By Lisa Breslin
Nestled on a quiet block in Westminster’s prestigious Wakefield Valley neighborhood is a new home that nods back to history. Needlepoint pillows, antique fixtures, custom cabinetry and deep crown molding pull the home back in time. Vaulted ceilings, dramatic colors, fine fabrics, and fine art remind guests that owners Keith and Jimmie Saylor cherish the old, but appreciate the new too.
The four bedroom, 2 bath cottage style home pays tribute to Jimmie’s South Carolina roots, as well as the family’s love for spending time together and with friends.
Family members – Keith, Jimmie, Russ, a junior at West Virginia University, and Brooks, a senior at Westminster High School – often gather to play cards or board games around a nine-foot long farm table that spans one end of the kitchen.
When time and school schedules allow, that table beckons them for family meals.
Windows around the area offer nature’s seasonal backdrop, and a banquette makes settling down for a long time an inviting possibility. Placemats, throws for the sofa in the adjoining family room, games, and a dictionary for Scrabble are stored in the cushioned bench.
The heart of the Saylor’s home is indeed that kitchen area, which is near an island that includes a Jennaire cooktop, and the custom cabinetry painted a buttery yellow and filled with Wedgwood china.
If the heart of this 10-year old home is the kitchen, then the soul is the family room.
By unanimous vote, this room is every family member’s favorite. Keith has his leather recliner, the boys have a deluxe sound system and television, and Jimmie is surrounded by lots of color and comfort. An oversized English ottoman is transformed into an elegant coffee table. Ambient lighting is set just right for reading.
The walls in the family room are a bold, sienna red. Needlepoint throw pillows, complimentary wallpaper in the foyer, and a customized yellow hue on the dining room walls successfully blend the rooms together in this home that has an open floor plan.
Approximately 13 years ago, the Saylors started creating their dream home from scratch. They owned almost an acre of lush, wooded land. They didn’t know that home prices in Wakefield Valley would reach between $500,000 and $800,000 a decade later, but they knew the neighborhood felt right.
“We wanted our home to fit well on the property,” Jimmie said. “But it’s hard to envision the ideal home and the perfect landscaping when you are staring at a wooded lot.”
The Saylors bought house plans from magazines, toured countless model homes, and got floor plans of friends’ homes. Keith, a lawyer in Westminster, and Jimmie, director of Human Resources for Carroll County Public Schools, chatted with clients and co-workers during every spare moment.
Right away, the Saylors did what Jimmie said anyone who is building their dream home should do: they started hiring people who knew more than they did about design, decorating, and landscaping.
Their dream home was a labor of love by many people, including the builder Randy Shelley of Hereford, custom cabinet maker Jim Weir, and interior designers Mary Ellen Bay and Susan Leahy. Bay and Leahy own and are designers for The Summer House and Susan Underwood Leahy Interior Design, respectively.
“Every penny is worth the extra help,” Jimmie said. “I don’t have any vision; everything in the house would have been beige, beige, beige. But we like a lot of color and everyone helped us pick the right ones.”
Designing, building and decorating their home took labor and love, the couple admits. “During the whole process, I kept having this dream,” said Jimmie. “Several times Mary Ellen or the builder would come to my office and bring me the house completely finished.”
The Saylors credit Bay for easing them through the initial nail-biting stages of construction, landscaping and interior design.
Leahy, a long-time friend, entered the scene when the boys were older, when the original furniture was worn, and when the Saylors were ready to move into the final – and perhaps the most exciting phase of their home’s design.
The Saylors discarded most of their old furniture and adopted what Leahy identifies as the William Morris philosophy: “You should never have anything in your home that you don’t believe to be beautiful.”
Known for her interior design work at the President Joan Develin Coley’s home on the McDaniel College campus as well as her work with The Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, Leahy’s forte is finding the perfect accessories, the fine art and the finishing touches that have an air of sophisticated simplicity.
With Leahy’s guidance came fine art into the Saylor’s home. Wedgwood porcelain plates became dcor in the dining room, and the series of six Mucha prints that span 18 feet from floor to ceiling in the foyer.
“Don’t be afraid to use large pieces of artwork,” she advised the Saylors. “Long or tall walls are the perfect backdrop for large art or a series of prints.” From wooded lot, to a home that says “Come in and relax in comfortable elegance,” the Saylor’s home represents a long, arduous, but exciting journey. “The home is the family’s voice,” said Leahy ”It is elegant and inviting; it is upscale as well as down home.”