To get it right, buy the workmen pizza


Sticklers: The Corrells left little to chance in personalizing their home at Cobblestone.

August 15, 1999|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It's easy to get lost in Gerald and Kathy Correll's Pikesville neighborhood. All the houses look alike -- the same size, the same style, the same shape, even the same color.

The community is typical of many new-home neighborhoods where homebuyers usually don't have a lot of choices in the type of house they will get. Just pick from the predetermined and pre-designed set of floor plans. Sure, you may have some choices in carpeting or cabinet style, but other than that, you get what the builder gives you.

But Gerald and Kathy Correll aren't typical homebuyers. For one, she has a lot of experience with houses. Before the Corrells started their in-home marketing business, she worked as a real estate agent. At 55, she's lived in 23 houses, some old, some new. But now, she swears she's done moving.

"I like this place the best," she said. Mr. Correll, 59, has only moved four times, but agrees with his wife that he has found his "last home."

When the couple was first looking for a new home four years ago, they knew exactly what they wanted.

With her two children and his two children grown and out on their own, the couple knew they wanted a new home that would be all theirs, but they didn't want the cookie-cutter plans that many homebuilders offered.

"A lot of people don't have a lot of imagination," he said. "They don't know what they want."

"We knew what we wanted," she said.

The Corrells were attracted to the Cobblestone development for a variety of reasons, one being the design of the houses. All have a side entry with an L-shaped yard wrapping around the house. High walls shield each home from the other.

"We have total privacy. We could walk around naked if we wanted to," he joked.

The house was purchased for $255,000 and recently appraised at $311,000.

Mrs. Correll liked that the 3,500-square-foot homes were on small lots. "It's very low maintenance," she said. The community takes care of such chores as shoveling sidewalks in winter and painting the exterior of the houses on a regular basis, she said.

But the Corrells wanted more.

Instead of having two small bedrooms on the lower level off the kitchen, the Corrells wanted one large room to use as a family room. By eliminating a hallway, the Corrells gained 3 more feet in the garage. "I have to have room for my cars," Mr. Correll said.

A wall was moved and a decorative column removed in the living room to accommodate a custom-made china closet -- a family heirloom of Mrs. Correll. An island was installed in the kitchen. A separate vanity was added to the master bath and a door to the outside hallway was eliminated. The Corrells didn't want their bathroom opened up to the entire household. Besides, there's a bathroom down the hall for everyone else.

A glass door leading to the basement level was installed instead of a wood door, giving the hallway a more open feeling, and all of the basement rooms have larger, standard-size windows, making the lower level safer in case of fire and giving the rooms an above-ground appearance.

Some builders don't want to cooperate with homeowners who change their mind constantly, Mrs. Correll said. Luckily, the couple is decisive.

"We can make instant decisions," she said. "It can be tough to get something different from a builder, but the fight was worth it."

"We had to be here practically every day while they were building," Mr. Correll said. "I was buying the guys pizza."

Once the home was complete with the interior designed to their specifications, he went to work on the outside, turning his small, L-shaped back yard into an English garden, complete with stone walkways and a fish pond with a waterfall.

At first, he hired someone to draw up garden plans. "It was going to cost something like $50,000," he said. "I figured I could do this myself.

"I planned it all in my head for a year," Mr. Correll said. He picked slate for his walkway from the Marriottsville quarry. The stones surrounding his garden came from the foundation of an Owings Mills home that burned to the ground more than 50 years ago. He got some help with building his brick patio, but he put in the waterfall and pond himself and stocked it with colorful fish.

"Every one has a name," he said. Of course, naming the fish made it more difficult for him when a hungry heron came by one day and ate almost all of them. Now there's a net over the pond.

"I spend a lot of time out here. It's my oasis," he said.

Even when Mr. Correll's not in the garden, he has a perfect view of it from his living room.

The Corrells are proud of the fact that they got the home they wanted, exactly the way they wanted.

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