An Ijamsville Contemporary Celebrates Creativity and Light
After Carolyn Greiner turned in her workplace keys in 1988, she naturally spent more time at home. That’s when she realized just how dark her 1840s West Third Street townhouse was during daylight hours. True, the front looked south, but that meant the back—where she and husband, Jack, enjoyed relaxing—faced north and was blanketed in shadow much of the day. Plus, the side windows were a mere five feet away from the house next door.
Carolyn found herself craving light. Around the same time, Jack was longing for a shorter commute to his job in Bethesda. So began the search for a brighter, more conveniently located home.
In Ijamsville, at the bottom of a sloping cul-de-sac in the Loch Haven community, the couple came upon just the place—a 1970s contemporary on an acre of ground. Carolyn walked in and “felt the light. It was like being inside a lighted sculpture.” Jack calculated the location would shave 45 minutes off his commute. In June 1992 they moved in.
Uncluttered lines, lofty ceilings, skylights, generous expanses of windows and an open floor plan offered a very different aesthetic than the Greiners’ previous house. The two set about imprinting both the interior and exterior with their personal signature.
Over the years, they’ve replaced windows, remodeled the kitchen and baths, painted (and repainted) and knocked out walls. They even planted 45 trees, most of which are far enough from the house to ensure they don’t prevent the sun from reaching indoors.
But what the Greiners have most notably done is to grace their home with original art. Nearly every wall and surface serves as a celebration of the visual arts—pieces diverse in medium, technique, style, size and more. As impressive as the collection is, however, there is nothing museum-like about its setting. Rather, a walk from room to room is akin to visiting a joyfully curated private gallery where the collectors know the artists personally and can tell a story about every piece. The art doesn’t demand attention, but it certainly invites it.
A founder of the Easels in Frederick, Carolyn has acquired several originals from the nationally known plein air competition. A watercolor by Baltimorean Stewart White depicts workers at a restoration site on a hot June afternoon. It’s titled “It’s Beer Thirty.” Arkansan Jason Sacran’s grand prize-winning “South & Carroll” is a reminder of the 2015 event.
Frederick artist Tina Lund—a long-time friend—has captured the Greiners’ Maine vacation spot in two bold, color-saturated paintings. In the living room hangs Lund’s portrait of Carolyn, painted in 1988 when she had just returned to painting and needed a model. Carolyn took a seat, at no charge. The portrait was Lund’s thank-you.
Despite its abundant windows, the house comfortably accommodates oversized artworks. Competing in the “largest” category is Skip Lawrence’s commanding 5-by-4 portrait of a pensive young man. Carolyn swept this one up at a Delaplaine Arts Education Center silent auction a few years ago.
Carolyn’s interest in art stems from her experience finding art enrichment opportunities for her daughter, who demonstrated a strong visual sense as a very small child. A Maryland Institute College of Art alum, Angie Brooksby today lives and paints in Paris. The Greiners own several of her works, ranging from a whimsical piece of pottery from her youth to an oil painting that juxtaposes pedestrians on a dusky Paris street with sidewalk food vendors cast in a golden glow during the twilight period known as l’heure bleue (blue hour).
There’s more, from Richard Schlecht’s watercolors and Harriet Wise’s photography to Native American pottery and rugs, and much in between. And it all seems right at home, possibly because the couple often takes cues from the colors on the canvases when they choose wall paint and fabrics. They’re also inspired by the Oriental rugs that cover many floors.
The forest green velvet that dresses a suite of vintage seating repeats the shutter color in a stunning pair of architectural detail studies by Carolyn Parker. Deep gold leather wraps the sectional sofa, picking up hues from the rug beneath and several paintings nearby. The unusually tall door and sidelight unit that opens to the deck came from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. A couple of coats of rich yellow paint made it even more of a standout.
Throughout the home, furnishings emphasize ease and function. Pillows on the hearth provide a warm seat on a chilly day. In front of the sectional, a vintage English pub table has been shortened to become a coffee table on which feet are welcome to be propped. In the kitchen, a series of appliance garages keep toaster, mixer and the like hidden yet handy on the base cabinets, built an extra six inches deep to supply adequate workspace when the appliances are pulled out.
The Greiners boosted their home’s quotient of light and livability in 2006 and 2007, when they worked with architect Lea Allen to replace an old addition with a covered, columned porch—reoriented south and angled to maximize the view of the sweeping lawn—plus a small kitchen just inside the glass doors. The “fun part,” says Carolyn, was the winter spent “living with only a sheet of plywood between the family room and backyard.”
The couple finds entertaining on the porch far easier than back in the days when they’d load their indoor dining table and chairs into Jack’s pickup truck and haul them down under the trees at the property’s edge. Complete with candles and china, this al fresco backdrop proved romantic. But inevitably a forgotten salt shaker or serving spoon required an uphill climb back to the house.
More than two decades after their move to Ijamsville, the Greiners have come full circle. They’re ready to return to the energy and history of Downtown Frederick, close to good friends and the rowhouse they’ve transformed into a vacation rental. Asked by their real estate agent to identify the features they want in their next home, the couple immediately topped their list with three words: “lots of light.”