There's an art to this 'Versailles'


Dream Home


In the domestic world of Mark and Susan Adams, it was necessary that an eclectic blend of artwork co-exist with French architecture and decor to produce an eye-pleasing splash of color and texture. In order to accommodate their stylized, yet functional furnishings while providing ample studio space for a working artist, the house of their dreams would need to be custom-built. And that is what happened 13 years ago.

Some of the Adamses' friends call their northwest Baltimore County home "Versailles on the Hill." Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to argue with that assessment when standing at the large gated entrance opening onto a blacktop path along an expansive front lawn. The circular drive at the home's front entrance offers an up-close-and-personal taste of French Country in the home's light-colored brick and its tall, arched multi-paned windows. The modified mansard roof of a gazebo peeps from the grounds in the back garden.

In October of 1993, the Adamses bought 5 1 / 2 -acres of land, and with architectural plans in hand (from a design book), they hired the contracting firm of Hagan and Hamilton to begin work.

"I was here every day," recalled Mark Adams. "[The contractors] encouraged my being here." His presence would prove crucial for the completion of an indoor art studio to his specifications. A professional oil painter, predominantly of portraits, he contends that he knew what he was going do with his life "since the third grade, and never looked back."

The couple spent $125,000 on their land, which abuts a wooded area for country isolation. The construction of the two-story, 3,800-square-foot home cost $375,000, while an additional $100,000 went toward a blue stone backyard patio, a courtyard between the east and west wing, and the circular drive.

The home's showplace is Mark Adams' 20-foot-by-40-foot studio, designed with a northeast exposure. Here, multi-paned windows dressed in velveteen draperies stretch almost to skylights that pierce in rectangular fashion the 17-foot cathedral ceiling. Stretched canvasses of completed works and works in progress sit atop dressers and bureaus, while an upright easel displays a formal portrait of an Episcopal bishop in fine vestments. Hung along the walls and over the east-wall fireplace are modern portraits of men and women, painted in vivid colors. A wrought-iron circular staircase, its intricate cutwork like fine lace, coils to a loft filled with bookcases, desk, and bed. The view from this lofty space looks upon a studio, with gleaming hardwood floors, that is often the setting for parties.

With three bedrooms and a den on the second level (as well as a first-floor den, living room and dining room), the opportunities abound for Susan and Mark Adams to juxtapose modern art with elegant French-inspired furniture pieces.

The dining room, for example, showcases red walls teeming with modern portraiture that is handsomely illuminated by a crystal chandelier hanging over a formal French Provincial table and chairs.

The front entrance hall features a plush, tufted day bed placed near French doors to the courtyard. Adjacent is a modern stainless steel kitchen with additional access to the courtyard.

Strolling through the master bedroom, complete with a New Orleans-style wrought-iron balcony, or the guest room, decorated in the purple, green, and gold colors of Mardi Gras, one thing is evident: the Adamses are clearly content in their "Versailles."

"This is our terminal home," said Mark Adams. "We had a blast building it."


Mark and Susan Adams say that when having a house custom built:

Know every detail of permanent fixture placement, especially electric outlets and switches.

Get professional help with landscaping or the work will eat up all of your free time.

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