June 5, 2014

The “Redneck Taj Mahal”

N.B. I know this is two snarky posts in a row, but don’t worry, I am not going to make a habit of it!

A few years ago, I was down in Southern Maryland visiting a friend and came across a complete and total monstrosity of a house. The locals told me that the owner of the property had to search long and hard for an architect who would execute their dream house. I wrote about the house here and here.You should take a moment to read the comments.image

Earlier this week, I noticed a lot of visits to my blog from Buzzy’s Country Store, located in Scotland, Maryland, just a mile or so from this house. Buzzy and the other locals refer to this property as the “Redneck Taj Mahal” and have been quite critical of it, because it doesn’t fit into either the landscape or the locality. It’s just plunked down in the middle of a field. It is so far out of scale from every other house near it, that it’s been an object of derision for the past five years.

From Buzzy, I learned that the house has been on the market for almost a year, for the low, low price of just over $1 million, down a cool half-million from the original asking price. image

The house has four floors of living space, and apparently, no expense has been spared in its construction. That being said, it’s still a ghastly house. image

There are a few so many features about this house that don’t make any sense to me. One is the arches under the loggia that look like they’re made from cinderblock. That space looks rather cave-like and I imagine the rooms that lead out to the terrace are pretty dark. Another feature is the random placing of darker stone as an accent and the quoining, which appears to be a bit excessive.image

I am not an architect, but I think that the past five years on the board of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, and now the AIA, have had some influence on my architectural knowledge. So when I saw this, I nearly choked.imageThe columns are a little formal for a horse barn, and are missing their plinths and bases which makes them look unstable. When you look at the columns supporting the roof on the house, they are missing both their bases and their capitals. A simple Doric capital would have gone a long way in balancing these and making them more elegant.  imageFor a good explanation of the classical orders of columns and why they work, click here. From the aerial photographs and from this and the other images, it’s hard to tell whether there’s a driveway in the front of the house, so the loggia looks like it just leads to a lawn, which makes no sense.

As you enter through the front door, you arrive in a huge center hallway. Although I am not quite sure what the style of the house is, the windows don’t work. Are those candles in each window? I hope not!imageThe windows are not divided lights, rather the muntins are snap-on or in between two panes of glass. You can see the the windows better in this image. (And it does look like there are candles in each window.) There are no window sills on the exterior of the house, which makes it seem very flat, with  nothing to break up the plane.imageI would rather see sets of French doors than this combination of doors and windows.Funnily enough, for a house on the water, none of the windows look like they can open. I couldn’t live in a house where the windows didn’t open.

Back to the interior - it turns out that the front hall isn’t really a hall, it is actually all open plan, with the hall, living and dining rooms merging into one huge space. The house isn’t actually that big – it’s less than 6,000 square feet on four levels, with four bedrooms and five baths. imageThe height of the ceilings and the marble floors make the room seem very cold. There’s no architectural detailing around either the ceilings or the floors which makes it look unfinished. And the tall ceilings dwarf most furniture.

Here it is from another angle.image

Of course, there’s a huge “designer” kitchen, but I can’t say I am a fan of the combination faux candle/light fixture/pot hanger that they’re using. It looks like you’d need a ladder to get the pots and pans down, so maybe they’re just for décor (gag). The ceiling is just too high for the cabinets. I think it would look a lot better if they were a) either all the same colour, or b) the same height.imageAdditionally, I can’t quite figure out where the kitchen is, unless it’s on the one side of the house you can’t see in the pictures. In the UK, real estate listings are required to have the floor-plan of the house included. I wish this one had it!imageAll of the windows you can see are the ceiling-height rectangular ones, while the one over the sink is arched.

Since it’s a “designer” kitchen, it must have the requisite name-brand range… Check.  And black granite, too!image But how would you ever get anything out of the cabinets above the stove with out a ladder? And anything you drop on the stone floor is going to SHATTER into a million pieces.

