From a winding road in Howard County's small town of Fulton, it's not easy to spot the home of Dr. Francisco Ward and his wife, Nadia. That is just as they would have it.
Three years ago, it was not so much about privacy, as it was - and still is - about space. Their rambling ranch house, complete with horse barn and a few outbuildings, sits on 6 acres of land at the end of a long driveway. It is, they contend, the ideal place for raising their five children.
"It was getting pretty crowded in our Ellicott City house," said 42-year old Nadia Ward, who does administrative work for her husband's pain management practice in Baltimore. "Here, we [have] six acres for our soccer field and basketball court.
In the summer of 2005, after riding around Fulton literally hunting down sale signs, the couple settled on the 3,800-square foot, vinyl-sided home built in 1976. The total package, with land, outbuildings and pool, cost $990,000.
Now Nadia Ward had what she wanted - a six-bedroom house, one for each of their five children, Leila, 17; Sofia, 13; Javier, 11; Maxi, 9, and Luis, age 7.
Seeing the potential in the house from the very beginning, Nadia Ward is quick to point out that it is very oddly shaped.
"There is no front door," she said matter-of-factly. "You enter by the back sliding door at the swimming pool. Who puts a swimming pool by the front door?"
The Wards soon found out from a neighbor that there was, at one time, a front door at the south end of the home overlooking a sweeping front lawn, but it had been covered over by the former owners - no longer a grand entrance into a formal living room. The space now is used as a family room for the children.
Nadia Ward began acting on a master vision for the house that, rectangular in shape, is open in the center, providing for a large outdoor courtyard. She estimates they have spent $400,000 to date on the house for improvements that include a completely redesigned kitchen, two additional bathrooms, a new outdoor patio by the pool, renovation of the barn into a party space and the construction of both a soccer field and an NBA regulation-size basketball court.
Beyond the kidney-shaped pool, sliders open onto a large great room with ceiling beams and open panels. A large, flagstone fireplace with slate hearth, as well as terra cotta tiling on the floor provide a rustic, cabin-in-the-woods look. It is from this room, with a narrow hallway and kitchen area behind it, that the home breaks into two separate wings, north and south.
The couple's remodeled main kitchen is encountered just west of the great room.
Here, a quartz material known as Silestone rests atop cream-colored, laminate cabinets. A neutral shade of porcelain ceramic tiling covers the floors. The KitchenAid appliances include a built-in ice machine about the size of a trash compactor.
Two large dining rooms both boast long oak tables, offering the perfect gathering place for dinners with family and friends.
The home's south wing features four bedrooms and baths along a hallway lighted by several sliders onto the courtyard. Here, the couples' three girls and youngest son occupy rooms.
Nadia Ward's plans to turn her son's room in the south wing into a grand foyer, complete with the longed-for front door and a staircase to a second-floor suite they plan to add in the near future.
The north wing of the home currently houses the master bedroom and the room of their older son. With an adjoining bathroom, these rooms will go to both boys, with parents comfortably ensconced on the second level.
As Dr. and Mrs. Ward walk around their home, they point out a neglected "front" yard and talk of plans for entertaining on a soon-to-be-built patio with a fountain. "There will be a front porch [and] the view will be incredible," said Nadia Ward. "Right now, we're missing the view around us."
In the meantime, parties and gatherings are held in the huge barn that measures 36-by-66 feet. Here, under a cathedral ceiling, tables and chairs sit ready for the next big fete.
"I have a feeling that one of our children will get married here," Nadia Ward said of the home she and her husband consider a lifelong property.
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