Tammie Francis' favorite room in her Odenton townhouse is one that has only three walls.

"The room that I enjoy the most is my loft," Francis said of the light-filled space that transforms from home office to a place to unwind when she turns off the computer.

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It's where she spends most of her time. Some days, the program analyst for the Defense Information Systems Agency works there instead of in her office. Other times, she's curled up on the gray love seat watching TV or catching up with a friend. In warm weather, she opens the room's French doors and heads for the balcony.

The loft is part of an open look that Francis, 52, wanted in a home as she prepared to retire from a 21-year career with the Air Force. Seeking a place of a manageable size with conveniences and without wasted space, she settled on Town Center Commons, a development a few minutes from a MARC station, Fort Meade, major highways and shopping. In March 2012, about four months after she saw Ryan Homes' plans for a two-level townhouse with an open floor plan, she moved in. Francis was able to select certain custom options for the about 1,570-square-foot space, such as having the loft instead of a third bedroom.

Meanwhile, the former technical sergeant worked with Jill Valeri of The Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions in Ellicott City on a budget-minded decor with stylish lines and a pulled-together, informal look. Francis didn't want clutter, but she did want a home for items bought during overseas tours, wall space for her African-themed art and landing spots for her collection of elephant knickknacks. And she wanted it to be comfortable for movie nights with friends.

"I wanted to make it feel like somebody can be so comfortable and sit down, not worry. ... But I wanted it to have some class to it," Francis said. "I can put my feet up on the table."

Having the builder wire the house during construction to suit her needs meant her living room was ready for a television and speakers to be mounted, and she was able to install three of the home's four ceiling fans herself.

Seeking flexibility, Francis chose neutral tones for walls and furniture, with purple for accents. Walls throughout the home are shades of gray, and the ceiling downstairs is a deeper gray with a lavender undertone, framed by white crown molding. Damask drapes in muted plum can be drawn to cover the front-facing windows. Pillows on the living room's stone-color chenille microfiber sofa and deep gray chairs pull in the purple tones.

"If I got tired of purple, I could take my accent pillows out and put in another color," Francis said.

Wood planks top a sleek iron base in front of the couch for that table to put her feet up on; there's also a matching end table. Defining the seating area are patterned carpet tiles that form a rug in black, gray and white. If a drink spills or if Sasha, her dog, makes a mess on one, "I can just pick it up" to remove it for cleaning.

In the dining room, a glass-topped table is surrounded by a Craigslist find: four chairs upholstered in a weave of charcoal and grays.

Francis chose medium-tone wood cabinets for her semicircular kitchen, and for the countertops, black granite with hints of medium brown. She later added a tile backsplash that further picks up the brown tones. The same granite covers an island with two tiers — open enough to keep Francis involved with guests, but with a higher tier for serving.

To brighten a kitchen corner, Francis tucked a strip of LED lights under the cabinets. "It's on a timer. It's on at night, and it's on in the morning when I come downstairs," she said.

Artwork, items from her travels and her elephant trinkets create themes throughout Francis' home. An end table from Afghanistan with elegant carving and inlaid brass designs can be found in the living room; its counterpart is in the loft, alongside a a colorful area rug, also from Afghanistan. The art includes detailed prints in brown, black and white of African women, men and children; wooden masks; and a colorful needlepoint of a woman with a child in tow, made by a friend. Elephant figures even make an appearance in the guest bathroom upstairs, their trunks serving as towel hooks.

Francis added touches of glam to her purple-and-gray bedroom, while at the same time maximizing space — always at a premium in small homes.

"I wanted it to be a little bit queenish," she said.

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The tufted headboard is purple faux suede. Cabinets with mirrored doors are used in place of nightstands to provide more storage; they're topped with glass lamps with a touch of silver sparkle, and slender cutout mirror wall designs. She hired a company to outfit her two walk-in closets with shelving units and racks to better use the space. Below a bow window, which is enveloped in purple damask drapes, is a storage bench with purses inside.

For more storage, she replaced the mirror in her big bathroom with two medicine cabinets with mirrored doors, an Ikea find. "I needed space to put makeup, knickknacks, other things," she said.

Even space over the bathroom door is used: Francis added a shelf to hold a bag for traveling.

"I use every piece of my house," she said.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Send an email to homes@baltsun.com.

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