New Rockland Ridge retreat offers country near the city



Donna Brown marvels at the view from her kitchen's large bay window. Although she lives 15 minutes from downtown Baltimore, the rolling hills, tall trees and the rippling Jones Falls beyond her outdoor deck remind her of being on vacation at Deep Creek Lake.

Brown's retreat in the woods is in Baltimore County in the new development of Rockland Ridge. Here, small groupings of cluster homes dot wide streets that wind and climb upward past the main gates off Falls Road.

After 10 years living in what she calls a "very formal, center hall colonial" in Homeland in North Baltimore, Brown, 60, an agent at Long & Foster's Green Spring Station office, felt it was time for a change.

"I love Homeland," she said. "It's a wonderful area, but I was ready for a house with a larger kitchen. And here, it's more informal."

Informal, but every bit as large. Brown, along with her 9-year old Labrador retriever, Max, moved into the cluster home in May.

The two-story stucco and stone structure boasts five bedrooms, 4 1/2 bathrooms, family room and loft, in addition to a roomy living room and dining room and an entrance hall, all adding up to 4,126 square feet of living space.

Brown paid $780,000 for the home and another $70,000 for upgrades such as the loft, hardwood floors in every room, a finished lower level, surround sound throughout the home and granite countertops in her kitchen.

"I fell in love with the kitchen," she said of what is clearly her favorite room. "When I entertain, I can't get my friends out of [this area]."

It's easy to see why. The 19- by 24-foot kitchen-family room, with its 18-foot cathedral ceiling, makes up more than half of the rear of the home.

Stainless steel kitchen appliances contrast with honey glazed maple cabinetry while the natural oak floors and buttercup yellow walls provide a cheery lightness.

A bay window area serves as a breakfast nook. Its 4-foot-square oak table with distressed finish and cabriole legs and four ladder-back chairs of carved oak with cane seats invite guests to sit and enjoy the view.

Around the fireplace are roll-arm lounge chairs in yellow print with grommets and a barrel- frame loveseat.

Brown's first-level master bedroom exudes country elegance with a coffered ceiling painted white.

Light teal walls are warmed by the four-poster oak-spindle bed. Brown has chosen a silk spread by Yves Delorme in a soft yellow, while the dust ruffle in yellow toile print matches her custom draperies.

"A friend of mine told me I'd never use this room," said Brown, as she walked into her formal living room. "And he is right!"

Still, it is clear that she enjoys the traditional ambience of a room she has decorated with attention to 18th-century detail.

Two examples are an 18th- century reproduction Winterthur chest of bird's-eye maple and an English reproduction mahogany secretary.

Beige silk draperies hang on the windows behind a damask-clad tuxedo sofa in monochromatic tones of beige.

Across the hall, the dining room also is decorated in traditional style.

Against a backdrop of khaki-painted walls with white ceiling molding, a large mahogany double-pedestal table is accompanied by Chippendale-style chairs. A three-section, glass-front China closet of mahogany inlay houses china and crystal while an Oriental carpet in shades of dark blue and deep red provide a splash of color.

A second-floor loft overlooks the family room. Also decorated in traditional fashion, wing chairs set a tone of clublike comfort.

Two bedrooms, both with four-poster beds, provide ample room for guests and visits from Brown's four grandchildren.

"I live alone but am seldom alone here," said Brown, adding that she enjoys entertaining friends and family.

A third bedroom serves as her office.

Brown's lower level is a place for play and relaxation. A finished fifth bedroom with bath sits off a large recreation room that includes a pool table.

"I never thought I'd be happy in a new home," Brown said, as she sipped her coffee at the kitchen table. "But it was fun picking out details like counters and cabinets. As large as the house is, you don't feel like you rattle around in it. It's cozy."

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