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Sports retreat

What began four years ago as an idea for a small weekend retreat soon morphed into plans for a full-time, lodge-style homestead where Kip Fulks, one of the founding partners in Under Armour sports apparel, and his wife, Beth, could find permanent refuge.

"We wanted to build a house where we could grow old together," said Kip Fulks, the 37-year-old senior vice president of outdoor and innovation for Under Armour. "[So] we had to build a home that would be exciting to wake up to every day."

Susan Major, owner of the Hestia Design Group in Columbia, was a key player in the house's story from the very beginning, as the Fulks admired her work and took her on board as decorator and adviser.

"Kip is a big outdoorsman [and] Beth is very fashion forward," she said. "We were going for [a décor] both rustic and refined. The outdoors was brought indoors."

Like the house with its generous 6,500-square feet of living space, the land on which the home sits takes up 15 acres, both graded and ruggedly hilly.

Kip Fulks purchased the land in northern Baltimore County back in 2004. He had no immediate plans for development since he and Beth, 30, were happily ensconced in an urban mode, living in a home in Federal Hill. It wasn't until two years later that building began on the property.

The couple decided on a timber frame, rambling-style. The construction company Fulks hired used a combination of white and red oak found in an old barn on the property to create beamed ceilings on the home's main level. The old wood soars to a 25-foot cathedral ceiling in the great room. Cedar shake and stone, along with a steeply pitched, tin roof forms the exterior.

Wanting the Fulkses to feel that the home was truly theirs, Major kept two adjectives in mind: contemporary and rustic. To achieve that delicate balance between the distressed and the polished, as well as to bring inside the feel of the all outdoors, became the primary objective for the "retreat," Major says.

That plan is realized even in the quarter-mile long drive that leads to the home. Sea grass, boxwood and large colorful hibiscus follow the line of the driveway to the front door. Further down the hill, Black-eyed Susans sway in the breeze that whistles past the rocks and boulders surrounding the shimmering aqua water of an infinity pool.

Two imposing walnut doors open onto a breathtaking interior, every bit as large as the lobby of an intimate hotel in the Swiss Alps. The successful melding of metal, stone and several types of wood present a rural, mountain feel tempered by the sleek contemporary touches of leather furniture, casted concrete end tables, granite countertops and floors of Brazilian teak.

A table set between the kitchen and great room is topped with a single sheet of exotic matumi lumber. Measuring 44-inches by 84-inches, it is set upon legs of cold, rolled steel and surrounded by maple chairs with wicker backing. A cast iron chandelier with equal disbursement of stone and wood presence, hangs over the table. Branch-like "arms" display tiny white lights at their ends.

"Beth and I think our favorite room in the house is the kitchen," Kip Fulks said. "With all the activities that take place there, it turned out perfectly."

Long and sleek in design, the kitchen's stainless appliances fit like gloves into oak cabinets. The center island features a stainless cooktop under an elaborate exhaust hood with pot rack. Two dishwashers straddle the sink, one for heavy cookware, the other for finer dishes.

"Anywhere from the great room to the dining room to the kitchen, we feel like we're [close] to one another," Kip Fulks said. "Everyone gathers around the kitchen.

No fabric is discernable in the entire main level. Instead, floor plants and cut flowers placed throughout the area soften the organic look of an interior that includes chandeliers fashioned from inverted wine barrels and a stone chimney that services three fireplaces in the home.

Oak framed windows and doors open on either side of the great room, one side to a wrap-around deck overlooking the pool and rolling hills in the distance and the other side to a garden with a waterfall.

Both the second level and the lower level are accessed by open staircases of highly polished wood and metal, and follow the same pattern of tastefully blending stone, metal, woods and leather with softer accent pieces hung on stucco walls, such as rural prints, or resting in chestnut cabinetry, like a well detailed decoy.

The steel patina on the tile in the basement compliments the bold colors of a colorful landscape hung at the end of the staircase. Distressed leather sofa and chairs are found in this level with French doors opening to a flagstone patio and outdoor kitchen. Additional space on this level has been created to include a workout room with state of the art equipment.

Major says the Fulkses, owners of two German shorthairs, made sure the pets were kept in the design picture. She designed, at their request, a room off of a first level breezeway that Major calls "dog town." Here, the couple's two dogs are comfortable on their beds or eating from their own bowls. There is even a sink for bathing the pets.

"Susan, with her little details, helped us make [the home] feel like ours," said Kip Fulks. "The pool, the landscape, the outdoor kitchen [and] the great room makes us feel like we're waking up on vacation."

Design tips

When designing or decorating a house, interior decorator Susan Major says homeowners should keep these elements in mind:

Flow. A house, she says, should be like a well-written novel – one where an overall tone is set and is supported by all of the details. You catch the details peripherally and you see that elemental design repeated throughout the house. In the case of the Fulks home, Susan Major came up with a design theme and two adjectives she would be loyal to: contemporary and rustic.

Landscaping. It should follow the footprint of excavation. For the Fulkses, retaining walls provide a "layered" look while balance and beauty is achieved through a variety of tree and flower sizes, shapes and color. The waterfall flows with the hilly upgraded of the back yard.

Decorating. Interior décor is a long process – designer and clients work together to an end result: the home must feel like it belongs to the owners.


Builder: Dreaming Creek Timber Frame Houses, Roanoke, Va., 866-598-4328,

Designer: Susan Major, The Hestia Group, Columbia, or

Pool and landscaping: Sunset Group, Crofton, 410-798-0617,

Metal fabricators: John Gutierrez Studios Inc., Baltimore, 410-889-5341,

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