SHERWOOD -- If your dreams put you amid the peaceful rustle of native grasses on a picturesque strip of private beach beside the Chesapeake Bay, then wake up quick, log onto HGTV.com and register to win.
Next month, the cable network will pick an owner for a brand-new, clean-angled house on 9 acres of bay-front land in this Talbot County community near St. Michaels.
It took five previous contests, with giveaways in Wyoming, Florida, South Carolina, Oregon and Maine, but for its sixth Dream Home HGTV has at last discovered Maryland.
"I can't wait to visit," says HGTV president Burton Jablin, confessing that although he has spent time in Maryland he has never been to the Eastern Shore. He'll be on hand when the house is presented to the winner in May.
There seems to be something natural about putting a Dream Home on the water -- and the Chesapeake Bay with its reputation for pleasant living is an obvious choice. Except for the first one, a log cabin near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, all the Dream Homes have been located on the water. Certainly, the homes seem to strike a chord, and this year the interest seems to be higher than ever.
Jablin says the network posted 2.2 million entries within the contest's first 12 days. That's several hundred thousand ahead of last year, when the prize was a seaside cottage near Camden, Maine. The vast majority of entries will come through the Web site, although it is possible to mail in an entry.
The winner will be lucky indeed -- his or her name will be picked from among several million entries. The new owner will be transported to the Maryland Dream Home the first weekend in May for a breathtaking introduction to a small but eminently functional and endearing house.
With three steeply pitched gables, the fully furnished house stands out crisply from its surroundings without overpowering the serenity of the setting. Wide, wraparound decks connect the house to the outdoors, and a courtyard draws together the main house and a separate guest lodging.
"The idea is to unclutter your life and go there on weekends," says architect Suman Sorg.
That's exactly what Sorg and landscape architect James van Sweden are doing. They have houses on adjacent property, each designed by Sorg and landscaped by van Sweden. Together with the Dream Home, the houses form an attractive 24-acre enclave with structures and gardens that blend into the landscape.
Sorg says she took her inspiration from her favorite buildings on the Eastern Shore, the barns and other simple structures common to agrarian areas.
"What I like about the architecture is that it's so functional," she says. "They are very simple forms, and yet elegant. They're for animals and farm machinery, and still they are beautifully proportioned. They sit among the trees and form part of the landscape."
Sorg's design provides lots of doorways to the outside and plenty of window space to let in light. And while the house has only about 2,800 square feet of interior space, the courtyard and the wide decks significantly extend the living area.
The gables define the inside living area -- a master bedroom and bath with a second bedroom directly above it, a two-story great room and, finally, a kitchen and gathering area with a loft that serves as a convenient, compact office. Each of the three areas has its own fireplace, along with sweeping views of water and grassy meadows and access to the decks.
The soft white and silver color scheme is offset by pine floors washed in a sea-blue stain. Entryways, baths and kitchen work areas feature surfaces of cast concrete.
The guest house offers a cozy, one-bedroom retreat, complete with bath and kitchenette.
Sorg's partners on the project, van Sweden and interior designer Linda Woodrum, are equally sensitive to the quiet beauty of the setting. Like Sorg, van Sweden's practice is based in Washington, but his partner, Wolfgang Oehme, lives in Baltimore. The two have published several books on the architecture of outdoor spaces.
Van Sweden likes to work in big, broad-brush sweeps, usually with native plants that require little maintenance and no chemicals and that can thrive on rainfall without needing extra water.
He also likes a landscape that changes with the seasons. When the grasses and perennials were planted, the wintry colors were so muted that someone described the gardens as looking dead.
"No," van Sweden told them. "It's they way they look in the fall. It's a dried bouquet."
Woodrum, the Hilton Head, S.C. interior designer for HGTV's annual Dream Home, says the landscape's muted colors and the Eastern Shore's distinctive quality of light inspired her approach to the house, an approach she describes as one that "doesn't overpower the outside with the inside."
Aside from furniture, pots and pans and even bath products, the Dream Home even includes a Chevrolet Trailblazer and, perhaps even more important given the location, a handcrafted kayak.
All in all, the winner will find the grand prize contains just about everything you could wish for in a Dream Home. Except of course, the cash to cover the taxes on a package worth $1.2 million. As in many similar giveaways, winners may have to sell or lease the prize to pay Uncle Sam.
But that doesn't end the dream.
Says Jablin: "They can sell it and get the money to build their own Dream Home. The good thing is the dream is still realized."
How to enter:
Log onto www.hgtv.com, click on the Dream Home icon and follow prompts to enter the contest. There is a limit of one entry each day per valid e-mail address.
Or hand-print your name, complete address and phone number either on a post card or on a separate piece of paper no bigger than 8 1/2 by 11 inches, and mail it to HGTV Dream Home Giveaway, P.O. Box 52148, Knoxville, Tenn. 37950. Entrants using the mail may enter as often as they wish, as long as they include only one entry per envelope. Mailed entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2002, and received by March 22.