Dream home

From summer family heirloom to year-round home

For The Baltimore Sun
The place where he grew up spending summers is now the site of Donald Tracey's year-round home.

Like so many new waterfront homes found on the banks of eastern Baltimore County's rivers, the Wrights' cottage on Bird River sits on inherited property.

And like so many owners of these properties — many of whom grew up visiting family there — the original summer beach house has been torn down and an efficient year-round home has been constructed.

In May 2014, Donald and Tracey Wright took advantage of the half-acre waterfront property left to Donald by his great-grandparents. After demolishing the summer house that sat there — and donating what was salvageable to Second Chance, a Baltimore store for reclaimed architectural materials — they hired Jon Skarda, president of Shore-Line Construction, to build them a year-round cottage based on plans they found on the Internet. He went right to work, and the couple took possession of their brick-and-cedar-shingle home in December.

The Wrights had one basic priority, masterfully fulfilled by Skarda in the $525,000 home.

"At our age, we wanted everything we need on the living level," said Tracey Wright, 57, a radiology technologist for Kaiser Permanente in nearby White Marsh.

And while the architectural design is basically a one-level rancher, its four high gables and front porch, along with a walk-out lower level at the back, make it appear much larger than its 2,600-square-foot interior.

The front door, with its tracery-style transom, opens onto a foyer with slate floors. Here sits an antique hall rack with a carved wood mirror and seat, a family heirloom. There is a powder room opposite the hall rack. Past the foyer and clear across the main level, three bays of windows and French doors open to a 12-by-30-foot deck overlooking the backyard and a 100-foot pier jutting into the Bird River.

After marveling at the view, one can take in the open kitchen, dining room and 25-foot cathedral ceiling towering over the great room in the central part of the home.

"Most of our time is spent in [the great] room, where we entertain and enjoy expansive views of the Bird River," said Donald Wright, a 59-year-old defense systems program manager.

Walls are painted a soft yellow; the decor is coastal traditional with all new pieces from Ashley Furniture. Tracey chose an aqua sofa and love seat in a durable fabric and cottage-style occasional tables of white wood with darker wood tops.

The dining room is adjacent to the great room. A vaulted ceiling and four columns define the area without closing it off, while a 10-by-4-foot walnut table that seats 10 and a matching buffet fill the space nicely without feeling crammed. An antique grandfather clock they purchased for their 25th wedding anniversary sits in a corner. Three windows behind the table offer a fine water view.

The custom kitchen sits at the front of the home's main section and includes Amish-built cabinets and shelving units, light granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances.

A sunroom and master bedroom suite are on either side of the home's central core.

The walls in the sunroom are painted aqua, while white-framed bay windows provide ample natural light. A multipaned door opens to the back deck.

"The view of the river [from this room] is beautiful and peaceful, making it the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a good book or do needlework," Tracey Wright said.

The master bedroom suite on the other end of the house features bay windows and a water view. The bath features a cherry sink topped with granite and a glassed-in shower stall lined with ceramic subway tiles.

Ceramic tile covers the floors in the lower level, where a large recreation room opens to a patio and the backyard. Two more bedrooms are on this level, as is a full bathroom.

Soft breezes blow through the trees on the expansive front lawn and through the wooded area beyond the yard, carrying the chirping of birds

"This home is in a quiet location with a beautiful view and is the perfect size for the two of us of us and our family," Tracey Wright said. It is "large enough for entertaining without being too large to maintain.

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Making the dream

Dream fulfilled: "The property has been in the family for many years and I've often thought of building a new home here," said Donald Wright. "We've been able to downsize while building an energy-efficient house with our desired upgrades."

Dream design: The Wrights consider their shore home a "house to live in." "This house does not have a lot of unnecessary rooms," said Tracey Wright. "The rooms we have, we use; they are not just for show."

Dream touches: Jon Skarda's architectural touches include built-in bookcases on either side of the gas fireplace in the great room; multipaned transoms over the French doors; transparent balusters on the deck that do not obscure the view; and chunky, craftsman-like trim, as found in the staircase to the lower level. Upgraded red oak flooring is found throughout the first floor.

Dream "green:" The couple is thrilled to have reduced the carbon footprint of their custom home, including the use of solar shingles. The house is projected to be 87 percent more efficient than a typical newly constructed home.

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