The halls of Charlestown retirement community are wide, lushly carpeted and brightly lit, calling to mind those of five-star hotels. Framed landscapes and still-life prints hang on the walls, and the occasional quilt or glass cabinet of curios suggests an art gallery.
Shelves beside the entrance of each residence, initially designed as a spot to set heavy items while unlocking the front door, are rarely used for that purpose. Instead, each shelf reflects the personality of the home's owner by way of seasonal decoration, photographs or an artistic arrangement of memorabilia. Likewise, most residents decorate their front doors with welcome plaques or wreaths.
At the end of the hall, the shelves outside the home of Charles and Sondra Tucker have an arrangement of fall leaves around a framed print called "Approach of Winter," which shows a cabin in the snow beside a stream and trees.
Once inside, the circular layout, large windows and a glass door that leads to a patio and garden give the place more of a bungalow feel than a one-floor unit.
"The things I like most [are] a separate dining room and a patio garden," said Sondra Tucker, a retired kindergarten teacher.
And a seat at the dining room table affords a complete scan of the large living room, patio and galley kitchen or, as the couple refers to it, "a two-butt" kitchen."
The couple, who lived in South Carolina, was planning to downsize when their daughter in Catonsville told them about Charlestown in April 2008. Their house on Lake Murray sold in one day. They had 90 days to move out and sell most of their furnishings, putting into storage only what they thought they would need. During an additional three-month wait, they rented a camper and moved to the beach.
"We're adventurous people; we liked moving [and] we were starting a new chapter," Sondra Tucker said.
In November 2008, the Tuckers took possession of their two-bedroom, two-bathroom residence, where they made changes and additions such as dining room chair rails and crown molding throughout the home. They also had wood laminate placed on the floors, ceramic floor tiles installed in the two bathrooms, customized shutters hung at all of the windows and blinds and cornices at the patio door. Charles Tucker estimates they spent $20,000.
Charles Tucker, a retired professor at the University of South Carolina, saw the move as a smart thing to do. "There's a time in peoples' lives when a house becomes a burden, friends move away, and you're far from medical care," he said.
"Here, we don't have to worry about any maintenance," his wife continued.
A monthly service fee pays for utilities, upkeep, maintenance and one meal each per day. The couple can also take advantage of on-site amenities that include a medical center with seven full-time physicians. Residents are also assured of a smooth transition to on-site assisted living if needed.
"Being here is a gift to our children," said Sondra Tucker. We've taken care of what we're going to do for the rest of our lives."
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Making a dream home
Dream element:: The Tucker home is in Charlestown, an Erickson retirement community in Catonsville, Baltimore County. Their first-floor, two-bedroom residence has a covered outdoor patio and a garden. Within the community, they are steps away from shopping, activities such as billiards and an exercise room, an art studio, library, indoor pool and five restaurants.
Design inspiration:: Knowing they were moving from a 2,500-square foot home in South Carolina to a 1,100-square foot residence in Charlestown, Sondra Tucker planned her decor ahead of time. She and her husband sold much of their furniture, opting to buy choice pieces that are scaled to their smaller residence without sacrificing style and comfort. The couple also took advantage of Charlestown's policy of encouraging residents to add personal touches to their home. From crown molding and custom paint colors to choosing hardwood flooring, Sondra Tucker notes that the residence "looks pretty much [like] a smaller version of our former home."
Personal touch:: In addition to customizing the home, the Tuckers turned an entire wall in the hallway into a family photo gallery, going back to great grandparents. They also hung their original artwork collected over the years, many of the pieces picked during their world travels.