Two of modern architecture’s key principles are transparency and fluidity. Whether to create seamlessness between the inside and outside of a structure, or to create an easy flow within the structure itself, the goal is to remove the barriers that separate.
These principles are illustrated throughout John and Chris Davison’s house in a rural Owings Mills development, but nowhere as clearly as in the home’s walls of glass, which comprise nearly 40 percent of the exterior surface. In the entrance foyer, opposing floor-to-ceiling windows offer a view from the front steps past the Deco-inspired daybed through to the back yard. In the spacious kitchen and adjoining family room, windows fill the walls that look onto the enclosed courtyard. The horizontality of the handmade mahogany-framed windows recalls Frank Lloyd Wright’s mid-century designs, themselves inspired in part by Japanese shoji screens.
And in the formal living room, windows again are a key design element. “If you look at this room, windows wrap the two exterior corners. Usually columns in the corners of a room support the load,” says architect and designer Patrick Sutton. “We didn’t want the columns because they obstruct the view. So we had to cantilever structural beams out from the side of the house to carry the load. It was complex to do.”
In order to achieve a sense of fluidity within the 5,000-square-foot stucco and mahogany house, Sutton employed discrete elements— rather than solid walls— to suggest distinctions in space. A fireplace finished in pigmented plaster with a honed black granite hearth divides the living room from the foyer. Since it doesn’t span the entire width of the room, it creates a “window” that offers a view through the foyer and the dining room, through the playroom used by the Davisons’ three children, and out the windows on the opposite side of the home.
In the dining room, which is elevated a few steps above the home’s main level, a leather-covered buffet/server backed with a pearwood panel divides the room from the foyer— but doesn’t wall it off completely. Sutton designed the room’s 1930s French Deco-inspired table, which is made of ebonized mahogany. In the dining room, as throughout the home, furnishings and textiles offer interest with their contrasting textures— silk curtains, mohair-covered chairs, a wool rug. But the palette is kept neutral so contemporary works by Luisa Chase and Tom Baril, as well as antique pottery from Africa and Indonesia, can stand out.
In the hallway that leads from the home’s foyer, Sutton created a gently curving wall to suggest a “closing in,” a greater intimacy for the home’s more casual rooms. It’s a bit surprising in a home in which horizontal planes and squared edges seem to rule the day. But even more surprising is the stairway that leads to the second floor, located at the end of the hall. Sutton decided to wrap the wall that divides the flights in copper sheeting, rounding the edges like an airplane wing. “It’s out of left field, jarring,” he says. “It gives an aerodynamic feel.”
Upstairs, the master bedroom, like the formal living room, is furnished with both antique and modern pieces. A banquette that suggests the clean lines of mid-century furniture designs is paired with a woven leather ottoman, while a 300-year-old Chinese calligraphy table stands at the foot of the bed. Light floods the room through glass doors that open onto a balcony overlooking the back yard.
Back downstairs on the main level, the playroom features the clean lines of the “adult” portions of the home, but is also functional for children aged 2, 7 and 9. A look-through window to the kitchen (which can be closed off with a pocket door) allows the Davison parents to keep an eye on their children while they’re in the kitchen.
Flooded with natural light from windows on two walls, the kitchen is open and airy. White maple floor cabinets are topped by honed black granite while the upper cabinets are topped by a band of mahogany that creates a glassless “window” overlooking the family room, and echoes the mahogany-framed windows. On the opposite side of the kitchen, a work station made from a slab of granite overlooks the family room.
As in the living room, the fireplace hearth in the family room is made of black granite and the mantle is a simple wooden shelf notched into the wall. Doors on either side of the fireplace lead onto the shady patio, which is made private by a screen of trees. “When you’re back here,” says Sutton, “you have no sense of being in a development.”
Indeed it is peaceful outside the Davison home— almost as peaceful as it is inside. 

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here