When the Weiss family dreams of escape, a breezy vacation with water, boat rides and luxurious views, they can be kicking their shoes off within 40 minutes.
And they live in Howard County.
To do it, the Weisses have forsaken the Atlantic, turned their back the boardwalk and gladly cut ties to the Bay Bridge.
Their beach getaway rests on the banks of the Severn River.
The family used to vacation in Rehoboth Beach, which they loved but for the hassle of getting there. They realized that they could recreate that coastal vibe much closer to home by building a fantasy retreat in — of all places — Crownsville.
"It's like I take a deep breath when I open the front door," Sharon says. "When you look out at the water, you cannot help but be relaxed."
Weiss, whose demanding job drops her into the center of the region's cinema world, planning premiere parties and movie promotions, needed a weekend getaway that she could actually get to. So did her husband, Morris, who leads a forklift company.
Eight years ago the couple zeroed in on a scenic curve of the Severn called Little Round Bay. In love with the serene setting, they approached homeowners up and down Long Point Road, looking for someone interested in selling. With a hilly sliver of land finally theirs, they set on a year-and-a-half-long odyssey to build the retreat they saw in their minds.
They hired architect Daniel Ball from DBA Architects & Planners and builder Jim Dempsey to dispose of the property's tiny cottage and replace it with an 8,500-square-foot, four-story head-turner.
Though the Weisses will typically head for the weekend place with their two young children and Morris' father and mother, often Sharon's two older daughters will join them — and anyone in the group might want to bring friends. The house had to be able to accommodate a crowd — comfortably.
With seven bedrooms and 101/2 bathrooms, there's never a wait for the shower.
Light-filled and airy, the home is filled with contemporary furniture — most from the now-closed Rehoboth Beach store Abizak's. Soothing neutrals dominate the palette to best show off the couple's extensive collection of modern art, including pieces by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.
Sharon is particularly fond of the works of French pop artist Phillipe Bertho that hang in the living room.
"They're very whimsical and kind of capture who we are," she says. "We're not formal, stuffy people. We've very relaxed, and that's how we live our lives."
Of course, one could argue that the real masterpiece is the view, shown off in the main living space with near-floor-to-ceiling windows. Thanks to decking that stretches the length of the house — across two floors — almost every bedroom has a personal balcony from which to soak it in.
It's a short but steep decline from the back of the home to the water, one the couple made easier on themselves by installing a tram. At the water's edge, a 200-foot pier leads them to their boat house and two Boston whalers.
During the summer, the home becomes the family's main home — and they live most every moment outside.
Morris will lord over the grill while Sharon fashions fruit salads or her avocado-and-bean salad. The kids splash in the river. There's Jet-Skiing and tubing. Evening might mean a family boat ride to Annapolis for ice cream.
With Sharon's lifelong immersion in the world of movies, a home theater was a must. Theirs features a high-definition projector, surround-sound and a theater-worthy 10-foot screen. After popping popcorn in the room's microwave and pulling a cold drink from its fridge, the family tucks into the black leather sectional that decadently reclines.
The room also holds what could be Sharon's favorite detail of the home: Swarovski crystal sconces that resemble platters of diamonds perched on each wall. In a dim room, they throw fractured bits of pink and blue around the room — quite cinematic.
"There's nothing like being at a movie theater," Sharon says. "But being that we do like to watch movies, it was a no-brainer we were going to have a room like that in the house."
It was important to Morris that the home be both high-tech and energy efficient. In addition to low-E windows that rebuff heat, seven air-conditioning units and heated floors in every room, most of the home's elaborate systems can be controlled with a touch of a button. If the family programs it, lights in the master bedroom and kitchen will blink on for a high-tech good-morning. If they're crawling into bed and realize they left the lights on upstairs, a click of the bedside remote will fix that.
"I want things to be the way I want them to be," Morris Weiss says. "And this is exactly the way I wanted it."