A house is built around the kids Space given to needs of all family members

Dream Home

September 07, 1997|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

There's the batting cage. An indoor and outdoor basketball court. A home gym complete with juice bar, a hot tub and pool. And don't miss the specially designed storage areas for sports equipment. It seems as if it's a home belonging to a professional athlete.

In truth, Charles and Denise Franz built their 13,000-square-foot house in Catonsville with three amateur athletes in mind: their children, Charles Jr., 17; Sara, 13, and Alex, 9.

"On Saturdays in the fall it's not uncommon for us to have seven different basketball games [that the children are playing in] in one day," Denise Franz said.

Charles, a senior at Cardinal Gibbons High School, is accomplished at basketball, cross country, lacrosse and baseball for his school and in a number of area youth leagues. On many weekends, Sara, in her final year at St. Mark School in Catonsville, has mere minutes to trade her ballet tutu for TC basketball or lacrosse uniform. And Alex, also at St. Mark, plays lacrosse, soccer and baseball.

A car pool mom if there ever was one, Denise spent a year planning her family's new home -- through she'd been researching design and decorating ideas long before that. She wanted a place her children -- and their friends -- would feel comfortable, which would also be equally suited to business and family entertaining.

Charles Franz is a graduate of the University of Maryland dental school. With Denise's help -- she has a Master's in Administrative Science from Johns Hopkins University -- he operates his own dental offices in Catonsville, Lansdowne and Columbia. Denise also has seven siblings and 25 nieces and nephews, most of whom live within a 10-minute drive; making the Franz home the site of frequent family get-togethers.

Committed to staying in Catonsville -- the couple met while they were students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County -- the Franzes had no idea how that pledge would be tested when they set out to build the home they had been dreaming of during their 20-year marriage.

First, they had to find a developer who would sell them a lot large enough for the house and allow them to have it custom built -- no easy feat in the Catonsville area, which is nearing saturation.

Driving around the area, Denise stumbled upon the Fox Hall Farms subdivision, being marketed by Trafalgar House. Once they persuaded the company to let them bring in an outside builder, the couple had another 18 long months until settlement while they waited for installation of water and sewer services and other necessary infrastructure.

The Franzes were further delayed by the construction of Charles' Columbia dental office. "We just couldn't move into two places at once," said Denise, who oversaw the opening of her husband's third office.

Then there was the challenge of finding a builder who would work with Denise's design for the house. "I didn't want somebody who was going to build me his idea of my house," Denise said adamantly.

The builder had to be someone who would appreciate the beauty -- and the eccentricities -- of the design, like the fact that the home has only a few interior walls on the first floor. Not to mention the house's obvious sports theme and Denise's proclivity for floor-to-ceiling windows.

The Franzes' devotion to their children is evident the moment guests walk through the door.

The house has two front entrances and it is the smaller, second entrance, leading to the media room and kitchen that is used most often, Denise said.

She moved the media room -- originally planned for the basement -- upstairs "because my kids like to be with me and I like to be with them." It included a large-screen television and four floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with movies and educational videocassettes.

The airy, open kitchen at the center of the house includes a nook with a table for eight, a restaurant-size refrigerator and separate freezer, a breakfast bar and a separate center island with stove top.

The lack of interior walls on the first floor means guests circulate easily from the kitchen to the more formal living spaces. The family room contains a gas fireplace. A powder room and wet bar are tucked in a corner. And the music room at the far end of the house holds a white, baby grand piano that all three children play. The spiral staircase in the corner leads up to the Franzes' master suite and down to the family's home gym. A cozy library sits immediately off the main entrance -- "and someone in this house has read each of the books in here," Denise said proudly.

Upstairs, the master suite includes a sitting room with kitchenette -- so Charles can have his morning juice -- and a loft overlooking the music room -- "so I can see Alex practicing the piano," Denise teased as her youngest son rolled his eyes.

An outside balcony overlooks the backyard pool. A gas fireplace warms the master bath and the couple's bedroom. The bath features a Jacuzzi tub of gold and silver marble, a separate shower and a walk-in closet the size of a small bedroom.

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