Rather uninspired staircase for such an imposing house. And what’s with the niche three-quarters of the way up the wall? And why doesn’t the hand-rail go all the way to the bottom of the stairs? So many questions!image

One of the four bedrooms. This must be on the top floor because of the roof-line.image

Here’s the master bedroom. image

I took a closer look at the fireplace. image

It’s somewhat similar to the fireplace in the house where I was raised, but not as well-executed.image

The house is situated on a good piece of property, on a creek with the Chesapeake Bay about a quarter of a mile away.image

For more information on the house, please click here. It’s filled with enough real-estate fluff to stuff an army of decorator pillows, including this totally false and nonsensical statement:

The antebellum-style plantation mansion, only four years old but with period architecture, recreates the kind of manor halls that existed on the early great estates of colonial Maryland, until they were mostly destroyed during the English Civil War, in which Maryland alone of all the American colonies participated, and subsequent troubled times that culminated in the last witchcraft trials, that disenfranchised many of the original land masters.

I won’t bother dissecting this for you, but suffice to say, the estate agent is mashing together periods covering 200+ years and there was only one small battle of the English Civil War and that took place 100 miles away.

63 comments:

  1. Although I could not make it perfect, just a few changes would make a big difference. Pillars, perhaps a second balcony level for at least part of the portico, window surrounds to cover the demilune transoms, whitewash over the stone, and lush landscaping would make a great improvement at a relatively reasonable expense.

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    1. A lot of money and taste thrown at it would help greatly!

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    2. Oh! I bet you could! I studied it and decided it......a complete "teardown" I found the proportions all wrong....plunked in the wrong place!

      I hope who buys it hires YOU!!

      Penelope

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  2. I don't know which one made me laugh more - the unfortunate house or the run-on sentence with the less than stellar historical references. Wow. Hope you have a great weekend!

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    1. Michele - you HAVE to read the long description in the last link. It's so much more of that!

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  3. Thank you for the history lesson. We should be grateful to the English for destroying all the other houses like this. Perhaps designing them was considered a form of witchcraft.

    The one well-planned detail is the sword hanging inside the door, in case this house makes you want to kill yourself.
    --Jim

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    1. I am fairly certain that witchcraft wasn't the cause of the disenfranchisement of the land masters, I think the American Civil War and the abolishing of slavery did that.

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    2. This gets funnier and funnier! It had to have been built by a crazy person?? But the "realestateze" made me laugh out loud!!!

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  4. I am trying to be a more positive person in general, so I will not leave a long comment. That said, bases and capitals would help.

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    1. Clearly, you're much nicer than I am!

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    2. Oh, please, Diogenes! Please do not get too "positive" We need no more "false positives"!!

      EEEK!!!

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  5. Could this be the crib of someone who made money on the internet selling popular music via U-tube exposure? Now with technology a web page can discover when images from their page are pinned panned or ponged -- perhaps the Realtor will leave a comment. PS it reminds me of the Lincoln memorial or even Mt Vernon urbanized.

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    1. The house took a long time to be finished, so I am not thinking it was someone with loads of money. Hope the realtor doesn't leave a comment.

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  6. There. Are. No. Words. (that written, I think you've been very measured in your comments...)

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  7. Wow, that is an amazing pile of ugly with an even sillier written description. I think an angry mob should demand that architect's license.

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    1. The description looks like someone consulted a thesaurus to find the descriptors.

      And if you didn't watch the little video, you must! It's voiced by an electronic voice speaking in a plummy english accent.

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  8. First look reminded me of some equally awful designed places in Central Asia I have seen. They are large buildings with size and hodgepodge designs seemingly rasied for the glory of the ruling class or high level government officals or to show wealth. The insides of those buildings I have been in and shown here are a mix of stye and size too. Just goes to show you, there is no accounting for taste! Hopefully someone buys it and makes it beautiful!

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    1. It would take a lot of $$$ to rectify some of the mistakes!

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    2. My own only child has told me not to go to Asia. I am afraid if I had seen these places.......it might end my life!

