A guest cottage is right at home Couple watches from window as their house rises next door.


June 23, 1996|By Daniel H. Barkin | Daniel H. Barkin,SUN STAFF

Someday, it will serve as a guest cottage and an office, but for now it is the house where Gary Clark and Joan Harris live with their two dogs, a springer and a yellow Lab.

Clark and Harris have been enjoying their new, three-level dwelling in Carroll County since last fall, while they watch the construction of their permanent residence a few yards away.

They bring professional eyes to the job. Clark is president and Harris vice president and treasurer of the GYC Group, a builder of homes in Howard and Carroll counties that fetch from $500,000 to more than $1 million in custom neighborhoods.

Many would be pleased to call the couple's Carroll County cottage home. It's attractive, well-decorated and comfortable, with cedar shingles and a basement two-car garage built into the side of a hill like a bank barn. The foundation sports a stone exterior over a block wall, with the upper two levels wood frame.

The couple moved in November from a 1960s rancher in Ellicott City that they had turned into a Cape Cod just three years ago.

Their move to Carroll came after they learned about the property, part of the roughly 320-acre Ship's Quarters farm and equestrian facility, off Sullivan Road about four miles north of Westminster. The farm was the site of three U.S. Olympic equestrian trials.

GYC bought lots to build seven or eight homes in the Ship's Quarters subdivision on the northeast quadrant of the property, and Clark and Harris decided to build their guest cottage and home on 115 acres on the parcel's unimproved southwest corner. They plan to finish their 3,700-square-foot, three-bedroom dream house a year from now.

In the meantime, the cottage is home.

The fireplace in the cottage's first-floor study was built by Jim Baker, a mason described as a "craftsman" by Clark and Harris. Originally, the fireplace was to be made of Pennsylvania bluestone, but Baker said he could build one less expensively out of common riprap, while still retaining the bluestone look. Baker hand-carved the stones for the fireplace, set into a stone chimney that he built by himself.

On the second floor, the family room is dominated by another fireplace that was crafted from rocks picked out of stream beds and fields on the property. Four decorative beams adorn the ceilings, each weighing around 400 pounds, lumber rescued from old barns. The room was designed to have a flat ceiling, but changes were made to accommodate a vaulted one, according to Clark.

"We wanted to give it a little charm," he said. "We didn't know how long we were going to be here."

The windows in the family room are six-over-one, something that isn't seen much, Clark said. "We're very much window people," he said.

Throughout the room are carvings of birds. A painting of hunters carrying birds out of their blind sits over the fireplace. "I'm an avid outdoorsman," Clark said.

The kitchen features glass-fronted cabinets and Corian counter tops. A cooking island separates the kitchen from the dining area. Cleverly built into the island is a wine rack.

The old walnut dining room table can be expanded with six leaves to accommodate all the family for holiday meals. "We had 20 here for Thanksgiving," Clark said.

The master bedroom features a bed that belonged to Clark's grandfather and an armoire that was rescued in "40 or 50 pieces" from a store on Howard Street.

The second floor features the same wood flooring and decorative pattern throughout -- "the same chair rail, the same crown molding," Clark said. "Running the same materials makes smaller spaces seem larger."

Jutting from the cottage are terraces off the master suite, a guest bedroom and the family room. Rocking chairs on the terraces sway in the breezes that sweep over rolling hills typical of northern Carroll.

A few steps from the cottage is a swimming pool, partly hidden by a retaining wall that holds a fireplace used for outdoor grilling.

Beyond the pool is the site where the couple will build their permanent home. They came upon the concept for the home while leafing through an architectural magazine feature on a Martha's Vineyard home.

"We never sent away for the plans. We just saw the pictures," Clark said. They enlisted Ron Brasher, principal architect of the Baltimore firm of DRBrasher Architects Inc., to design the home.

It will be smaller than many of the houses GYC has built in custom-home Howard communities such as the Chase, Waterford, Farside and Chapel Woods. GYC has also built homes in Triadelphia Woods, Wellington and Oella.

Its production homes have gone up in communities such as Wheatfield, Linwood and Woodcrest. In Oella, on the Baltimore County-Howard County line, GYC has built luxury townhouses in the Timber Point and River Ridge communities.

GYC is currently building in the Carroll County communities of the Paddocks at Ryehill Farm and Challedon, where homes are selling in the $300,000s.

Clark learned his craft from his father, G. Y. Clark, who was a Howard County custom home builder. After college, the younger Clark worked at the Rouse Co. during the infancy of the planned community of Columbia.

In 1972, Clark and a partner formed a home construction and real estate company, and they started building and selling homes in Howard County. From 1975 until 1981, Clark operated Clark & Associates, one of Howard's largest real estate firms. During that time, he specialized in helping other homebuilders market their houses.

Today, GYC builds about 30 homes a year, 25 of them production homes with some custom features, and three to four "pure custom," Clark said.

Pub Date: 6/23/96

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