Despite the fact that construction was completed four-and-a-half years ago, it's not uncommon for visitors to Joyce Hesselberth and David Plunkert's Cockeysville home to ask when the space will be finished. But the graphic designers, who own the Hampden-based Spur Design, take it in stride. After all, the light-filled, loft-like residence uses a palette of pure and raw materials not commonly found in the suburbs, including exposed timbers, rusty metal support beams, concrete block walls, and polished concrete flooring. The design was so well executed, in fact, that the model for their home won a prestigious American Institute of Architects Award for Design in 2002, before the couple even broke ground.
"We wanted the materials in our house to show and to be honest," says Hesselberth.
"We also wanted the house to be like a blank canvas," adds Plunkert. "We
wanted the house itself to be a little more understated. We didn't want it to be
Pee Wee's Playhouse."
Before moving to the rural piece of property along a meandering country road, the couple was living in a small, pre-World War II home in the Beverly Hills section of Baltimore. Much as they loved it, they needed more space to accommodate their ever-expanding family. "We had a hard time finding something we loved as much as our city home," says Hesselberth. "We wanted something modern," explains Plunkert. "We didn't like the newer construction that was pretending to be colonial."
Once the couple found the two-acre property overlooking a beautiful ravine, they jumped on the opportunity to purchase it. To build the home, they turned to Chuck Patterson of SMG Architects. "We told him we wanted lots of light, and we wanted it open," says Hesselberth. "We wanted it to feel like a treehouse."
The three-story, cypress-and-galvalume-steel residence includes spaces both soaring—such as the living room with its 25-foot ceilings—and intimate, such as a series of three upper-level bedroom "nooks" for their three children, Madison, 9, and twins Emma and Jacob, 4.
Says Plunkert, "This is a rural house, scaled for people who lived in the city."
Given the budget concerns that go along with any construction project of this size, they came up with creative solutions to stay on track. "We knew there was going to be a certain amount of Home Depot creeping in," says Plunkert. "We knew we were going to go with high-end materials in some areas, and in other areas we were going to go with stuff off the rack."
Toward the end of the project, to cut down on cost, Plunkert even pitched in to help build the metal railings both inside and out. Jokes Hesselberth, "On weekends, I was a welding widow."
Hesselberth and Plunkert also share an affinity for salvaging industrial pieces and reusing them in unexpected ways. Plunkert transformed a violin case into a shelving unit for the living room, while an old tool box found new life as a medicine chest in the kids' bathroom. Frequent trips to Baltimore architectural salvage shop Second Chance yielded panels of ceiling tin now wired together as wall art for the living room and an old street grate that is now embedded into the flooring outside Jacob's room.
"We try not to make this house fussy," sums up Plunkert with a laugh. "It's kind of like Frank Lloyd Wright meets trailer park."