      I have a photographic memory....for good or ill. I would not be able to erase these things.

      I don't want to "go up" that way!!!

      ps do we think it is possible to "buy and make beautiful"?? I am afraid not!

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  9. This is what I call "fuggly".......or just plain awful.
    Have a great week-end!
    Mary

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    1. I find it rather incomprehensible!

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    2. You are really good! One word! I just blah on and on....
      "Incomprehensible" Perfect! I will use it; and I will footnote where I got it! beautiful use of our language!

      Brava!!!

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  10. Oh, this house is so unfortunate. I would buy the property for the land, and then give Habitat for Humanity as much of the materials as they could possibly use, then call the salvage businesses, and begin anew.
    We will allow you two snarks, because of the inspiration and joy you bring us.
    And Shabby Chic: amen, sister. I don't mind painting everything white and using white slipcovers to bring a little cheer to a low budget, but after that it gets twee and claustrophobic. There is a little girl mentality in some decor styles that I find so offensive.

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    1. Thanks for the pass on the snarks! After more than 2100 posts, I figure I get to be a bit wild!

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    2. Indeed.

      It wasn't even "snarky"! It was accurate. And a public service!!
      thank you! so so much!!!

      Penelope

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  11. To mention this nightmare in the same breath as the TM makes me ill.

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    1. They just didn't have anything else to compare it to!

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  12. Meg, Starting with the arches below the loggia............. I have not much to add except the buyer will need our John Tackett immediately and loads more money!!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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  13. uggghhhh is all that needs to be said. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  14. Well, its imperfections are obvious, but I'd rather try to figure out how to humanize it. I'd start with the landscaping and go from there. Certainly, most of us have seen the HGTV show called "Extreme Homes"; well, this definitely falls into that category. But, I sense this house feels really bad being so hated!!

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    1. Foundation plantings would go a long way to softening the look of this house and making it seem like it belongs in the space.

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  15. Hideous. One of (many) things I hate about new "architecture" is the lack of window sills.

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    1. I agree. It just makes the building look so one-dimensional and blank.

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  16. The house reminds me of what we call Saudi Gaudy. Just needs some gilt , oversized and over the top furniture.

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    1. I know EXACTLY what you mean by that!

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  17. When GL and I have to describe an item/situation/etc., and we don't want to use mean words, we say: "That house sure is something!" "Something" covers a lot, and in this case, there's a lot to cover!!

    What most of your readers have no concept of is the area in which this house is located is a very rural area, with (almost exclusively) small cottage-type houses scattered around. There are a few McMansions on the waterfront, but even most of the waterfront houses are small and are owned by middle class residents. So this house is W---A---Y out of proportion to everything for miles around.

    There was an assumption by one of the other respondents that the owners must not have had money/ran out of money/or something like that. That is an incorrect assumption. The story I heard was that the people who own the house saw this house when they were visiting another country, decided that this house design is their "dream home," and then decided to build it in Southern Maryland (where the style is a complete misfit).

    The land will be worth something, since the area really is gorgeous and there are paddocks/barns for horses.

    It all comes back to the most basic observation: "Money cannot always buy taste."

    -- Miss M.A.

    I think it's funny that your posts about the house are the talk at Buzzy's Store. Hilarious!!!

    -- Miss M.A.

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    1. Bless their hearts (and not it the good sense).

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  18. I've seen this hideous house! Our family vacationed in the area during Spring break. My sister-in-laws and I were driving around looking at a bay-front cottage on the market and stumbled upon this disaster. So funny that you're sharing this architectural nightmare with others! Good find!

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    1. OMG That's so funny! My friend, who posted right above this, had a cottage down past this house, right on the Bay.

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  19. I can see how one might fix the exterior with landscape, new windows/doors (with sills!!!) rip out the cheap iron railings and put in something more substantial, etc. etc. etc. BUT the interior would be a total do-over down to the studs. Open plan? I do. not. get. it. for a house like this!

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    1. I agree... How would you ever do the interior? You could slap up some sheet rock walls!

