The year of living elegantly

House: The MASCO Home of the Year is worth - and looks like - a million bucks, but it was designed with the practical needs of a family in mind.

June 04, 2000|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

Less than two weeks to go, and there were workers everywhere. Controlled mayhem was the order of the day.

The night before, Scott Hagan had looked at the spindles going up the banister in the grand staircase. Too small, he thought. Awkward. Rip 'em out and start over. The next day - one by one - dozens of spindles were being replaced by a worker.

At any given time, there might be eight, maybe 10, workers going about their business at a Hagan and Hamilton Custom Home job site. Today, about 30 have marched through the synthetic stucco and quarry stone home with its marble and hardwood floors that will open Friday to the public as the MASCO Home of the Year.

The home, which sits on 6.75 acres in Cloverland Farms in Dulaney Valley, is the showpiece of the Home Builders Association's Showcase of Homes that began Monday.

On this particular day, the final woodworking touches were being administered by another craftsman in the first-floor library.

Turn the corner, and there was a carpenter chiseling on pocket doors, perfecting where the brass hardware would snugly fit.

Outside, an asphalt crew was laying the driveway that curls to the three-car garage.

Hagan stood outside one of the five bedrooms in this 7,400-square-foot home that will soon be open for public inspection and ran his hand over the painted door frame. He sees and feels a couple of slight dents in the wood. Most people would shrug their shoulders and move on. He, however, frowns. "We have to take care of that," he said. Such is the life of a perfectionist.

His brother Pat arrives, and beads of sweat are on his brow. He has just come from another project and runs upstairs to greet Scott. He rests on a wall to catch his breath. "Don't lean there," Scott warns. "Fresh paint."

Pat recoils. He's lucky, the spot was dry.

It is late in the day, and the brothers, who have been building luxury custom homes for 11 years, are facing deadline pressure like never before. They stroll to the back of the home to the landscaped pool and spa area, which measures 60 feet by 40 feet. They turn and, seemingly for the first time, pause and gaze at their work as if it were a portrait hanging at the Walters Art Gallery. The copper gutters, outlining the $1.2 million French Provincial home, glimmered in the sun. The pool water sparkled. The cedar wraparound deck, strong and sturdy. "We will be ready to go," Pat said. "We're pulling everything together."

Admission to the home is $10. But those who visit at least five of the communities in the Showcase of Homes can have a passport stamped and receive a $5 discount to the Home of the Year.

MASCO Corp., based in Taylor, Mich. is the parent company for a number of consumer brand name products such as Delta Faucets, Baldwin Hardware, Franklin Brass, Lennox heating and air conditioning, Progress Lighting and Merillat cabinetry.

Many of the items were donated or discounted by MASCO to give those who tour the residence during its 16-day run a glimpse into the next generation of home and building amenities.

It is not the first time that MASCO has done a show home. In 1995, it held a similar show house in Columbia. It is also not the first time that HBAM has orchestrated such an event.

In 1994 and 1995, HBAM enlisted a number of builders to construct a "Dream Home" community. The '94 event took place in Woodridge near the Carroll County/Baltimore County border. The next year, a less opulent version was held at Piney Orchard in Anne Arundel County. The events drew thousands to see these spectacular homes, but with a sluggish economy, the spec-built homes lingered on the market in search of buyers with deep pockets. In 1996, the event was canceled.

"The thought [this year] was that we were not loading the market down with a lot of high-end houses and putting them into inventory," said Marty Stephens, director of events for HBAM. "There is going to be one house, and that makes a lot of difference from the first year we did it, when it was a down time economically and we put nine houses into the inventory of new homes of over $500,000. ... That was difficult."

But it wasn't just the economy that hurt the previous "Dream Home" concept. Many of the features within the homes weren't practical and didn't relate to the average homebuyer.

"In the Dream Homes, there were some things that some builders put in that people thought were neat and memorable, but would they have gone home and put it in their house? Probably not," Stephens said, referring to a home that featured an enclosed slide that went from the third level down to the basement.

Stephens added that the Cloverland Farms home is the most expensive home HBAM has presented to the public, but the difference is that it's not for sale. A family of six moves in the first week of July.

Family aspect

When HBAM approached Hagan and Hamilton about taking over the MASCO event (ILEX Construction and Development Inc. bowed out in November), it was the family aspect that attracted the trade association.

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