The family castle, nifty and unique

Innovation: For those seeking a nontraditional home, the custom-built route proves a very interesting path, indeed.

August 18, 2002|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Experts say the typical new home in 2010 will have more than 2,200 square feet, three or more bedrooms, three bathrooms and a universal design to allow aging in place. The future homes will also have added amenities making them more comfortable, more energy efficient and safer. Yet, the experts believe, the overall appearance will not be very different from today's new homes. That's according to the National Association of Home Builders' Housing Facts, Figures and Trends Survey.

But what if you don't want the typical new home? What if your vision is of something that is unique and unusual even in the traditional colonial and rancher world of Baltimore real estate?

Then you might consider building your own home and making it something innovative, something that stands out in the crowd.

That's what Ian and Ilene Salditch did.

Although their home took 10 years to complete, the Salditches now have exactly what they envisioned -- a contemporary, L-shaped Southern California-inspired home nestled in the woods of Hunt Valley.

The design of the house may seem complicated, but it is easy to live with, says Ian Salditch.

"It's pretty simple even though it might not appear to be," he said. "We wanted a very contemporary house. But the criticism of most contemporary art is it sacrifices warmth and comfort for its own sake -- just to be contemporary. So we took a contemporary house and used natural materials and a warm color palette to make it more hospitable."

The home is a basic L-shape centered on an impressive tower entryway staircase. The master bedroom and study are on the short side of the L, the dining room, kitchen and their three daughters' bedrooms on the long side. At each end are additional staircases. The house is vertically divided with the bedrooms on the upper level and the public spaces -- kitchen, great room, dining room and study -- on the ground level.

One of the house's unique features resulted from a need for additional sunlight to illuminate the ground level, part of which is below grade. That's when the idea to twist the two levels of the L-shaped grid 10 degrees came about. Twisting the levels a few degrees apart created several two-level open spaces revealing light to all areas of the house. Skylights were added, and the ground level has enough light that it will never be confused with a basement.

Twisting the grid "made all the difference in the world," said Ian Salditch. "We now had all of these little triangular spaces so there is light in here all the time."

The Salditches got the homebuilding fever after building a house in Mount Washington. When they decided to move to the suburbs, they knew they wanted to once again build their own home.

"Once you go there, you can't go back," said Ian Salditch. "So we lived in a series of rental houses and our parents' basements until we found this property."

It took four years to find the right parcel, two years to persuade the owner to sell, two years to work out a design and hire a builder, and almost another two years to complete the building process.

Well worth it, say Ian and Ilene, who along with their three daughters -- Taylor, Blair and Quinn -- settled into their home in September last year.

The idea for the style of their home came from various sources, says Ilene Salditch.

"Over a period of time, we began tearing pictures from magazines and putting a large folder together. Also, by living in different houses we learned what we wanted in a house. It was a good thing it took so long because tastes change and we would go through the folder and take things out and add to it."

One of the main themes of the house was low maintenance. A rubber roof, concrete block interior walls and the great room's concrete floor with radiant heat were all part of the design. Only a small portion of the 10.5-acre lot was disturbed for construction of the house. Adding to the low-maintenance theme, the yard was left to open patios that face the woods and huge planters that run along the house in place of the traditional lawn and flower gardens.

Even from the beginning, they had a pretty good idea of what they wanted the house to look like; however, they needed an architect to pull it all together. They hired first-time architect Richard Cataffa, an associate with Development Design Group.

"Ian and Ilene were looking for a cutting-edge design and that's why they were willing to take a chance with me; they had very specific ideas and were big fans of modern architecture," said Cataffa. "But at the same time we had to face certain realities, like the house is in the woods in Maryland, not Southern California. So they brought their tastes and styles with them and we then adapted them to this climate."

The result meant a few compromises, but an overall true contemporary design. One change was the pitch of the roof. In California a flat roof works well, but on a wooded lot the debris could be overwhelming. So they opted for a roof that had a slight pitch.

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