Feathering a plush nest

Dream Home

The owners of a jewelry-artifacts chain of stores lavish their talents on a Bellona-Gittings gem

Real Estate

May 18, 2007|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Robert Levine is a jeweler by trade. His dream home on Baltimore's northern line reflects an environment that, in his words, "was treated as though it was a piece of fine jewelry."

The pink brick, chateau-style house rests at the center of a semi-circular driveway, its periphery emblazoned with lush azalea bushes, in contrast to spiral topiary at the double-door entrance with its wrought-iron outer doors.

Visitors are often greeted at the marble-floored entrance hall by the deep resonance of a large brass Indian gong that stands next to a 19th-century teak Buddha from Burma. Robert Levine and his wife, Jan, have traveled the world, and their home is the repository of many of its treasures.

The couple purchased their 36-year-old dream home in 1995, after years of living in a townhouse in Baltimore's Bolton Hill neighborhood.

"Everything was on one level, and there were lights in the closets," Jan Levine said of its initial lure.

The couple owns the Fire & Ice chain of 11 jewelry and artifacts stores stretching from Philadelphia to Tyson's Corner, Va., including the company's first store at Harborplace. They bought the 3,500-square-foot home for $450,000 and easily spent that much again on its furnishings, renovations and a large bathroom addition.

"We bought everything new," Robert Levine said. "The furniture [style] is French chateau."

Their major renovation was combining two rooms into a large kitchen in the back of the horseshoe-shaped home. The Levines chose a Mediterranean theme, with a floor of imported limestone. A soft sand color, it emphasizes the patina of cherry cabinets and granite countertops. A 26-foot backsplash is fashioned of tiles on which are painted a variety of the world's beautiful fish.

The dining room walls are painted medium blue with a faux finish that simulates thin-wale corduroy. A large Oriental carpet rests on oak flooring. The 9-foot-long glass-topped dining room table sits on a base of cast bronze antelope heads.

On the room's east wall is a portrait of Jan Levine - a surprise Christmas present from her husband - painted by local artists Miriam Bransky and Jerry Gilden from a compilation of photographs.

In the adjoining den, khaki walls provide a backdrop to an impressive rosewood breakfront housing an entertainment unit. A pair of oak curio cabinets on either side of the room's entrance display a vast collection of tiny Asian sculptures, many in ivory.

For the home's French Provincial-style furnishings, the couple consulted and purchased from design centers in Dallas, New York, Atlanta and High Point, N.C.

In the formal living room are an elegant pair of Federal period settees. The entire west wall is comprised of a fireplace and built-in book units that appear to be of maple, which Robert Levine revealed is a faux finish. Burl wood and glass cabinets of Italian design display intricate stone carvings and marine life carved into various minerals.

Two teak giraffes from Kenya stand in a corner.

In the west wing of the house, beyond a bedroom dominated by a large wrought-iron bed, is the couple's 45-foot by 18-foot addition, accessible by two stained-glass paneled doors whose designs were inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Georgia O'Keeffe.

The addition, fashioned completely of Douglas fir, includes a slate steam room complete with waterfall. That and a large Jacuzzi tub sit opposite an enclosed lizard room, designed for the couple's crawling pets.

An ideal place for guests to peacefully languish, the back patio looks out on a half acre of plants, flowers and Japanese maple. Metal sculptures of heron and ostrich attract a variety of birds.

Robert and Jan Levine note that they are very glad they took some time away from the daily rigors of operating their stores to put their creativity into a home that reflects their talents.

While both are back to the business full time now, they credit good management for having had the time to focus on their home. "Building your nest is one of the most satisfying things you can do in life," Robert Levine said.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Write to Dream Home, Real Estate Editor, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or e-mail us at real.estate@baltsun.com. For more dream homes and photos, go to http:--www.baltimoresun.com/business/realestate, click on Dream Home.

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