Custom-built house blends old, new


November 20, 1994|By Adele Evans | Adele Evans,Special to The Sun

Dian Hughes doesn't want her dream to come true. At least, not all the way.

"There will always be something to decorate," she says of her Bel Air home. "That's the fun. I don't look forward to the end. That's the sad part, when you say, 'This is it for life.' "

After 20 years of outgrowing smaller houses here and in Missouri, Ms. Hughes and her husband, Richard, finally felt they were at a point in their lives where they could build their dream home. And not only for their own sakes.

"Our girls were getting to middle-school age, and we wanted them to have memories in the house," she says. They have two daughters: Erin, 18, and Megan, 15.

The couple's visions didn't clash, exactly. Originally from Missouri, they both liked the small-town atmosphere of Bel Air so there was no problem choosing a location. But a large cloud loomed -- Ms. Hughes had always longed for an older, Victorian or Colonial-style home with nooks and crannies, loads of ambience, tiled floors, leaded glass and plenty of wood and moldings. Mr. Hughes worried that his wife's dream might turn into a nightmare if they moved into a place riddled with faulty wiring and massive structural and mechanical problems.

Their solution was to blend old and new. They chose to go the custom route because -- although Ms. Hughes had seen elements of her dream in various homes -- she'd never found them all in one place. They had a 4,000-square-foot, $435,000 brick Colonial built on one acre in the Glenangus neighborhood.

The four-bedroom home includes a marble foyer, library, formal living room, television room, "gourmet" kitchen and dining room for entertaining. They have taken advantage of the space -- a welcome relief from their last home, which they nicknamed "Little House on the Prairie."

Even when it was finished four years ago, the home was still a blank canvas for Ms. Hughes' decoration. A fifth-grade teacher, she reserves her work for blizzards, breaks and summers. Taking it one room at a time, she tries not to become overwhelmed or impatient.

For her, decorating is a peaceful break from the classroom. "You can go at your own pace, I'm removed from what I do daily," she says.

She's had fun discovering money-saving tricks. Instead of having expensive etching on her glass transoms, Ms. Hughes stenciled in the faintest white flowers. She uses her collections of antique purses and doilies to adorn various walls, and has also painted doors in the Highlandtown screen-painting style.

Mr. Hughes, an assistant vice president of the claims department at USF&G, stays behind the scenes, overseeing all the structural and mechanical details.

"My skills are having vision and seeing the end product," Ms. Hughes says. "I'm always telling him to trust me."

Today, he does trust her -- most of the time -- although some of her color combinations and stenciling ideas initially sounded a little strange.

"The decor is up to her. She has an eye for it. It's very livable," he says. His favorite room is the television room, with its floor-to-ceiling Butler stone fireplace, arched windows and view of a golf course.

But the stenciling is a critical part of the home because Ms. Hughes does it herself. She has stenciled just about every room in the house, creating a virtual aviary in the master bedroom. Birds soar into the vaulted ceiling, clouds and trellises adorn the walls and a large painted tree grows in one corner.

"I had to get beyond the idea of 'what if someone doesn't like it?' " she says. "If I get tired of it, I'll paint over it."

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