Alpine-style chalet put a song in their hearts


March 13, 1994|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,Special to The Sun

The year before Bruce and Cheryl Griffin put a "For Sale" sign on their house in Perry Hall, they spent more than $30,000 adding a swimming pool, deck, French doors and bay window to the 2,400-square-foot, two-story Colonial.

"We were not looking to move at the time," recalls Mrs. Griffin, a 47-year-old assistant principal at Fifth District Elementary School northwest Baltimore County. "We had only been in the house for two years, we liked it and we had planned to stay there for some time."

But then they saw the house that changed their plans -- a 1,600-square-foot Swiss chalet hidden on a 1 1/2 -acre wooded lot in the Baldwin area of Baltimore County.

It was built in 1972 by an Austrian couple who wanted to live in the European style even when business brought them to America. The stone and cedar house has the look of a ski lodge with a steeply pitched roof and overhanging eaves.

Arched double doors lead to a redwood balcony that stretches across the entire second floor.

There are diamond-shaped panes in the windows, cutout heart shapes in the shutters and elk antlers mounted in the peak of the roof. An Austrian cowbell on the wall announces a visitor's arrival.

"When we saw it we instantly fell in love with it," Mrs. Griffin says. "It looks like something from a postcard and it's very warm and inviting. Sometimes you see a house and you like it but you wait because it isn't the right time to buy it. We knew if we waited we would never ever find this home again."

Mr. Griffin, 50, a telecommunications manager for Bell Atlantic of Maryland, saw the house advertised on a real estate television program and decided to make it a destination for a Sunday drive. "It was strictly a curiosity thing," Mr. Griffin says.

But that changed when they drove down the 500-foot driveway past the pond and lines of evergreen trees, walked onto the stone patio and through the cedar front door.

"It felt like home immediately," Mrs. Griffin says. "I had always thought about a character house, a home that would be really special. We love skiing and I had seen pictures of chalets. But I never dreamed I'd find one in Baltimore County."

The house has three stone fireplaces, decorative wood ceiling beams, wrought iron chandeliers, oak cabinets and hardwood floors.

A central staircase connects the first-floor family room, office, laundry room and garage with the living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms and bathroom upstairs.

"We said to ourselves several times, 'Are we crazy for doing this?' " Mr. Griffin says. "But we loved this place so much and we knew we would never get this chance again."

"Within 48 hours we had put in a contract to buy the house," Mrs. Griffin says.

By March 1992, the chalet was theirs for $230,000. They named the property "Snowbound."

Decorating the home has become a hobby for Mrs. Griffin, her husband says. They sold most of their furniture when they moved, replacing it with an eclectic mix that emphasizes Shaker and antiques.

"It's very easy to live in this house," Mrs. Griffin says. "You can sit down in any room, put your feet up and be comfortable. . . . Every time you walk in you feel good. This is where we will stay."

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