Sitting atop the rolling hills of rural Howard County is a large, luxurious, European-style manor house.
Built as a private residence, the house was transformed into a boutique hotel. Since then, the establishment has undergone major renovations, won national awards and been featured on several television programs.
"The house draws people because it's new, but it has Old World charm," said owner Cynthia Lynn, who works as an accountant.
In the last decade the house, called the Inn at Peralynna Manor, has been voted the Best Bed and Breakfast/Inn in North America in 2005 and 2006, and the Best Bed and Breakfast/Inn in the U.S.A. in 2004, by Arrington's Inn Traveler magazine. And recently it has been featured twice on HGTVs Dream Builders program, the Travel Channel and a travel show for US Airways.
"People are just amazed when they see it," said Lynn. "They love the decor and the stained-glass windows. There is something here that appeals to most people."
Although construction of the main house was completed about a decade ago, Lynn designed it based on her memories of a house where she and her family lived in Europe.
She drew sketches of the house because photographs were prohibited. Although her family eventually left the house and Europe, she never forgot it.
In 1986 she purchased an acre and a half for $125,000. It was a prime location for a home, but they just wanted the land, she said.
Her son, Brandon Kemplin, who was 14 at the time, began landscaping the property, she said. Also as part of a home school project, Cynthia had her three children design blueprints for their dream bedrooms, she said.
"They designed every little nook and cranny," she said. "They made the closets and the bathroom." But it was only intended to be a homework assignment.
However, Kemplin took the project seriously. He continued the landscaping projects that included a deck and a skateboard ramp. For a while, he devoted his time to snowboarding, which he did professionally for about five years.
When Lynn remarried in 1995, her husband, David Lynn, told her that if the house were her dream, she should build it.
Pooling their money, they invested $1.5 million in the original structure, said Cynthia Lynn. And her son, now 34, who recently became the general manager of the inn, built it. "My father and grandfather were both builders," said Kemplin. "So I learned a lot from them."
When the four-story, 14,500-square-foot mansion was completed, it contained 147 windows, 20 skylights, 14 bathrooms, eight bedrooms and two apartments.
"It was a true labor of love for us," said Cynthia Lynn. "I was dreaming, dreaming, dreaming, and Brandon was doing, doing, doing."
When they began researching the deed on the property, they discovered that one of David Lynn's early relatives owned the property.
"It seemed like we were meant to be here," said Cynthia Lynn.
Even before the drywall was up, the house proved a great place for entertaining, said David Lynn. In 1995, David and Cynthia held a Renaissance wedding that lasted three days, with 200 people in the house.
"We had our guests bring a favorite dish and the recipe for it, instead of gifts," he said. "Everyone came in period attire. We had jugglers and men in tights. People were in sleeping bags all over the house."
After the house was completed, it became the family home for a short time.
Then one day a stranger knocked on the door.
"He said the hotels were full, and that we looked like a bed-and-breakfast inn," said Cynthia Lynn. "He asked me if he could stay at the house. I told him absolutely not."
But she changed her mind. She found out the house had been zoned as a boarding house and decided to give it a try. So the Lynns converted the bedrooms into suites, and Cynthia spent months finding the right pieces to furnish the inn.
The inn opened for business with five suites and an apartment. The rooms include amenities such as fireplaces, wet bars, hot tubs and pressure-relieving mattresses.
Despite the luxurious interior, it's a homey place, said David Lynn, who taught graduate counseling courses at the Johns Hopkins University.
"When guests use the library, we tell them to help themselves to a book, and if they don't finish it before they go, they can take it with them," he said.
Also the inn caters to its guests, said Kemplin.
"We have flat-screen televisions, a game room, a video library, and a free beer and wine bar," he said. "We can arrange for a guest to get a facial or a massage, or any other spa treatment they might want."
Individual guest rooms range from $225 to $650 per night without a package, said Kemplin's wife, Kyra, a former registered nurse, who now works as the events coordinator for the inn. There are corporate rates, with packages starting at $615, she said.
Patrick Caligiuri, a sales manager from Pennsylvania, said he visited the inn about a year-ago when the local Hampton Inn was sold out. The hotel desk manager sent him to the establishment.
Since then, Caligiuri has visited the inn about 40 times.
"The beds are so comfortable," he said. "The breakfast is great. Some of the rooms have steam showers, and all the rooms are luxurious. And the price is lower than the local hotels."