After a 19-year renovation project, the result is a happy ending


DRIVE ALONG the shores of Wilde Lake, down Hyla Brook Road, until you come to a stone house. Standing at the corner of Pasture Gate Lane, the former 1830s blacksmith shop is the dream home of owners Bruno and Melinda Reich.

It was also a dream house for the producers of "Dream House," a program on Home and Garden Television (HGTV), a cable network devoted to home enthusiasts.

The house was featured in two half-hour programs on HGTV this month. The programs, filmed about once a week for two years, followed the final stage of the Reichs' remodeling project.

The blacksmith shop and two stone houses nearby were originally part of a large estate. Bruno Reich, 40, an architect and commercial builder, bought the 1,000-square-foot shop from his mother, Patricia Kittleman, in 1981.

He was 21 years old and had just received a degree in architecture.

"The roof was caving in and trees were growing out of the gutters," he said. "Water came in the walls when it rained and the doors were destroyed."

Bruno Reich's love for the stone house and for history led him to spend 19 years, and an estimated $600,000, on what may be the longest and most elaborate home-remodeling project in the history of Columbia.

Now the house is finished, except for a few odds and ends, he says.

If it weren't for his determination to see the project through, his life might have been very different.

He met his wife through the producers of the television show. Bruno and Melinda Reich were married last year and welcomed a daughter, Anna, to the family in July.

The house came to the attention of a producer at "Dream House" through an editorial in The Sun describing friction between Reich and the Columbia Association over architectural guideline violations.

Bruno Reich's project was not completed within the time allowed for renovations. The delay in completing the project led to tensions with neighbors and lawsuits from the association.

"I'm building the house to last forever," he said. "I wanted to show everybody that it's worthwhile to do things right."

The house has been renovated with details drawn from Gothic-style architecture -- pointed arches and leaded glass in the windows. The roof is covered with hand-split cedar shakes and anchored with copper nails.

Bruno Reich's admiration for Gothic architecture stems from his appreciation for quality materials, he says.

"It was the first time in history that architecture got beyond the basic post and beam," he said. "They were trying to create fantastic architecture with some really nice materials."

He incorporated fine materials into his house. The window frames are made of mahogany, the ledges a dark granite. The attic is finished in Brazilian walnut. Throughout the house are varieties of marble and unusual details, like a granite archway over the bathtub and carved beams on the nursery ceiling.

He says he used stone from the original building and from Moundland to reface the house and build a fence circling the property.

Moundland was an old Howard County manor near Route 32 and Guilford Road, Bruno Reich says. It was torn down in 1992. When he was growing up, he and his family used to pass the property on the way to church.

He bought 30 truckloads of stone from Moundland and had them delivered to the site on Hyla Brook Road.

"That's when the neighbors really started to get hot," he recalls.

He lovingly points out notches in the stone over the fireplace. "I look at those and imagine a German worker with hand tools chiseling out the stone and horses dragging the stones down Route 32."

It's almost a cliche that the pressures of a major home-renovation project can put stress on a marriage. Imagine adding the tension of a television crew filming every disagreement over design, materials and scheduling.

At one point in the television program, Melinda Reich threatened to deliver the baby in Tennessee and stay there with her parents until the house was finished, or at least had hot running water.

The Reichs say they aren't sorry they participated in the show.

"They didn't show it nearly as volatile as it was," said Melinda Reich, 38. "They were kind to me. A lot of the time I was pregnant so I was not in a good mood, and it didn't have anything to do with having a film crew here. After a while, you sort of just go about your business."

She says the worst part of the renovation was having 20 workmen around the house every day, and not being able to find her shoes in the mess.

Now that most of the work on the house is complete and legal issues with the Columbia Association are resolved, things have settled down with the neighbors, too.

Bruno Reich says the neighbors are like family to him, because he's been in the neighborhood so long. "Maybe we didn't get along for a period of time, but now that the house is done, I don't think anyone holds any grudges. I don't," he said.

His neighbors seem to agree. Hyla Brook resident Richard Blumenthal objected to living in the midst of construction for so many years and is glad the project is done.

"I think Bruno's bride deserves a lot of credit for insisting he get it finished," Blumenthal said.

Pasture Gate neighbor Barry Young is impressed by the final result. "It's a beautiful house. I know the value of the work in there, and they did an incredible job," he said.

Blumenthal and Young said they watched the "Dream House" segments featuring the Reichs' home.

And now the story is done -- until Bruno Reich mentions his plan for an addition to the house that includes a circular dining room, a larger living room, a master bedroom suite and a two-story porch overlooking the lake.

"That project might take some time," he says. "I think I'd better wait until the dust settles on the house first."

Pub Date: 9/15/99

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