Dundalk roots find rich soil


For dad: Bill Wallace views his $1.2 million home as something of a tribute to his late father, who always wanted a large home.

October 07, 2001|By Amelia Cleary | Amelia Cleary,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A hand-painted mask from Venice.

A man-sized wooden giraffe from Kenya.

A miniature Eiffel Tower from Paris.

While vacationing abroad throughout the years, Bill and Connie Wallace picked up unique art objects and furnishings for their dream: a big house that would be a tribute to his father.

Connie spent years flipping through magazines looking for the perfect floor plan. While tracking down chandeliers and fabrics, she taught herself decorating techniques. She worked side by side with a builder, searching for just the right property. "Somebody had to go through and do the leg work and it was me," she said. "I learned a lot."

In February 2000, she put her skills to the test when they finally built the house of their dreams - an 11,000-square-foot showcase on 7 acres. The property shares another 84 acres with the other tenants of the Solomon's Choice Farm development in Harford County.

Solomon's Choice is an exclusive community of seven homes built on land that was formerly owned by the Du Pont family. Now valued at $1.2 million, the Wallaces' home cost nearly $1 million to build.

With at least 25 rooms, including an entertainment room, a sewing room, two exercise rooms and a library, the house has plenty of space to display their foreign treasures.

Bill Wallace, president and chief executive officer of Action Business Systems Inc., grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Dundalk. His father always wanted to have a large house but never had the chance.

"He gave me the opportunity to get to the station in life where I am. And I was able to do it. It was ... almost a tribute to him."

Bill Wallace wanted to delay moving into the house until all the rooms were decorated. But his wife convinced him otherwise.

Three months later their daughter, Anita, celebrated her wedding in their new home. "For the wedding all I had were the sheers up," Connie Wallace said, referring to drapes. Since then, the decorating has come a long way.

She created all of the window treatments, including the elegant dining room drapes and the nursery curtains, which have brightly colored stuffed animals in sewn-on pockets.

She painted filigree shadows on the dining room wall and carefully selected the cherry wood for the kitchen cabinets. "Connie's really creative," her husband said. But she's quick to point out that it was a "joint venture."

Together they decided to make the first floor an open area, separating the kitchen and living and dining rooms with the staircase and a few interior walls.

"I thought the space would be so much, but I feel very comfortable," she said. In fact, the home's cozy interior betrays its pillared faM-gade sitting at the top of a hill.

For the family room, Bill Wallace chose furniture with a worn look that added to the warmth of the fireplace. Ten-foot-tall windows enclose the sunroom, creating a well-lighted reading area. The dark, wood cabinets give the kitchen a timeless element. "I want something that looks like it could have been built years ago or brand new," Connie Wallace said.

Each room has a theme. His office has a medieval theme, with the Wallace family Scottish sword hanging behind his desk.

The library, a mezzanine looking down on the family room, has a "worldly" theme, with a standing globe and African artwork.

Relaxation seems to be the theme of the media room, especially with a 62-inch projection television set. "We're going to do all recliners in here. La-Z-Boys or something of that nature," he said.

With all of this, plus a tanning bed, a replica of the Ronald Reagan presidential fireplace, two Jacuzzis, a swimming pool and game tables, the Wallace home sounds complete - until he says, "and this is our movie theater."

For about $60,000, Bill and Connie Wallace were able to re-create what theaters were like when he was a kid. The Wallace theater has a ticket window, popcorn machine and 15 seats, which the subwoofers set to vibrating during action films.

The Wallaces can't recall how much they've spent decorating and furnishing their home. "It's one of those things, when you see something you like, you just do it," she said.

They have learned to compromise on most of the decorating, but he still doesn't like the pink flamingos out back.

Their 18-year-old son, Billy, put the flamingos on the lawn to remind his father of his Dundalk roots, she said. But a million-dollar home isn't enough to make him forget.

"It's still nice to get back [to Dundalk]. You know, you never really leave your roots. You think you do, but you don't," he said

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