Dream home: Down-sized delight

Couple finds just the right fit in Hunt Valley condominium

August 15, 2010|By Marie Marciano Gullard, Special to The Baltimore Sun

There are many reasons why a vibrant middle-age couple would want to go from 4,600 square feet of living space to a 1,520-square-foot condominium, but for Brian and Laura Gunter there was one overriding motive.

"We wanted our life to be more about fun activities and relationships than about taking care of stuff," Brian Gunter said. "For now, living at Highview makes it easier to pick up and leave town."

With their five children grown and out of the nest, it was a good time to sell their end-of-group cluster home in Havre de Grace's Bulle Rock community. The sale went quickly last year, and the Gunters got a good price for it.

The couple then set their sights on Highview in Hunt Valley and purchased a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit for $325,000. The price included all upgrades, such as oak flooring and granite counter tops in the kitchen, two parking spaces in the garage and two storage units.

The couple's major concern when deciding what to keep, what to give away and what to purchase was rethinking the home's furnishings and considering the scale of pieces to room size.

"We discovered many websites that cater to smaller-footprint living," said Brian Gunter, a 53-year-old insurance and financial services representative.

They learned quickly to consider expandable furniture, such as small tables that open for additional use. One example is a favorite living room coffee table built of solid cherry that allows half of the table to be raised for working with a laptop or having a snack. Laura Gunter, 53 and a registered nurse at Dulaney Eye Institute, appreciates the storage drawer underneath the table and packs it with spreads and quilts.

An L-shaped white leather sofa with tufted cushions provides optimum seating for several people, while two leather barrel chairs sit beside a lamp and table perpendicular to the sofa.

The Gunters are always thrilled with a special find that fits perfectly on a wall or in a corner. Just after they moved less than a year ago, they found a half-barrel-shaped wine cabinet that appears custom made for the area opposite the dining-room table and under the ledge of the kitchen opening.

Gleaming in Art Deco-inspired highly polished maple, the piece is a perfect complement to a dining-room family heirloom, a cabinet belonging to Laura Gunter's grandmother and dating to the Victorian period. The mahogany piece, a melange of styling, boasts intricate carvings, inlaid bezel mirrors and two side cabinets of glass shelving behind glass doors.

Two bedrooms and bathrooms, along with Brian Gunter's office, form the side wings of the U-shaped condo. Both master bedroom and office have doors that provide access to a central, covered porch, a special place for relaxing.

Brian Gunter notes that the view of townhouses from the porch provides "that all-American Main Street feel," as the couple watch residents pass, chatting and walking their dogs. Two wicker chairs, with a small ottoman, coffee table, bistro dining table and electric grill all fit like puzzle pieces in an area that is cozy without being cramped.

"There is nothing like early-morning reading and meditation [here]," Gunter said. "It's quiet and peaceful."

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Making the dream

Dream element The Gunters' U-shaped condominium is located in the community of Highiew in Hunt Valley. The couple can take advantage of amenities that include a clubhouse, swimming pool, concierge service, cybercafe, gym and library/business center. The clubhouse even has a conference room, which Brian Gunter often uses for business meetings. He refers to this lifestyle as "a practice vacation, practice retirement," allowing them to save money over the next 10-15 years in preparation for the real thing.

Design inspiration "Laura is blessed with a keen creative gene; she has an incredible eye for color schemes and making any room come together," said Brian Gunter. Colors chosen in the condo's decor are cool shades of taupe and aqua, which offset the dark woods, such as maple and cherry, of the traditional furniture pieces as well as integrating with the subtle blue and tan patterns of the draperies made by Laura Gunter.

Location, location, location The Gunters point out that they are close to all five of their children and four grandchildren who live in Baltimore and Harford counties. Their new location trims more than an hour off Laura Gunter's commute time to Towson, while their church is only 10 minutes away and extended family lives in York, Pa.

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