There once was a couple who lived far, far away in a deep, deep wood in a bright purple house…
This is no fairy tale, but rather an apt beginning to the story of Rob and Holly Twist’s home in a remote corner of Perryville, in Cecil County. The couple spent more than two years building the house themselves, using nights and weekends, to create something that is part Dr. Seuss-inspired whimsy and part cutting-edge contemporary design statement.
“I’m sure our neighbors probably wondered what we were doing,” says Holly, 26, a nanny. Together with Rob, 30, owner of New Images Remodeling Service, a contracting company, the pair set out to build their dream house. Designed with a perfect-square footprint, the house is faced with concrete block salvaged from the construction of a Target store and a Food Lion. The cube-shaped exterior is painted a bright shade of purple with gray accents, and exterior lighting fixtures from an out-of-business movie theater give visitors a taste of what to expect inside.
“When people hear about the house, they think it sounds weird,” says Holly. “But when they see it, most like it and feel very comfortable here.”
Walking into the house, visitors may find it hard to suppress a gasp. A 28-foot-high foyer exposes all three levels of the open-plan home. The striking use of color has the most immediate impact, but it is in the clever usage of many commonly available materials where the ingenuity of the place really shines through. The foyer floor, for example, is covered in a pattern of gray and purple tiles that can be found in almost any public school, and an industrial, Diamond-Plate patterned steel staircase leads to the main living space above.
“We really like metal and a very industrial, commercial look,” says Rob, who emphasizes the importance of shape and symmetry in the design. “Most of the materials that we used you can get at any hardware store. We wanted to take typically industrial materials and use them in creative ways.”
Having previously lived in a townhouse decorated in only black and white, the Twists vowed when they began building this home as newlyweds that it would be colorful. “We had a professional decorator come in and we explained to her what we wanted to do,” says Rob, standing in a lounge area adjacent to the living room. With its blue and red couches situated against yellow walls, the space could be a Mondrian painting come-to-life save for the television suspended from an industrial bracket salvaged from a Reach for the Beach store. Not unlike their initial experience with their draftsman, the decorator, says Rob, “thought we were nuts. We really started to second-guess ourselves.”
But when they finished the master bedroom, they liked what they saw and decided to ditch the decorator and follow their own direction. Each room in the house would be based on a basic color: The kitchen, complete with its own fishtank wall, is red. The living room is bright yellow. The laundry room, turquoise. The hallway is orange, with an orange, blue and white accent wall that mimics an M.C. Esher sketch. To offset the vibrant colors, the Twists incorporated light wood laminate floors, gray accent walls, glass block and industrial metals so that the house never feels “boxed in” by the strong colors.
“Paint is cheap,” says Holly of their daring palette. “Go with your instincts and if you don’t like it, just repaint it another color.”
The master bedroom takes a page out of the Jetsons’ school of design. Subtle dual shades of green, oversized diamonds are painted on one wall. Streamlined cabinetry from Ikea blends well into the space, and green light fixtures stand out against a backdrop of generously sized contemporary white furniture and pillows for a look that is surprisingly restive and cheerful.
The first-floor bathroom is painted in shades of eggplant, the floor is industrial black rubber, and the fixtures are a white porcelain urinal and a commercial, tankless toilet. Living in a home with such industrial flair also has a hidden asset, as Holly explains. “It’s very easy to clean— you just wipe everything down.”
There’s no need to scale the stairs in this house— one can easily hop on the two-story firepole to arrive in the living room where Holly, petite against a bright purple, curvaceous sofa, explains, “We look at this house as a piece of art. I’m glad we didn’t have to depend on anyone else to do it, so we got exactly what we wanted.” The sofa— like much of the furniture— came from Nouveau Contemporary Goods on Charles Street, where the Twists worked closely with store owner Steve Appel to get just the look they wanted.
For Rob, the house was a chance to exercise his abilities without any boundaries. His creativity is evident in the kitchen where sheets of galvanized metal and metal studs create suspended light soffits over the cabinets, an idea he got from a bank drive-through. Other kitchen amenities include a restaurant-style flexible faucet and light fixtures Rob custom-designed to hang over the massive island and cooktop.
If there is a room in this home that is sedate, it is the game room/office on the ground level. Here the Twists were inspired by the design of the “vault” lounge at the downtown Baltimore club, Redwood Trust. Rob installed radiant heat in the floor so the room would always be comfortable, not that the cool golden-beige walls, leopard-print chaise lounges and pool table aren’t inviting enough on their own.
The Twists have a talent for breathing new life into ordinary objects. Whether it’s table lamps from Target rewired to drop out of the ceiling, Ikea tables with the legs sawed off and attached to the wall for end tables, or surround-sound speakers mounted onto galvanized pipe brackets, not a single detail has been spared the Twists’ unique touch. Part of the house’s visual impact comes from the fact that it is noticeably devoid of clutter. “Neither of us is big into collections or knickknacks,” says Rob. “We like the house to speak, not the things that are in it.”
Located in a rural area, the house attracts even more attention than it might in the city, and it seems impossible to visit the Twists’ home and not leave with a smile. After a year in their dream home, built with their own sweat equity and a few doodles inspired by HGTV, the Twists are content to live and start a family in the bright purple house, far away in the deep, deep woods.
“We like it so much here that it’s hard to leave for work in the morning,” says Rob, chuckling. “We did this together, we took our time and it taught us a lot about each other, too.”
A. R. Burdette Steelwork Aberdeen, 410-734-7740
Ikea Furnishings, accessories, cabinetry and flooring, White Marsh, 410-931-5400
New Images Remodeling Design and construction, Perryville, 410-575-6001
Nouveau Contemporary Goods Home furnishings, Baltimore, 410-962-8248