Enchantment, and with a view House on a bluff made over with love

Dream Home

September 14, 1997|By Gary Hornbacher | Gary Hornbacher,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Charlotte "Mutzi" Maranto was a little girl growing up in the Canton area of Baltimore -- and even later, when she and husband Sam, a sales associate at Norris Ford in Dundalk, were raising a family and residing on a sunny hilltop in Hamilton -- one of her favorite pastimes involved exploring the many areas in and around Baltimore.

"We were a blue-collar family," said Mutzi, one of seven sisters. "Some of the best times of my life -- fishing, crabbing, swimming and boating -- revolved around the nearby Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. I guess in my mind I always dreamed about living by the water in a spectacular home surrounded by children and grandchildren."

Even so, few could have shared Mutzi's excitement or the vision she had back in 1990, when she and Sam toured the decrepit old frame home that sat on a high bluff overlooking the Back River and the more distant Chesapeake Bay. The small, single-story house -- hardly larger than a separate two-car garage -- had two bedrooms, a kitchen and a tiny living room. Even the lot, partly overgrown with weeds, seemed forlorn.

"It was a mess," she said. "I think Sam was embarrassed that I even inquired about it, but when we drove down Back River Neck Road, past the entrance to the Rocky Point Golf Course and stood on the property looking out over the river, his reservations started to melt."

Today, after an imaginative make-over, it is difficult to imagine the house and its grounds as they once were.

The original home interior has been largely torn out and its dimensions now include a spacious kitchen, a large great room -- or gathering room, as Mutzie prefers to call it -- with cathedral ceilings and a smaller dining room. The front has gained a large foyer, and an even larger two-story addition has made room for another private sitting area, two bedrooms on a lower level, a TV/entertainment room, a bath and a Jacuzzi. The upper level was finished with an 18-by-40-foot master suite and attached private deck overlooking the river.

There is also an improved basement that has been turned into a recreation and lounge area, complete with a spiraling metal staircase that never fails to enthrall the grandchildren.

The back of the house, which overlooks the river, incorporates expansive windows, sliding glass doors and a wraparound deck and screened-in porch.

The outlines of the original house are barely discernible, swallowed up in what is now a 3,600-square-foot home that retains a somewhat traditional exterior brick and frame appearance but inside is very much contemporary.

The Marantos have blended high ceilings and areas that flow seamlessly into each other, creating an effect that is both sophisticated and simple. The home incorporates an artful melding of marbles, ceramic tile and hardwood flooring; has more than a dozen skylights; and its windows provide water views from almost any angle.

Other striking design touches include a glass brick wall inside the foyer; a large, brick-walled fireplace that occupies one whole wall; paddle fans in most rooms; and elsewhere, an attractive ceramic-styled wood pellet fireplace.

"People always seem to think bricks, ceramic tile and marble will be cold underfoot in the winter," Mutzi said, "but the opposite is true -- they soak up the heat from the fireplaces and just radiate it back to us."

The inside decor is as striking as the home's interior design. Mutzi, who terms her decor a mixture of Oriental and Victorian Italian, has used bold cranberry stripes, white and pink dogwood blooms on black wallpaper and applied her own stenciling, which incorporates a flower and trellis design.

However dramatic the view is from inside, it is even more spectacular from outside, and all three decks are positioned for maximum viewing impact.

Ornamental plantings, trees, flowering shrubs and outside statuary -- all the result of Sam's labor -- set off the home's cream and brick exterior. There is even the proverbial Maranto fig tree, grown from cuttings that Sam took from his parents' home long before it was razed to make room for the Camden Yards ballpark. Even the driveway and winding sidewalk feature the soft red of architectural brickwork.

On the back of the house, which sits atop a 75-foot rock-and-concrete-faced bluff overlooking the river, a wide concrete stairway down the hillside ends at two stucco bathhouses and a T-shaped deck that juts out into the water. Minnow buckets, nets for fishing and crabbing and a boat nestled alongside the deck hint of many past and future pleasures.

Yet, the very first thing one sees when approaching the home from the street side is the garage. Or, perhaps, "the garage-turned-guest house."

"We gutted it," Mutzi said. "When we got down to a brick shell with four walls, we added new roofing, which allowed us to install seven skylights and create its unique vaulted ceiling. Then we went to work on the inside."

The result is striking -- a spacious interior filled with naturally diffused light, accented by the bold lavender and white and green color scheme selected by Mutzi. The room itself -- which is meant to function as a guest house and entertainment center -- features a ceramic and marble floor, a complete kitchen, bar, gaming table, sleep couches, comfortable furniture groupings and a bath and Jacuzzi.

Oh yes, can't forget one of Mutzi's prized acquisitions -- an honest-to-goodness, commercial-size snow cone machine.

"It's everything I've always wanted," she said. "The home overflowing with family, the water, the view. I really am content."

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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