Off and on, Paula and Dennis Henry contemplated leaving their Reisterstown home, considering downsizing as they looked to a future as empty nesters.
"It's a lot of house for just the two of us," Paula Henry said of the 3,342-square-foot, two-story house on more than four-fifths of an acre. Ideally, she thought, "I'd like to really be in a rancher."
Paula Henry, founder of interior designer firm Simply Put Interiors, wanted to gut and redo a single-story house, but periodic house hunting for one that fit their vision was a bust for the Henrys, now in their 50s and married for two decades.
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Last year, the Henrys made a "full commitment" to their house. And, as it turns out, their nest hasn't gotten so empty. The couple remade their home to suit a lifestyle in which barely a week passes without entertaining.
Their home was nicknamed "Camp Henry" for the hospitality they've extended since moving in in 1999 and adding an in-ground backyard pool — a magnet for family and friends. A sign in the family room proclaims: "Happy campers live here."
The "campers" lived through several recent years of improvements — notably a kitchen remodeling five years ago. Continued renovations included giving the home's brick front a makeover — adding a portico and black front door, shutters and garage doors. A new roof, being installed this year, will be the last of the large projects.
Meanwhile, Paula Henry built a unified palette of ivories, taupes and beiges, punctuated by shades of purple.
"Purple is my favorite color," she said. "I like there to be continuity between the rooms. They're not furnished in the same style, but there is still a continuity."
The walls, window treatments and furniture in neutral tones create a backdrop for everything from family photo collections to wall medallions. Furnishings come from decorator showhouse rooms that Henry has done, along with finds from the collectible and consignment shops that she scours for clients.
Henry wanted flexibility and ease of entertaining. Tabletop decor is quickly replaced with food and drink; the family and living rooms have additional seating; and layers of lighting can change a space's ambience.
In the kitchen, where sun streams in through sliders to the deck, purple covers the walls — though there's little open wall space. Shades of the color are also prominently featured in the glass mosaic tile on the backsplash and side of the island.
"My favorite thing in this kitchen is the island," Henry said. She replaced a small island with a longer one with a black-veined beige granite surface and a cooktop. (Leftover granite tops the main floor's powder room vanity and the wet bar in the finished basement.)
The tiered island also has an elevated decorative shelf. Black granite with a matte leather finish — same as all the other countertops — it's where guests mingle and nibble while chatting with the cook.
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The lighting in the room can take the kitchen from bright workspace to what Henry calls "dressy" for evening gatherings. Beneath the island's shelf are glass-door cabinets that can be illuminated from within. Across the room, under-cabinet lights set the blacksplash aglow.
Open to the kitchen, the family room's gold walls were painted using the strie technique to add texture and lines, and topped with stenciled leaves. "As the light changes, they change," Henry said.
Sun shines though the windows — framed by drapes that blend with the wall — and two large skylights, keeping the room bright all day.
A roomy ivory sectional has a floral and leaf motive in shades of moss green with gold highlights, picking up the walls' tones. Two deep chairs upholstered in ivory complete the U-shaped seating area, or can swivel to face the TV. A long cabinet, a $75 antiques shop find, was painted and extended to create a built-in. Twin purple ottomans add a pop of color in the corner and can join the party when there's a call for more seating.
The once-pink living room, now in pale tones, features a small, playful rug made of silky ribbon and an eye-catching silver leaf finish on the ceiling. Purple books, pillows and artwork provide an accent.
"I could take the purple out of here and put in any color I want," Henry said.
Henry updated the ivory and taupe dining room, finishing last year with a taupe ceiling and new wallpaper. One of the room's pieces is a custom sideboard from a decorator showhouse; the matching etagere is in an upstairs guest room, one of two that used to be kids' rooms.
"There is nothing in the room that was meant to go together. It just sort of evolved," Henry said.
The dining room also features a ventless fireplace mounted on the wall at eye level. On the opposite wall, a strategically placed mirror makes it so "wherever you sit, you can see the fire," she said.
Upstairs, the master suite is a retreat. In the master bathroom, redone a year ago, a jetted tub gave way to a sleek oval tub. Above it hangs a small chandelier with wood beads, adding a touch of earthy elegance. Replacing the bathroom door with a pocket door provided enough wall space to add a chair.
The bedroom decor comes from one Henry designed for a decorator showhouse, from the canopy bed to the drapes tweaked to fit the couple's windows. All that's left to do is recarpet.
Henry heeded advice not to disturb the black ceiling with glow-in-the-dark stars when transforming her stepson's old "Star Wars" bedroom into a guest room.