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  20. Dear Miss Meg:

    Prior to this monstrosity of a house, the old house that stood on the property was in total disrepair. I knocked on the door one time, to ask something of the homeowners, and discovered that several tombstones were holding up the corner of the house! Seems that some of the corner house supports had rotted away at some point, and being ever-resourceful, a previous landowner must’ve thought that the house needed the tombstones more than the graves, so they took some from the graveyard & used them to prop up the corner of the old house.

    So maybe the “witchcraft” was actually some of the ghosts who resided in the cemetery, and who were unhappy w/their tombstones taken away.

    -- Miss M.A.

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    1. YIKES! Hope it wasn't any of my ancestors, many of whom lived in the county!

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  21. Did you listen to the voice over on the video?

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    1. Electronic voice with a plummy English accent! Top funny!

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  22. Oh my, I actually feel sorry for this house! I'm always feeling sorry for houses - weird. I just don't know what anyone could do to fix it - its all so wrong. Anyone with any sort of design aesthetic won't buy this house but maybe it could be used as some sort of children's home or school of some sort - out in the middle of no where - but I could see it being used for a good purpose - it has a place for horses and other animals - good therapy for kids. Here's hoping!

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    1. what a lovely, optimistic reply! I love Market decor. Seriously; that is a great idea! A rehab facility for children or veterans......out in the beautiful countryside! It is "built space" !

      If it could be used as a help to people......it would have a reason to "live"!!



      Such a great post! Keep it up!!!

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    2. or perhaps an old school insane asylum, the kind where they perform lobotomies and use shock treatment.

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  23. Oh dear, now you have me scratching my head and wanting to get in my car to go find this place!!! I have never seen it, nor did I know it existed! Maybe they were trying to compete with the faux Mount Vernon that was built awhile ago up the county from this one?! I haven't been to Buzzy's for awhile, looks like a joyride is in order!

    Kat

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    1. Kat... I would love to hear your take on it.

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  24. Well, I for one like it. It isn't me but I still like it. In fact, the only thing I don't like (in the photos) is the sink. It is also quite bare around the house but after all, it's new.

    Somewhere near Harper's Ferry there's an Italianate-styled house which I've never seen in person that this house reminds me of. Only the house in West Virginia is relatively tiny but perfectly proportioned and executed with considerable restraint. Frankly, there's more restraint in this house than is suggested here but it still looks somewhat unfinished and missing sufficient outbuildings to qualify as a proper estate and everything just looks way too new. Just give it time.

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    1. One thing that makes it look so unfinished is that it's completely lacking in detail, like millwork and other pieces that bring a house to life.

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  25. The realtor's video has the background music from one of the Pride and Prejudices. And the house is called Netherfield! In the southern town my husband is from, a local family got majorly rich with their hospital managed care company. One of them built a vast pile in a cow pasture outside of town, a cross between the Florence Duomo and Saint Peter's in Rome, complete with a huge dome. He had to get a new builder halfway through the project when he found his wife and his builder in one of the 20 or so bedrooms. Also a new wife.

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    1. HAHAAAA! Great story! I couldn't listen to much of the video, because the faux British accent in the electronic voice made my ears hurt!

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  26. What's an "English Basement"? Dose it have something to do with the "oak paneled elevator"?

    It only gets more and more surreal.

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  27. "Even Julius Caesar would be impressed, including by the front steps-"

    Oh dang....

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  28. "Eagles, hawks, herons, ospreys and other birds will often fly so close you can look them in the eye, so curious are they that you have somehow entered their lofty domain. "
    !?!?!?!?

    OK, OK, I'll stop now...

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  29. Could you have a photoshop contest where a few brave people mock up some plans to improve this place? I would love to see what could be done. I think the extra porch roof and the pillars should be taken off. Perhaps the funny floor could be covered with massive plantings, or covered with loads of top soil. The house could rest on a little rise. It might look like a Georgian Irish manor. The inside isn't bad, just awkward. The outside is really bad, though.

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