In 1995, after looking at more than 50 properties, newlyweds Ann Hagerty and John Boyce had all but given up hope on finding their dream home.
“I had looked at so many houses that had tiny doorways and low ceilings and felt very suburban,” recalls Hagerty, an architect with her own firm Ann Hagerty & Associates. “At the time, I was still working full time in New York, I was pregnant and coming to Baltimore all the time to look for a home, and I said, ‘I am sick of this.’”
Then one day the Realtor told the couple there was a house on the outskirts of northern Baltimore County that he liked, but couldn’t show them because of “rental issues.” (He never explained what they were.) Recalls Hagerty: “It had a half-mile long driveway, and it wasn’t easy to just drive by for a glance, but he said it had wonderful second floor porches. I said to him, ‘Show me that house.’”
So they surreptitiously drove up the hill and sneaked a peak. One look at the unique geometry of the residence, in which symmetrical sides radiated off a cylindrical center, was all it took. “My father said something really wonderful,” says Hagerty. “He said, ‘You don’t make friends, you recognize them,’ and I think that’s true with our house.”
Without going inside, Hagerty and Boyce, a stockbroker with Chapin Davis, knew the hunt was over. Says Hagerty, “I called it a ‘French Chateau spaceship’ because the gutters were enormous, and they dominated the façade. We loved it.”
Once the mysterious rental issues were resolved, the couple purchased the 32-acre property. When they did get inside, they were undaunted. Looking beyond the fire engine red walls, water damaged ceilings, chewed woodwork, and ill-conceived foyer, they quickly devised a plan: They would create a two-story addition to increase space and improve the home’s circulation and heat retention.
Since then, there’s been no looking back. The five bedroom, five bath space now holds happy memories for the whole family, including the couple’s 12-year-old son Roger, and three adult children, who visit frequently. The space is also home to an outstanding collection of fine furniture, unusual half ship models, oil paintings, and bric-a-brac from around the world. “I am a streamlined classicist in my work,” explains Hagerty. “I’m all about light and proportion, but then to me that sets the stage for whatever I want to do, and then I’m just eclectic.”
Many of the pieces come from a cherished uncle in Boston. “Every time it would snow, he would run to the auction houses,” says Hagerty with a laugh. “I learned my appreciation of many different ages from my uncle. He taught me that even if a piece is not in good shape doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful piece of art that can’t inspire you.”
Hagerty and Boyce are inspired by everything from a fine English highboy and Italian lavabo (used by priests to wash their hands before Mass) to a lawn ornament named “Liz” from Hagerty’s Charleston, South Carolina childhood. “A home has to rejuvenate your creative spirit,” Hagerty believes. “One reason I so appreciate John is that he lets me do what I need to do.” And that, she confesses, includes being a pack rat. “When something comes to me, I either keep it and love it or I let go, but I don’t let go of anything so I have no option but to keep it and love it.”