Couple's dream becomes reality on Harford ridge

THE BALTIMORE SUN

For more than 20 years, Gus and Kathleen Strakes visualized a dream home that would accommodate their lifestyle, hobbies and love of cooking and entertaining.

In September 2000, after a five-year search, they purchased a 7 3/4 -acre lot in the Monkton area. With ample input from the couple, Trinity Home Builders of Bel Air constructed a Georgian-style mansion on the property's highest ridge.

The 7,000-square-foot, terra cotta brick home, together with the land, cost the couple $800,000. They have spent an additional $125,000 on fencing, a patio and pool, landscaping and a small barn for Kathleen Strakes' two horses. The home features five bedrooms, six full bathrooms, a powder room and a finished basement.

"We're smack-dab in the middle of Maryland horse country," says Kathleen Strakes, 46, who with her husband, Gus Strakes, 59, owns a regional payroll-service company. "I love horses and fox hunting; he loves to work on sports cars."

Curved iron gates loom from the fenced-in property off Jarrettsville Pike in Harford County, just across the Baltimore County line. Electronically controlled, they open to a tree-lined road leading uphill toward the circular driveway in front of the home. Four Doric columns stand sentinel at the entrance of the main section, which faces east. Sloped roofs top the north and south wings, providing symmetry of design.

Double doors of wood and beveled glass open to the entrance hall. Here, white marble flooring features a diamond-pattern dotted with black marble. A winding staircase rises to the second floor's open and circular layout.

South of the main hall, the living room is defined by four floor-to-ceiling columns. Triple molding, 8 inches wide, frames the ceilings. All of the molding is painted white providing contrast to the sand-colored walls. Two white, silk tuxedo-style sofas face each other, separated by an octagonal glass coffee table. A black marble fireplace (one of four in the house) is in the room, which also includes an oriental carpet in shades of rose, beige and black and green satin swags over two Palladian windows.

Near the entrance hall, the 18-foot-by-20-foot dining room features an oval ceiling lavished with four layers of crown molding. The room's standout is a 4-foot-by-10-foot double pedestal mahogany table. Twelve chairs of Chippendale design are upholstered in cream silk brocade. A black marble fireplace with mahogany mantel also is featured.

The couple considers the first level their living and entertainment area. The center section houses the great room, painted a deep red. The west wall, facing the outdoor patio and pool area, is semicircular - its three sections dominated by floor-to-ceiling Palladian windows. From here, the couple can look out over their barn, paddocks and the hills of Harford and Baltimore counties.

The room's decor is country, with an overstuffed sofa and chairs upholstered in red plaids and chintz. The south portion of the room includes a four-section bar in cherry wood.

"Everybody gathers around the bar and the family room," says Kirsten Greenwell, a longtime friend of the couple. "That's what [makes] the floor plan so well thoughtout."

Beyond the bar, a hallway that includes a hand-painted countryside mural leads to the south wing. French doors on one wall of this wing open to Gus Strakes' study. The east portion houses a living area, bedroom and bathroom. A staircase leads to a second-level room that Kathleen Strakes refers to as "potential in-law quarters."

A family room and kitchen, both decorated in French Provincial style, lie beyond French doors north of the great room's double-sided fireplace. Cream colored pine cabinetry coordinates with chintz window fabrics in pastel shades and stainless steel appliances.

The north wing has a three-car garage. A back staircase on the north wall of the kitchen, adjacent to the garage, leads to the second-level master suite. Here, a bleached-oak furniture set includes a tall four-poster bed. The marble bathroom off the suite contains a separate, glassed-in shower and Jacuzzi, and double-sink area.

The second level also boasts two guestrooms, each with its own bathroom. Both are decorated in whimsical, airy motifs. The couple's teenage son, Matt, occupies the level's fourth bedroom and bathroom suite.

A partial circular stairway leads to the third level, which is used for storage.

The basement is the family recreation area and includes exercise equipment, pinball and air hockey machines and a pool table.

"This level was designed for fun," says Gus Strakes, pointing out an entertainment center that includes a 65-inch TV.

Acknowledging their love for the country and easy accessibility to Towson and the Baltimore Beltway, Kathleen Strakes adds: "We feel like we've landed. This house meets all of our needs."

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