H-shaped house in Harford County fits couple to a T Former Chicago residents prize their rural location


From the nine-foot windows of their family room, Libby and John Strahorn overlook Harford County's rolling countryside and, they say, they'll never tire of the view.

It's a big change from their last address: the 55th floor of a Chicago skyscraper.

Sometimes they miss the bright lights and the glamour that comes from living in a major city, but say they are glad they decided to retire near Fallston.

Their modern home was built to take advantage of the 225 acres of farmland and forest that surround it. The land has been in Mrs. Strahorn's family for four generations.

"We always wanted to come back and have our last house near family," said Mrs. Strahorn, the oldest of nine children. "Now we are not only near my parents, brothers and sisters, but three of our five children also live in the area."

As soon as Mr. Strahorn made plans to retire from his job as vice president of Chicago Bank & Trust, Mrs. Strahorn started looking at blueprints for their retirement home.

The Strahorns, both 56, said the H-shaped house with 3,700-square feet of living space, an equally large unfinished basement, an attic large enough for a bowling alley and a two-car garage, will definitely be their last.

After careful consideration, the Strahorns decided to build a modular house. The modular components, from Blueprint Builders in Baltimore, allowed them to build quickly and more economically.

"I will never forget watching my entire kitchen, including the appliances, dangling in the air from a crane," said Mrs. Strahorn. "It was a moment of great anxiety."

Mr. Strahorn compares the construction to a modern day barn raising. The house arrived in six sections on five trailers.

Built into a hill, the house has 65 windows to showcase the changing seasons. The master bathroom, for example, has an oversized glass-enclosed shower with a window overlooking the rolling hills. The adjacent Jacuzzi is edged with two windows as well.

But the Strahorns say their favorite view is from the family room. ++ The great room, as they call it, has nine-foot windows on three sides.

"There is no need to shut out the view with curtains. Only beef cattle, geese flying at fighter level and turkey buzzards could look into the windows," Mr. Strahorn said.

The room, with a 12-foot cathedral ceiling and two ceiling fans, also has an oversized ceramic tile fireplace. A Berber rug is laid into the oak hardwood floor.

Seven-foot windows in the master bedroom also provide a view of the countryside.

The Strahorns have been told that the house is too big for two people and Mrs. Strahorn agreed: "We clearly built more house than two people need, but the house was built with entertaining in mind."

Mrs. Strahorn added that she always wanted a home big enough to hold huge family dinners. "After living away for so many years, my family has already told me I'm responsible to cook Christmas dinner from now on," she said.

Working in the kitchen, located in the center of the open and airy "H"-shaped house, Mrs. Strahorn said she can visit with her guests in the adjacent great room.

The Strahorns' dream house was also designed with a future in mind. Instead of steps, a ramp leads from the garage into the house, providing wheelchair access. And brass levers instead of traditional doorknobs were installed on all doors for easier opening.

L "It's a house that can grow old with us," Mr. Strahorn said.

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