Porch swing perfect

DREAM HOME

Deferred: It took a few years, but a Howard County couple finally got the chance to build the home they had long wanted.

August 11, 2002|By Anne Lauren Henslee | Anne Lauren Henslee,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It all began three years ago with a porch swing, a simple wooden structure that somehow stood for a dream deferred.

Despite living in a house with no porch, Robert and Yolanda Stephens decided to buy the swing, knowing that one day they would have a place to put it. So they returned to their nice but modest house in Ellicott City's Enchanted Forest neighborhood and delegated their new porch swing to storage. There it remained hidden, but far from forgotten.

Today, it is an inviting host to all who step onto the expansive wraparound porch of their new home.

Because they are in their mid-50s and have been married for 32 years, the couple's decision to build surprised many of their friends and family members, including their adult children, who thought they would move to a smaller house or a retirement community.

"We've been in Maryland for about 15 years, but I don't think we ever felt like we had roots - if you can believe it, after 15 years," Yolanda Stephens said.

Last year, they sold their 3,000-square-foot Colonial in Ellicott City within eight days of putting it on the market and bought a 3.1-acre wooded lot in Clarksville for $289,000, with a shared vision of building the home they had always wanted, porch included.

Eight months later, they have nearly succeeded. With a few finishing touches to complete, the 5,400-square-foot, four-bedroom house with three full bathrooms and two half-baths has all the details they were seeking.

Patience became necessary, as the couple discovered. From clearing the land to building the structure, each phase of development required more time than expected, mostly because of the customized specifications and modifications of the original building plan.

"We were in storage for 10 months," Yolanda Stephens said. "We relocated to an apartment in Frederick, after living 30 years in a home. That was quite an ordeal."

They chose an architectural plan from a Southern Living catalog and modified it according to their needs, enlarging rooms and adding "nooks and crannies" as they saw fit.

Construction began in the middle of last year, and the frame, which includes multilevel roofing and varied ceiling heights throughout, took three months to build.

They moved in Feb. 1.

The layout was designed with one thing in mind: practicality.

As president of a company associated with the defense industry, Robert Stephens wanted a house that would accommodate dinner parties with clients and business associates.

Yolanda Stephens, an avid quilter, wanted a room big enough to hold a king-sized bedspread and her quilting materials.

From the wraparound porch and first-floor master bedroom to the large, open living area and octagonal second-floor mezzanine, no detail was overlooked.

The foyer opens to the formal dining room on the right, which has intricate crown molding and French doors, with a transom overhead.

To the left of the foyer is a sitting room that leads to the main bathroom, which connects to a master bedroom with a full sitting area surrounded by windows that overlook the fenced yard and thicket of trees beyond.

The main gathering place is the formal living room, which is centrally located and opens to practically every major artery of the first floor.

A hand-carved wood mantel adorns the marble fireplace, and the second-floor balcony provides full open space above.

Walnut floors pave the way throughout.

Over the kitchen's stainless steel side-by-side oven, copper tiles lead from the back wall to a faux finished hearth above.

Other features include copper accessories and stacked pull-out dishwashers that match the custom, hand-painted cabinetry.

An 18-by-36-foot room over the garage provides more than ample space for all of Yolanda's quilting needs.

Walk-in closets are in practically every room.

Construction has cost $928,000, before landscaping.

The last project - a lushly landscaped waterfall and 24-by-50-foot pool - will begin this month and is expected to take about four months to complete.

Overall, the couple found that building their ideal home together was exciting and rewarding.

"This house feels like home. Which is nice," Yolanda Stephens said.

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