Keith Kratz grew up in White Hall in northern Baltimore County with happy memories of visits to the general store just across the two-lane street from his home.
"It was a mom-and-pop convenience store back then," he said. "There was even a gas pump out front."
Kratz, 49, hasn't strayed far from his roots. In fact, he purchased that general store in 2001 for $170,000. His intention was to turn the property, sitting on 2.2 acres, into a home for himself and commercial space for his landscaping business, Outdoor Expressions.
The building had been renovated once before, but Kratz was embarking on a complete makeover, one representing the style that eventually led to three wins for his clients at the Maryland Home & Garden Show.
"I wanted to create a home that makes all who visit comfortable and relaxed, like they were outside at a garden party," Kratz said.
One major project was to raise the shingled roof on the two-story structure. He covered the exterior with deep-red vinyl siding with white trim.
Within a 2,000-square-foot interior containing two bedrooms and two full bathrooms, he built an enclosed mud room from the former side deck, moved a staircase from the back of the house to the living room, and constructed a sloping ceiling in the dining room. The living room and dining room had been the front of the store. He created a wall of windows in the dining room, calling his love of light "a reflection of what I do."
For his interior walls and ceilings, Kratz chose warm tones.
"I'm not afraid to use color," he said "Every [shade] is named after food or booze — there's 'Late Tomato' in the kitchen, where the ceiling is 'Margarita'; the dining room ceiling is 'Creamy Mushroom' with 'Lemon Mist' for the trim work."
As a complement to the colors in the kitchen, Kratz chose cherry cabinets, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances (including a 12-inch-deep, farm-style sink) and Bengali Earth porcelain flooring, its tiles of different widths and lengths. And because the kitchen is Kratz's favorite room, where he is always experimenting with cooking, he treated himself to a dual-fuel stove and oven.
For his living room, Kratz installed wide-planked Pergo flooring and, for an old farmhouse look, covered a chunky support beam with Pennsylvania fieldstone. He installed double molding on the beadboard ceiling and around the entrance from the kitchen.
A friend made living room draperies in a rich floral damask pattern and fashioned sofa pillows and a table runner with the extra fabric. Amid antique pieces in the room, such as old metal trunks and a tall pie safe, is a scroll-armed sofa and an oversized easy chair from Brandon Home Furnishings in Hunt Valley.
Perhaps no other room in the home reflects Kratz's decorative vision better than his second-floor bedroom and bathroom suite, accessed by his repositioned staircase with railings he saved from a wrought-iron fence.
An enormous flower arrangement in silk rests on a pedestal at the entrance to a bathroom with the feel of a tropical paradise. A shower of chiseled travertine with quartz grout is enclosed on one side by a multipaned Anderson window.
Beyond the shower and a sink with a carved mahogany cabinet, a bamboo floor leads to a raised level with a clawfoot tub. Half the wall there is a shade of fern green, half covered in travertine tiles, as is the floor under the tub.
Beside the tub is an inlaid wood gaming table, and a second carved wood sink sits across the room. Silk orchids are placed in pots throughout, while African masks cover the walls. Tasseled fabric is draped over an enormous, single-paned window overlooking the backyard.
"I like it bright," said Kratz of the diffused, almost white light reflecting off the bathroom's tin ceiling.
Kratz's bedroom across the hall, accessed by dark wood French doors, is furnished from Thomasville's Ernest Hemingway Collection. A large sleigh bed is positioned at an angle, and lighting installed behind a ceiling cornice spreads throughout the room. Tropical flowers and plants are placed on the cornice, while botanical prints decorate the walls.
An adjacent sitting room features an antique Queen Anne parlor set and wood masks and prints framed in bamboo hanging on grass wallpaper. Four floor-to-ceiling columns separate the seating area from the bedroom area.
"I have created so many relaxing outdoor rooms for clients over the years, I wanted that to reflect in my home," Kratz said.