Dream home: All in the family with open layout in Annapolis

What began with Marie Halka's desire last spring for a different color on one wall turned into updating the family room and more, all in time for a 100th birthday party over the summer for the older man of the house: her father.

"It started with changing the accent wall color in the family room," Marie Halka recalled. "Then I realized the [dining room] draperies would have to go." And so on.


The main floor of the two-story Annapolis home features a light-filled, pulled-together look without a major overhaul. The family room is comfortable for Jeff and Marie Halka and her father, Louis Vacca; other updates blend in.

The flow among the rooms of the home they share was perfect for Vacca's birthday bash in June.

"A friend did magic tricks for kids in the living room. The bar was set up in the sunroom," Marie Halka said. Food was served in several places. About 50 guests roamed between the home's main floor and backyard, where a tent stood.

In 2010, the Halkas faced a quandary familiar to baby boomers — how to help aging parents who can't live alone and must rely on their middle-aged children nearby. The couple imagined a home where Marie's parents could live comfortably — with them.

"We sold both the houses [her parents' and theirs] to buy this house, something to accommodate all of us," Marie said. It was just about move-in-ready.

The four-bedroom, 4½-bathroom house features a mostly open first-floor layout, big windows and soaring ceilings.

"We describe it as a skyhouse because of the windows," Marie said.

Life under one roof has meant balancing privacy (a den in the finished basement offers a little distance) and togetherness (the family room is a natural hub).

It also meant mixing furnishings from two houses in Severna Park so the older couple would have familiar items in the new, unfamiliar setting. The main-level master bedroom suite was a must for one-floor living for the older couple (Marie Halka's mother has since died); the Vaccas relocated their bedroom furnishings there to create a retreat in coastal blues in the suite, which has a sunny sitting room.

Initially, a decorator helped combine the furniture. For example, the living room features the Halkas' furniture, reupholstered in subtle gold, greens and ivory, as well as her parents' antiqued dining room buffet and Asian-style artwork that was a gift decades ago from the older couple to the younger.

Few changes were made on the home's main floor after that. Until this spring.

Marie Halka asked Jean Phillips and Tatiana Beckham, partners in Flair Interior Design, of Annapolis, to help choose a color for the accent wall in the bright family room. That wall has windows above and on each side of the fireplace and television built-in.

It's now a subdued gray-green, carried through from the adjacent dining room.

"It changed the demeanor of the room," Marie Halka said. More changes ensued.


Ample seating now comes from two couches in a gray weave with ivory threads; the cushion testers, Jeff Halka and Marie's father, chose firm cushions.

Asked about living in the house, Vacca, who spends much of his day in the family room, replied, "It's good, it's good."

He spends the earlier part of his day reading in the sunlight on the smaller couch and the early evening watching television there, often with the Halkas.

The Halkas already had the glass-topped teak table with a convenient shelf below for books and the like.

A muted blue and gray upholstered round ottoman adds extra seating and color. On wheels, it's easily rolled out of the way, but mostly is in front of the television, where it's too low to block the screen.

Hues of blue and more light come from a ceramic lamp on the Vaccas' drum end table. Blues show up again in decorative pillows on the couches that unify the colors in the room, down to the beige carpeting.

A few longtime features keep clutter at bay, Marie Halka said: There are cabinets below the television, a basket behind a couch hold magazines, and "odds and ends" hide in the drum table.

In the dining room, sheer drapes with a tone-on-tone white line, filter light, as Marie Halka wanted. They hang from the edge of the crown molding to the floor.

Kitchen updates were blended in.

"I wanted to add the backsplash," she said. Adding visual interest below and above classic wood cabinets are 1-inch mosaic tiles in beiges with hints of gray that don't compete with the light granite counters.

In a nod to a current trend and desire for more light, three creamy glass pendant lights were installed over a breakfast bar that opens into the family room. They increase illumination in the kitchen, which is an interior room, and family room.

The breakfast bar keeps the cook involved in goings-on beyond the kitchen.

"It's really easy to entertain in this house," Marie Halka said.

Updating the breakfast room are a chandelier with a drum shade over the table — which once was the Vaccas' dining room table — and sleek cornices in stripes of beiges, gray and ivory top the windows.

A new round rug in navy blue bordered in ivory gives the home's entry an interesting and fresh look as soon as the front door is opened.

Marie Halka said the space blends with the adjacent living room, where a new Oriental rug picks up the blue and living room's colors, along with the neutrals in what she calls the "ancestry room."

Besides her desk, that room holds family photos and mementos like a pocket watch that belonged to Marie Halka's grandmother and a pipe owned by Jeff Halka's grandfather. "We enjoy family history and dabbling in genealogy," she said.

Brought from their former home, the Halkas' wicker furniture with scarlet cushions fills a sunroom that opens to a composite deck and landscaped yard with a pool. Starting with the first year they were in the house and had a Christmas party for neighbors, the sunroom has been a place to entertain.

"Even though that room is not weatherized … one little space heater boosted the temperature in the room for 18 people," Marie Halka said. In warm weather, the Halkas eat an early breakfast there under the breeze of the ceiling fan.

Upstairs are three bedrooms: the Halkas' with a walk-in closet; their adult daughter's bedroom — she's a fashion designer in New York and the walls display her creations — and Jeff Halka's office.

Getting occasional use is the finished basement, which includes a bedroom, exercise equipment and the den with a wet bar.

Vacca likes being outdoors in the summer, and in the living room in cooler months when the sun warms it, his daughter said. The home's bright setting gives Vacca comfortable one-floor living — he isn't using the basement or pool as he's less active than he was seven years ago — and his birthday party had dozens of birthday party guests enjoying it too.

Living the dream

Dream realized: The Halkas wanted her parents to live with them in their later years without either couple feeling cramped, Marie Halka said. "It was the right size and the right location in terms of privacy and convenience to combine our houses to help them age." The first-floor master suite for the older couple was particularly helpful after Marie Halka's mother broke a leg.


Dream design: The Halkas updated the family room and the main floor without major disruption to create a relaxing area. Generous space around furniture ensures that Vacca's path is open and offers ample room when entertaining, Marie Halka said. The transitional décor is just what they wanted.

Dream location: The Halkas like being close to major roads and shopping in a home that abuts a peaceful, wooded area. Retired from her position as a manager at the Maryland Department of the Environment, Marie Halka is her father's chief caregiver. Jeff Halka, also retired, consults part time in geology.