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In Gloucester, a house once owned by a Hollywood heavyweight now stands as a storyteller with unending charm and  character.

Even before I stepped inside, I felt welcomed and embraced by the house,” Kathy Hamilos says. “As soon as I saw it, I said, ‘That’s it!'”

Hamilos was house hunting in the Cape Ann area for some time before a realtor took her to the stucco-and-stone house built by Hollywood royalty in 1910. Rising out of an enormous outcropping of granite ledge at the 13th hole of the Bass Rocks Golf Club, the house commands one of Gloucester’s best views.

But a superb East Gloucester location and windows gazing out at the Twin Lights on Thatcher Island, Good Harbor Beach, and Bass Rocks were not this house hunter’s primary considerations.

“I knew I did not want a new house, but rather something with bones and history,” she says. “I wanted a garden and a butler’s pantry.”

She found it all, and she created a beautiful garden to boot. Another creation lifts her home from wonderful to spectacular: The dining room walls boast a mural painted by Cape Ann artist Ken Knowles that depicts famed local landmarks while it follows the course of a late afternoon into night. The mural has become the grace note to a house that already had everything else going for it. It is also deeply meaningful: In 2006, when the homeowner and her husband remarried after their divorce, their friend, Knowles, painted it as a wedding gift.

The history of Hamilos’s dream house begins with its first owner, H.B. Warner. Said to be the brother of Jack, the most famous of the four siblings who founded Warner Brothers Studios, H.B. was a renowned silent film actor who successfully made the transition to “talkies.” Rarely a leading man, but always busy with acting work, Warner was hailed as the definitive Jesus Christ in Cecil B. DeMille’s silent 1927 epic, The King of Kings. Today, his best-known role is probably that of the drunken pharmacist in the perennial holiday favorite It’s a Wonderful Life. When he and his Salem-born wife came to their East Coast summer cottage, the neighbors called it “The Movie House.”

In the early 1950s, a Gloucester family winterized the rustic, Arts-and-Crafts-influenced structure. When Hamilos and her late husband, Chris, bought the house in 2001, they became the fourth owners.

“As I approached the front door on that first visit,” Hamilos recalls, “I felt the house reach out and envelop me.” She spreads her arms and pantomimes a broad hug. “Every time I come home, it still feels that way. Guests constantly tell me that, while they are here, they feel welcome and at peace.”

Her warm and hospitable new home required little beyond paint and wallpaper. The previous owners were successful and talented interior designers who updated the systems, enclosed a screened porch, and added decorative touches, like the columns that flank the front hall. They carefully preserved important architectural elements, such as the handsome butler’s pantry.

“I loved the house before I knew this room existed,” Hamilos says of the pantry, “but this would have clinched it.” She slides a large glass-fronted door across one of the upper cabinets. The glass is wavy with age, but the storage inside the mahogany cabinets is timeless. “This pantry keeps the kitchen looking neat and uncluttered.”

The historic pantry connects to a sleek, white kitchen. Living rooms and hallways reflect Hamilos’s favorite hues of gentle gold and greens, while upstairs bedrooms are warmed with more saturated colors. Hamilos transformed an unused third-floor attic into a large, light-filled sitting room, and she stripped all the downstairs dark-stained flooring back to its natural hardwood color. The overall effect is calm and serene, but never boring. Cape Ann art shines from the walls.

“I have been collecting local paintings for a while,” Hamilos says. “These days, I’m becoming more interested in abstract pieces.”

From the paintings to the mural to the way the house grows out of solid rock, art is everywhere. Hamilos wouldn’t have it any other way.

Strokes of Genius Inside Kathy Hamilos’s already-spectacular Gloucester home, a mural by Rockport artist Ken Knowles nearly steals the spotlight.

When Kathy and Chris Hamilos moved to the North Shore, they made Pathways for Children, the largest provider of services for families and children on Cape Ann, their philanthropy of choice. The organization holds an annual fundraiser, which in 2006 consisted of the auction of Adirondack chairs decorated by local artists. The one that captured the couple’s attention depicted Gloucester fishing schooners painted by Ken Knowles.

Knowles renders highly collectible New England scenes in a contemporary form of American Impressionism. His canvases, which are on view in galleries along the East Coast, are especially fine in their depiction of light. His contribution to the auction appealed to several attendees; to the delight of Pathways and Knowles alike, a bidding war ensued between Chris and another art lover and, while other chairs sold for $3,000 to $4,000, Knowles’s chair fetched over $11,400. The Hamiloses liked their new piece of art so much that they visited the artist in his studio and soon became friends. When Chris and Kathy announced their plan to remarry, Knowles offered to embellish the home Kathy loved with a mural.

Rather than fresco, which applies pigment to fresh, still-wet plaster, or a true mural, which is painted onto a dry architectural surface, Knowles did what he does best and painted the evocative, beautifully lit Cape Ann scenes onto canvas in his Rockport studio. He then applied the large canvas sheets to the dining room walls in the manner of wallpaper.

“A mural is not a large painting,” says Knowles. “It’s flat; a decoration more than a painting. If the scene were a painting, it would be far more intense.”

Now, the home’s dining room is the beautifully rendered backdrop to many dinner parties. “The room is atmospheric and beautiful and always promotes great conversation,” Hamilos says.