The star of a kid-friendly area



Sara Totushek loves Halloween. One glance at the outside of her Carroll County home compels the casual observer to look for an admission booth. The gently sloping lawn is peppered with life-like headstones while "bats" hover inches below tree branches.

Tiny, lighted skulls line the walkway to the large, covered front porch, where two large columns wear mantles of corn stalk. More bats dance ominously around the porch eaves, their eyes glaring down at various "human bones" and stuffed "body parts."

The message is clear for the trick-or-treaters when the big night arrives: Enter at your own risk! The kids come gladly and are fascinated.

At her kitchen table, Totushek shows off a party invitation that invites guests to partake of the family's bigger and better "Halloween II: Return of the Haunted Woods." To the delight of neighborhood children and their parents, the Totusheks rig ghosts, goblins and other things-that-go-bump-in-the-night in the woods on their half-acre lot.

Sara Totushek, 39, and husband Eric, 40, a financial analyst, had sought such a kid-friendly neighborhood when they decided to build their home in the six-year-old Nottingham development in Mount Airy. "We wanted to settle in a place for [the boys'] entire growing up years," she said, referring to sons Alec, 8, and Nicholas, 4 1/2 . "There are so many kids here; Alec always has a basement full of buddies [and] I love to be the neighborhood mom."

The Totusheks chose a two-story, Victorian-style farmhouse with white vinyl siding and black shutters and trim.

The couple paid $366,000 for the 4,200-square-foot home and spent $50,000 over the past 4 1/2 years on building a multilevel deck, redoing the basement and purchasing additional furniture.

Not only does she enjoy Halloween decorating, but chooses to live with the colors of autumn all year long. "My house is a fall house," she said. "I'm drawn to warm colors."

The kitchen and an adjoining morning room have been painted a honey gold, complemented by ceramic-tile flooring in shades of plum, gray and green. Sliding doors open to a deck, while another door leads to a lower deck. A sturdy pine farmhouse table and matching bentwood chairs rest in the center of the morning room, which has five large windows.

"The kitchen was my No. 1 priority when choosing floor plans," she recalled. "Everyone congregates here, so I had to choose the plan with the largest kitchen."

The food preparation area features custom maple cabinets with nickel knobs as well as a built-in wine rack above the counter. The countertops are done in beveled Corian, simulating gray stone. The same Corian and maple treatment has been applied to a center island, where neighborhood kids gather for after-school treats. Gourds, pumpkins, and flowers of the season decorate both table and countertops.

North of the kitchen and one step down is the family room with its 11-foot high ceiling. Walls are painted a soft cream color and Berber carpeting covers the floor.

Sara Totushek designed a rustic atmosphere around the room's main attraction - a 6-foot by 6-foot fireplace on the north wall constructed of tan, brown and light plum bricks.

A raised hearth is topped by a wooden mantel displaying ceramic vases. Pub-style furniture in the room includes a sofa and loveseat upholstered in caramel-colored micro fiber.

"What I admire about [Sara Totushek's] decorating is the fact that it's eclectic, but it all comes together in a warm, homey sort of way," said visiting friend and neighbor, Leslie Eudy.

Homey and warm describes the dining room.

Between a chair rail and crown molding, the walls are painted a raspberry color, with wallpaper in alternating stripes of tan and butterscotch covering the lower part. A double pedestal, Duncan Phyfe table - a family heirloom - seats 12.

Totushek's living room exhibits "her soft and feminine side," said Eudy. Sand-colored walls form the backdrop for a traditional, rolled-arm sofa and chair suite in beige and green floral chintz. Delicate draperies of organza bear tiny, hand-embroidered flowers.

A wrought-iron, four-candle chandelier hangs from the 20-foot ceiling at the entrance foyer, which has thin planked flooring and flowered wallpaper in pastel shades. Two large wooden panels with hand-painted pastoral scenes hug the staircase wall.

Five bedrooms and two full baths make up the second level. Each boy has his own room, brightly lighted and full of toys. Two guest rooms offer respite for overnight visitors.

"I had to have one room that wasn't yellow," joked Sara Totushek, as she walked through double doors into the master suite. A cool, almost tropical effect is achieved with walls painted fern green, leading to a white cathedral ceiling. Carved cherry furniture with peach-colored linens provide a warm touch.

She describes the finished basement as "one gigantic playroom." Toys large and small, two television sets in separate areas, and even a moon bounce, keep her sons and their friends occupied for hours.

"I love entertaining and having people spend time here. I feel my home is welcoming."

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