovative design of a multi-room addition, the look of which was achieved by using support trusses in the shape of an “upside-down ship” for the rooflines.
“That keeps the house to its original intent,” say the Barnhills.
While the owners give full credit to Gamper and Slater, the compliment is returned in kind.
“Lisa and Greg both have a very keen design sense,” says Gamper, now with SMG Architects in Baltimore. “They were ideal to work with.”
“Working on this project was a tremendous amount of fun,” agrees Slater, whose company is headquartered in Owings Mills. This despite the fact that construction of the addition, with its “completely cool” roof, took place during one of Baltimore’s snowiest winters.
Though the structure of the house was already in fine shape, the Barnhills have renovated the space to meet their needs—including expanding the narrow hallways upstairs, removing interior walls to accommodate a new kitchen, and turning the original garage into a sophisticated 21st-century family room—without compromising the original architecture.
The interior of the home has the inviting feel one would expect in an English cottage, complete with hand-hewn beams and random-width oak floors, comfortable furniture, needlepoint pillows, and book-lined walls.
And at every turn is something personally meaningful to the Barnhills, such as Greg’s collections of antique mechanical banks and model ships (a maritime enthusiast, Greg, along with Gary Jobson and Lee Tawney, served as chairman for 12 years of the Baltimore-Annapolis stopover of the Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race).
Lisa’s tartan boxes accent the home, as well, as does the couple’s collection of lost-wax bronze ape sculptures by artist Bart Walter, purchased after a family trip to Rwanda inspired by Greg’s involvement in the nonprofit Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.
“I pretty much know the provenance of most items in the home and can glance at various pieces and give the story behind them,” says Greg, whose own family history dates back to Charlemagne.
“This is what a home should be,” he says, adding that his mother always advised him to forgo buying traditional souvenirs and make “one special purchase…even if you have to stretch and save for it.”