Designing the perfect downsize in Bowleys Quarters

After a four-year search for the perfect piece of waterfront property on which to build their dream home, Mike and Lana Condon hit the jackpot in November 2011. A little cottage, bearing the water damage of countless summer storms and winter winds, sat on 1 acre on the banks of the Middle River in the eastern Baltimore County neighborhood of Bowleys Quarters.

The Condons purchased the double lot -- with old trees providing shade on the street side of the property and a sweeping plain of open lawn to the original bulkhead and pier on the river -- for $362,500.

"With the size of the lot, any [home] design was an option," said Mike Condon, a 48-year-old search-and-rescue pilot for Baltimore County.


With the help of his brother, Chris, he came up with a design for the home. In the spring of 2012, the Condons supervised the monthlong deconstruction of the original cottage, donating the interior lumber to Second Chance, a nonprofit organization in Baltimore City that, among other things, salvages building materials for resale to the public.

Shoreline Construction Co., hired to build the house, began work in September 2012. Eight months later, the Condon family — Mike, Lana and their two children, Casey, 22 and Kyle, 19 — moved into their three-level, contemporary-style shore home, with its top two floors coming in at a total of 2,600 square feet of living space. It's a far cry from their five-bedroom home in Harford County, but none of them minded the downsizing.

"We like the minimalistic look," said Lana, a 48-year-old labor and delivery nurse at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air. "We scaled back to three major living [spaces] on the second level.

"To me, it's all about the view."

The first floor features a two-car garage, storage space and a rough-in for an elevator. A flight of stairs leads to the main floor and — the family says — the main event. With interior dimensions coming in at 30 feet wide by 43 feet deep, the west-facing wall of windows and sliders to a deck measuring the entire width of the home is the star of the show.

"This great room is my favorite, because of the view," Mike said. "[With] the water, wildlife, weather, sunlight, moonlight and boats, there is always something to see."

The Mission-style dining room table and matching chairs have been set perpendicular to the north end of the wall of windows, while the living area is on the opposite side of the great room, with seating arranged around a fireplace of dry-stack stone.

Central to the great room, the kitchen features deeply stained cherry wood cabinets hung against walls painted eggshell white. A two-level island is fashioned of the same cherry wood (concealing storage and shelf space) and topped like the rest of the countertops in speckled tan-and-brown granite.


Side rooms off the front hall include Mike's office, a powder room and a laundry room. In his office, where walls are painted olive green, shelving units display several models of aircraft he has flown. He makes note of a few of them, including an Airbus AS350B3, which is his current search-and-rescue helicopter, and a Northrop T-38 Talon, a twin-engine supersonic jet trainer he flew during pilot training.

"The shadowbox over my desk was presented to me from my squadron at the end of my service as the 135th OSF Commander, which is the C130-J Squadron at Martin State Airport," he said. "I had the privilege of serving with the men and women of the 135th Airlift Squadron during several deployments [to] both Iraq and Afghanistan. The other plaques in the office are awards from my service. The Air Medals were given for flying the C130-J in combat. The Silver Star was from Baltimore County."

Two large bedrooms and a shared full bathroom are on the third level, along with the Condons' master suite with a walkout balcony.

"The sunset views here are amazing; each day the clouds are a little different so no two sunsets are the same. When you add the sounds of the waves breaking on the shoreline and the wildlife, it really is like a dream," Mike said.

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Creating the dream


Dream Realized: "For me, the best part of the house [is] coming home from work, opening the front door and having that spectacular water view to enjoy for the rest of the evening," said Lana Condon. "It has always been our dream … to move to the water once our children finished high school. Mike has spent many years searching for the right waterfront lot to build on. He meticulously designed our home with the help of his brother, Chris, and then Shoreline Construction.

Dream Design: In reference to the home's design and construction, Mike Condon said: "It is a tie between the energy efficiency of the house and the layout. The house has a geothermal HVAC system, LED lights and exceptional insulation that keep our utility bills around $110 a month, even in the extreme [weather] months. The advantage of designing your own house is everything is exactly where you want it. This is the first time I ever had a chance to design a house."

Dream Spaces: "My favorite area of the house would be our great room," Lana said. "I love the open floor plan and wall of windows, especially during the late afternoons. On sunny days, the water sparkles, and the sunsets are breathtaking."