When Lynne Agress moved into her apartment in the Dulaney Towers community in Towson she knew that one day she would buy a home in the development.
She did -- about 20 years later.
When Agress moved to Dulaney Towers, she was a professor of English at nearby Goucher College. She was attracted to the development, which includes garden and high-rise apartments, condominiums and townhouses, for the convenience of Towson and the security of the gated community.
As time passed, Agress left teaching and launched a home-based writing and consulting business called BWB -- Business Writing at Its Best Inc. The company offers individually tailored writing and editing workshops for corporations and executives. As the business grew, Agress thought about moving into a house for more office space, although the second bedroom of her apartment was fairly adequate considering the fact that all her workshops are conducted at businesses.
Still, Agress wanted a house. Her friend, Carolyn Lazzaro, was a real estate agent and occasionally would mention homeownership to Agress, "but she never pressured me."
After years of apartment dwelling, Agress became a first-time homeowner two years ago.
"The last several years I lived in the apartment, friends kept saying to me, `Why are you wasting money on rent?' and I realized that they were right," Agress said.
What finally settled it was when another friend, who happened to own not one, but three homes, sat down with Agress and showed her on paper that she would save money by purchasing a home. The tax benefits alone were especially persuasive. So Agress gave Lazzaro a call. "I'm ready now," she said.
After looking at several townhouses in the community, Agress found a 27-year-old house for about $130,000 that appealed to her. Agress liked the overall layout and the fact that the house had only two previous owners, and that both had done improvements, including a recently updated kitchen.
Now that she's a homeowner, Agress said the experience is "absolutely wonderful."
For years, Agress was the person other people came to for advice on decorating. Now she's able to do the things that she likes in her own home, including purchasing new furniture. Agress likes to entertain and was excited about having a formal dining room.
"I want to be comfortable and have my friends enjoy themselves," she said.
Her old apartment-sized dining room set didn't seem suitable for her new home's dining room, so she bought a Queen Anne-style table and chairs in cherry and mahogany on consignment. Agress said the dining room set was a lucky find. She also had good luck furnishing her living room. "I saw a sofa and chair in a catalog that I liked years ago," she said. "I held on to the catalog and when I called the company, I found out they still had it in stock."
Agress worked with decorators she had recommended to friends to help her with window treatments and to do smaller projects, such as painting and wallpapering, shelving and recessed lighting.
Other new additions to the home included a full-wall living room bookcase designed by carpenter/craftsman Ron Wagner of Westminster. With a doctorate in English, Agress is an avid reader and owns hundreds of books. The house also has become a showplace for Agress' collection of teddy bears. With more than 200 bears gathered during her travels and from friends and family, she has dedicated a room to her collection.
The "Bear Room" features scores of bears sitting on bookshelves, snuggled together on a couch and resting in a baby carriage and baskets. The room is especially popular with visiting friends who have children.
She has intellectual bears like "Al-beart Einstein," historical bears like "Bear-tsy Ross," literary bears like "Bear-lock Holmes," ballerina bears, musical bears, artist bears, teacher bears and bears from around the world, including Coco the koala from Australia and Harrod's Millennium Bear from England.
Not every bear is sequestered to the Bear Room. "Anastasia," handmade from an old mink coat that belonged to Agress' mother, has a prized place in the living room, and whenever Agress buys a new bear, it gets a prime spot in her bedroom. A purple bear named Violet rests on her bed.
But more than anything, Agress loves having the entire basement level dedicated to BWB headquarters. "It was nice to expand," she said. "Before, there was no room for me to spread out."
The basement opens to the back yard. She enjoys working and taking in the view during the spring and summer.
"I spend more time in my home than most people," she said. "I really enjoy being in surroundings that I have created."