Four years ago, Anita Gold followed a long-cherished dream to live in the country.
She sold a rowhouse in Baltimore and moved to green acres in Carroll County. Gold, 59, remembers the day she and husband Mike Hall, 60, happened upon a 25-year-old split-level home in Finksburg situated on a half-acre "in the middle of a farm, with cows across the street."
"This house was in absolute move-in condition," Gold states, "at a cost of $169,000."
Once the deal was signed, the couple set about grading an unsightly hill on the expansive front lawn. Today, in its place, a little white wooden footbridge rests in the shade of such foliage as a Japanese dogwood, a red maple and several clusters of rhododendrons.
All present a tranquil foreground to the house, its brick facade contrasting softly with beige aluminum siding and bright green shutters.
Past the homey, white-railed front porch - including a swing and plants - Gold, a florist by trade, shows off a neutral interior decor.
"Beige seems to be my favorite color," Gold says. "Whenever I buy something new, my friends will say, `What color of beige is it this time?' "
Yet, in this 2,400-square-foot home, the creamy tone of the walls contrasts with natural pinewood flooring and walnut window moldings.
A center hall of slate flooring cuts a path to the kitchen (once the rear of the house). To the right of the hall, a front dining room sits behind beveled glass French doors. A staircase to the second level, as well as steps to a lower family room, are found along the left, or west, wall of the house. Beyond the kitchen, Gold reveals what she calls her "surprise" - a spacious, sunken great room - an addition completed by the previous owner.
Here, in this 20-by-16-foot space, a 12-foot-high cathedral ceiling has been fashioned of 4-inch planks of light birchwood. Walnut molding outlines the floors and ceilings of the room, as well as a five-framed picture window that faces south to a large back yard. French doors lead to an outdoor deck.
Two large skylights provide ample, natural illumination with a soft tint of green - courtesy of a variety of backyard evergreens. A wrap-around, beige leather sofa is the focal point in the room.
A chair and love seat of modern pine with plum colored cushions sit perpendicular to each other, forming a cozy sitting area in the southwestern corner. The opposite wall features a gas fireplace with a hearth of cream colored tile topped with a pine mantle.
Plants of several varieties and heights are placed on the natural pine flooring at the door, by the sofa, and at a pair of angled white railings marking the step-up entrance back to the kitchen area.
A galley kitchen, 22 by 9 feet, separates the great room from the formal dining room. Its hickory cabinets contrast with white and black appliances.
A walnut dining counter is built into the eastern corner of the room. With two wooden-backed bar stools on either side, this table is nestled, booth-like, between built-in shelving units that display a whimsical teapot collection.
A splash of color is evident through beveled glass doors leading to the dining room. A walnut, Danish-modern dining room table with high-back chairs rests atop dark cranberry colored carpeting.
The north corner is showcased by a 1930s walnut inlay buffet table, "a Salvation Army find," Gold says, with the pride of a seasoned bargain hunter. In the room's bay window, she has placed a collection of clear glass candleholders on the multiple sills.
The family room, across the hall and down the stairs, is tiled in alternating shades of beige and peach and furnished in pine pieces. Gold calls them her "cat prevention furniture." In the southwest corner, a brick fireplace with a stove insert sits at a diagonal, a wide-screen television on the wall beside it.
On the north side of the room, shelving units accommodate Mike Hall's collection of miniature racing cars. Double doors lead to an outdoor patio.
The home's second level contains a dressing room for Gold, which she has painted a dusty rose.
A circa 1930 deco dressing table rests on carpeting of a similar rose shade. A white micro-fiber sofa and a mahogany rocker with a floral tapestry seat complete the furniture suite here. The walls are filled with oak cabinets that showcase Gold's porcelain kewpie doll collection. Gold has converted one of the three bedrooms into a playroom for her grandchildren. Here, the walls are done in a powder blue.
The main bathroom's upper walls are painted in caramel. The lower portion is done in a beige wainscoting. A Tuscany-inspired shower curtain in shades of gold, brown and olive completes a Mediterranean look.
Still, for Gold, her world is her backyard garden. The area is surrounded by a creosote fence and guarded by Georgia pines and a variety of fir trees. It is here that Gold keeps a little greenhouse fronted by a vegetable garden. A created pond appears to be floating on a lush bed of purple phlox in the shade of a cherry tree.
Gardening is what relaxes his mother, says son Brady Gold, 35. "Her favorite thing is to plant her perennials and feed the fish in the pond. It's so story-bookish."
Gold doesn't argue.
"I've always wanted to live in a park-like setting," she says. "Now, I can't believe I actually do."