Karen Foltz finds comfort in symmetry. Add order and neatness and you have her version of the ideal home design.
But when Foltz and her husband were looking to move and could not find a house that offered the comfort she longed for, the solution was obvious — they would custom-build.
"I'm very particular," said Foltz, 48. "I went through book after book until I found the one." And when that happened, she removed the page from its binder, where it was filed under the chapter "Homes With Proven Character."
Foltz had chosen the quiet charm of classic Creole design. The steep, dormered roof and deep front porch appealed to the romantic in her, while columns and long, narrow windows evenly flanking the front entrance spoke to her sense of beauty and order.
The house would sit on a 15-acre, pastoral setting in Harford County that she and her husband purchased for $185,000.
Michael Foltz, a 45-year-old contractor and the owner of Bel Air Remodeling Co., called on his friend, Danny Baker of Baker Homes in Harford County, to oversee the project.
With an architect's slight modifications to the plans, construction began in early 2003. By the end of that year, the couple and their daughter, Nicholle, moved into the home.
In addition to the main house, the property contains a garden shed that is a replica of the house, two polo barns and a run-in stable. The couple spent $386,000 on construction of the house and outbuildings.
Interior furnishings were another matter for Foltz.
"I believe in quality, and I buy good things," she said. "One of my hobbies is interior design. I went room by room, [and] it took seven years. But that's how I spend my time."
Her method was no easy feat in a house boasting a formal living and dining room, a kitchen with breakfast nook, a great room, laundry/utility room, breezeway, two master suites — one on the ground floor, one on the second level — and two upstairs bedrooms.
As with the construction of the home, Foltz's creative hand lies in every aspect of the interior decor that she calls "country French elegance."
Every window and door has been treated to wooden shutters with imported fabric draperies and valances. Toile, a favorite look, is found on wallpaper and custom-upholstered furniture fabric. What is not in toile is embellished with folksy, authentic Provencal fabrics of warm red and yellow design prints. In addition to her fabric-covered furniture, in which maple and walnut are the woods of choice, she also fancies leather. All of the elements add to the comfy and cozy feel she craves for every room in the house.
The furniture was purchased new from high-end stores such as Simply Grand in Forest Hill and Jarrettsville Furniture. The few antique pieces she owns have been chosen from the stock of reputable sellers, since she does not like hunting for the odd bargain to refurbish.
Accessories for her home have been carefully collected and chosen, as well.
In the kitchen, which gleams in glazed maple cabinetry with under-mount and recessed lighting, you will find a large selection of Pistoulet, a handsome collection of dinnerware, serving pieces and accessories, such as jars with lids all colorfully decorated with painted flowers, vines and vegetables that evoke the light and colors of Southern France.
The formal kitchen and dining room feature elegant French decor such as New Orleans-style lead and crystal hanging chandeliers, a fancy cornice for the living room fireplace that had a prior life as a mantel in an old Baltimore rowhouse, and a French Country-style walnut dining table that seats 10 people under a beautifully faux-painted tray ceiling.
Asked about her favorite room in the house, Foltz, director of sales at a retirement community nearby, could easily say, with little exaggeration, "all of them" because each was the recipient of her impeccable treatment.
However, the master suite on the first level that she and her husband share is, hands down, her favorite room. She enjoys its soft colors, its river-rock fireplace laid center on the wall and flanked by two doors, its abundant French fabric on the bed and furniture pieces and the general sense of well-being produced by abundant light and symmetry.
"I love this room," she said. "It makes me peaceful, happy and content when I'm here."
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Making the dream
Dream element: The Foltz home sits high off the road on 15 acres of land, most of it wooded and accessible by a long, climbing driveway. From the deep front porch, the Foltz family can gaze down on the bucolic hills and farmland of Harford County.
Dream design: The custom-built home is classic Creole-style, a design also known as Southern Low Country. Characteristics of construction include low-sloping roofs with dormers, a long front porch with columns and railings, long windows and, most noticeably, symmetry of design — in this case, two wings on either side of the main section of the house, each with elongated, multi-paned windows.
Dream interior: Formal living room and dining room flank an interior hall ending at French doors to the large family room with beamed ceiling. Karen Foltz has heavily curtained the doors and placed a mahogany desk in front of them, noting, "I don't want the TV [situated above the great room's fireplace in the center, outside wall of the room] to be the first thing visitors see from the front door."