Dream home: Leaving the world behind

Condo owners Ralph and Carolyn Clark prefer maintenance-free living in Baltimore County

February 14, 2010|By Marie Gullard | Special to The Baltimore Sun

Twelve years ago, Ralph and Carolyn Clark decided to downsize.

"My husband and I found our dream home back in 1998 at the grand ages of 53 and 54," Carolyn Clark said. "We left behind our home of 27 years and moved to a condo in White Marsh and haven't looked back since!"

Rather than continuing to invest money in repairs to their Overlea bungalow, the active empty-nesters bought their White Marsh condominium, sight unseen, after touring the sales office model. They paid $122,000 for what they laughingly call their "lock it and leave it" home, which features two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a sunroom, in addition to living and dining rooms, open kitchen and walk-out balcony.

"Our two daughters, our parents and our friends all thought we were making a mistake until they walked in and saw it," Carolyn Clark said.

The unit's brightness and open floor plan greet visitors the moment they step inside. Each room is defined by the clever placement of furniture to the interior dimensions, while pastel colors on the walls and Berber carpeting add warmth.

Touches of whimsy define every room, whether it be a collection of cookie jars and "I Love Lucy" memorabilia in the kitchen, which is decorated in an apple motif, or in a mobile of gently rotating Yellowstone Park animals hung from the bedroom ceiling.

"I love to decorate and change with the seasons," Clark said. "A house can become too overwhelming, but a condo can be changed quickly."

While the Clarks appreciate the fact that their condo is maintained by a board of directors that keeps "a close eye on all maintenance and investment dollars," it is the intangibles of condo living that the couple hold dear.

"We feel blessed that when we come home [and] the door closes, all the world's problems are behind us," Clark said. "It is a peaceful way to live."

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Making a dream home

Dream element: Condo living in northeast Baltimore County off Interstate 95 suits Ralph and Carolyn Clark better each year as they enjoy their third-floor unit in the White Marsh complex of Devonshire.

Design inspiration: Carolyn Clark took her decorating cue from an open and circular interior layout measuring 1,500 square feet, with living and dining rooms, kitchen and entrance hall sitting beneath 15-foot ceilings. "With tall windows in every room, the rooms are alive with light," she said. To build on that airy feel, she selected a warm shade of butter-cream paint for the majority of the home's interior walls, with bright peach-colored paint on the walls of her sunroom that she has decorated in a beach theme. "Living on the third floor, we do not have any blinds on the windows, just sheers," she noted. Some furniture pieces from their former home, a bungalow in Overlea, include cherry-wood end tables and entertainment unit, and a mahogany barrister's bookcase, and two upholstered wing chairs. Framed photographs of past vacations hang on the walls as well as several framed cross-stitch pieces.

Personal touch: In what she calls the "Wedding Bathroom," a wooden screen displays four generations of Carolyn Clark's family wedding portraits. Hanging on the wall beside the screen is her mother's wedding dress.

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