The Comforts Of Home

When Bob and Melanie Sabelhaus finally decided to renovate their 90-year-old home, they spared no effort to make it a soothing yet elegant family retreat.

Focus On Decorating

October 14, 2001|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,Special to the Sun

For 13 years, the white clapboard house served as a good home to Bob and Melanie Sabelhaus and their children, Bobby and Alexa.

Then came the wake-up call. Daughter Alexa, then 16, told her mom the five-bedroom house "looked tired."

"I said, 'Alexa, I've helped raise 200 teen-agers in this house,' " says Melanie, explaining how their Greenspring Valley home was often the gathering place for the children's friends.

But the comment got the couple thinking.

They had always dreamed of making major improvements -- creating a large master bedroom, building a garage and adding more natural light. They'd redecorated but never renovated. The time seemed right to think big.

Little did they know the work would take three years, including one year just for planning, and before it was over they would wind up camping out on twin beds around the basement pool table.

"It was like a college dorm, and we were all sharing one bathroom," Melanie says.

But despite the obstacles, she never lost sight of the goal: an elegant and inviting home where every room encourages you to sit and relax.

Finding comfort in their surroundings is important to this on-the-go family. Bob is executive vice president and director of Legg Mason's Private Client Group. Melanie was recently nominated by President Bush to be deputy administrator -- the No. 2 job -- at the Small Business Administration. (She was founder and formerly CEO of Bridgestreet Accommodations, a company that supplied furnished homes for relocated executives, visiting movie stars and others.) Bobby, 25, is pursuing a career in the movie business in L.A., and Alexa, 20, is majoring in communications at Boston University. Melanie's father, Nick Radlick, lives in the guesthouse.

An English look

The renovation was completed several months ago, and the house now resembles an English country manor, complete with early 19th-century coach lamps out front.

Inside, sunlight -- from six skylights and French doors in the back conservatory -- bounces across French limestone floors and into the front foyer, with its cream walls and brass and crystal chandeliers. Elsewhere, colors and patterns are lively and rich.

One of the couple's favorite areas is the master bedroom suite, part of 4,500 square feet added to the 12,000-square-foot home. Four French doors open onto the garden and flagstone terrace with its own outdoor in-ground spa.

It's a garden indoors as well. The entire bedroom is swathed in pink and green English glazed floral chintz -- gathered over curvy valances, puddling onto the floor, enveloping a tufted headboard tucked into a French alcove.

"Melanie fell in love with this fabric," says Stiles Colwill, the interior designer for the project, "and then we found out it was discontinued. We had it reprinted in England."

As to Bob's sentiments, "he likes it," says Colwill. "I told him he's very secure in his masculinity."

The couple also worked with architect Jamie Snead of Ziger / Snead & Associates and contractor Larry Boehm of Victor Boehm & Associates.

Comforts in the bath

If the bedroom is Melanie's dream come true, the master bathroom is Bob's -- particularly the shower. Six feet by eight feet and lined in white marble, there isn't just one showerhead here, but five. Some give the effect of a light rain shower, while others offer the ultimate shower massage. Then there's the steam head near the floor, so one can settle in on the stall's marble bench and completely chill -- so to speak. Radiant heat is set under the bathroom's marble floors.

Melanie has her deep whirlpool tub on a platform by windows, which face the woods.

The Sabelhaus dressing room is a clotheshorse's fantasy. Bigger than a standard bedroom, it features a built-in island with drawers from top to bottom and a deep green marble top.

"We travel a lot," Melanie says, "and this way, we have some place to put the luggage and pack."

But who would want to leave home? Everything here entices one to nest.

A den next to the master bedroom suite is blanketed in hunter green. A plush couch and armchairs surround a fireplace (there's one in almost every main floor room).

"The kitchen is our Nantucket room," Melanie says. The Sabelhauses have spent many summers at a house they own on that Massachusetts island, and they wanted to bring a bit of that feel to Maryland. They combined their old kitchen with two small storage rooms to create a "living kitchen," as Colwill calls it. Lemon walls, white cabinets and marble countertops take up one end, while a breakfast table, loveseats and cabinets displaying china and blue glass collections occupy the other.

In back, a large flagstone patio, complete with built-in gas grill, overlooks the pool house and swimming pool, from which a dripping golden retriever, Savannah, emerges.

"She's the only one in the family who goes into the pool these days," says Melanie. "She actually got swimmer's ear last summer."

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