Customized tract house

The Baltimore Sun

Larry Strassner and David Reed are the first to admit that they have "over-customized" their Abingdon home. But the ambience they have created in the past 10 years suits their lifestyle perfectly.

In 1997, after a burglary at their Hamilton home in Baltimore, the men purchased a two-story, brick Colonial in the Harford County development of Timberwood.

The base cost of the four-bedroom, three-bath home was $180,000, but they sprang for upgrades that included all-wood flooring, ceramic kitchen tile, a cathedral ceiling in the master suite, two gas fireplaces and upgraded door moldings.

The total cost escalated to $242,000. And improvements didn't stop there.

"We created a custom home out of a typical model," said Strassner, 48, a chief nursing officer at Franklin Square Hospital Center. "We individualized our home to suit our taste and needs."

Individualizing an environment suited to the pair has cost an additional $200,000 and has incorporated a finished lower level, the installation of a 1,000-square-foot back deck the full width of the home and extensive backyard landscaping.

The home is at the bottom of a cul-de-sac on three-quarters of an acre. An open entrance hall is brightened by a second-level Palladian window. A traditional mahogany grandfather clock, its gold face reflecting the morning light, sits at the foot of an open staircase there, providing warmth and a sense of stability.

In a home constantly filled with friends and family, it is the kitchen and family room in the rear of the house that get the most use. Strassner and Reed have created a country kitchen, tastefully decorated in shades of aqua and sky blue. The crispness of the wall colors compliments 42-inch-high laminate cabinets in white. Black granite countertops and white tile backsplashes offer stunning contrast to stainless appliances. Softening the look are a round pedestal table, matching chairs of birch wood, and several Tiffany-style hanging lamps in a dragonfly pattern.

The decor of the adjoining family room is highlighted by carpeting of tartan plaid in shades of blue and a pub-style furniture suite in brown leather.

A three-tiered entertainment unit in oak features glass doors and shelving along with dentil molding outlining its base and top. A black marble fireplace with an ornately carved wood mantle is flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows and has two transom windows directly above it.

"Three households combined to furnish [our] place," said Reed, 47, an employee of UPS, who has welcomed his mother to live with them.

The formal living and dining rooms on the opposite side of the kitchen reflect furnishings of an earlier, more formal period. The dining room displays a suite in walnut, its woodsy tone warm against a backdrop of tray ceiling and wood trim painted a deep shade of cranberry. Accent pieces in the room include original oil paintings of the Tuscan countryside by Larry Strassner's mother.

The formal living room boasts a Federal-style wood-frame sofa covered in peach-colored damask and a stately mahogany Queen Anne-style secretary.

An office, master suite and Mrs. Reed's bedroom and sitting room occupy the second floor.

The walls of the home's lower level are decorated with more than 100 framed posters of Broadway plays -- all of which have been seen by Strassner. Highlighting the whimsical club-basement decor are several neon signs, a fully stocked bar and a 73-inch Mitsubishi high-definition TV.

If you step beyond the door of the lower level, under the deck and to the gardens beyond, a stone path leads to an enchanted land that could never be imagined from the front of the home. Here, the property slopes downward, and the two men have taken advantage of the landscape to create a multilevel green space punctuated by several slate and rock pathways, a pond, a fountain, numerous and varied plants and wrought-iron lawn furniture.

"I water every morning and feed the fish. That's my time, and I enjoy it," David Reed said. "Our neighbors really enjoy looking down on our work."

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