Patapsco Park Estates 'the best-kept secret' Custom homes fitted to the terrain as well as to owners' wishes

Neighborhood Profile

March 31, 1996|By Donna Weaver | Donna Weaver,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Howard County was full of forests and farmland when Sally Eliza Dorsey built her granite mansion in 1858.

Called Elmonte, the house was erected on the northern fringes of Ellicott City. From her wraparound porch, Miss Liza, as neighbors called her, could gaze at magnolia and holly trees and watch foxes and deer roam the land. She could survey her entire estate of more than 300 acres of rolling hills and forests from the cupola of her 11-bedroom home.

But the rural, peaceful life of more than a century ago has been replaced by frenetic suburbia.

Ellicott City is teeming with traffic and clogged with roads, housing developments and shopping centers.

Miss Liza's land, though, is still tranquil and quiet. Visitors won't hear the roar of many car engines or see long rows of tract houses on her land.

Most of Miss Liza's land is part of a development called Patapsco Park Estates, a 15-year-old community of about 100 custom homes on 200 acres.

Like Miss Liza's mansion, which has been restored, houses in the community are large manor homes on lots of three-quarters of an acre to nearly 4 acres. Many border Patapsco Valley State Park.

"We like to say this is the best-kept secret," says Diane R. Rosenberg, vice president of Interstate Ventures Inc., which developed the property and built most of the homes.

"These homes sell by word of mouth. People buy here because we build exactly to their lifestyle, and it's very peaceful.

"This is their escape."

They escape to homes that range from $330,000 to $800,000.

No two homes are alike, adding to the community's uniqueness. Visitors driving through the neighborhood will find a Swiss chalet, a Colonial revival, an English Tudor, a French provincial, a Cape Cod.

"These homes reflect the personality of their owners," Ms. Rosenberg says. "They can close their eyes and visualize a picture of their home, and that's what we create."

But the design doesn't stop at the house; it continues with the land, the trees, the topography. There are no bulldozers flattening the hills, no chain saws clearing away all the trees, no dump trucks hauling dirt to fill the valleys.

"We build to the lot," she says.

"If the lot has an unusual topography, a large hill, for example, we will build to it. Trees also are important."

The topography and trees played a major role in the design of the home of Marcia and Anthony Frezza. The 5-year-old contemporary with neoclassical themes sits on a hill and is surrounded by trees and shrubs. It contains plenty of windows that offer views of the trees, many of which are spotlighted at night.

The Frezzas incorporated their front door into their contemporary Palladian window. Two long, column-like windows are on one side of the door.

Crowning the trio is a custom-made, half-moon window measuring 15 feet across.

"The whole purpose of the house is to bring the outside in," Mrs. Frezza, 53, says. "We've got a view of the woods from every room."

The trees are framed by large contemporary windows, giving the impression that they are part of the interior landscape. In the library, just off the foyer, a V-shaped window reaches out to the trees in the front yard.

The high ceilings vary in height from room to room, mirroring the different heights of the trees surrounding the Frezzas' home.

Even the colors of the walls and floors accentuate the feeling of being outside.

The 20-foot-by-25-foot great room, for example, has a maple floor; a large, fieldstone fireplace; and hand-painted wallpaper with earth-tone colors.

"We wanted to feel as if we were outside in the winter, summer, spring, and fall," Mrs. Frezza, a clinical social worker, says. "These colors make us feel warm in winter and cool in summer."

The home's scale also blends with its surroundings. The house is only one story with a finished basement, a large family room, one bathroom, three bedrooms and plenty of windows. The basement's suite of rooms serve as the living quarters for the Frezzas' five children and four grandchildren when they visit.

"We built down because we wanted high ceilings on the first floor," Mrs. Frezza explains.

The roof's height changes with the varied ceiling heights on the first floor that, again, mimics the trees.

Inside, the rooms flow easily from one to the other. The first floor consists of a library; a combination great room and dining room; a large, eat-in kitchen; a powder room; a master bedroom; and his and her bathrooms.

Trees give privacy

"One of the reasons why we wanted to build our own house was because we didn't want to fit into square rooms that someone else had set up," Mrs. Frezza explains.

But the house isn't the only reason the Frezzas like the neighborhood.

"People who take the time, energy and effort to build a house are usually those who take wonderful care of their home and property," she says. "And that makes it nice. Their home's design also shows where they are at this point in their lives."

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