Anne and Corky Franklin had lived in their Maple Lawn house just a year and a half when Anne Franklin saw a builder's sign down the street on a corner lot and decided "this was the lot for me."
It backed up to open space, a wooded conservation area was next door – and she was taken by all that green outdoors.
"This morning I went out to the screened porch, and I heard the birds chirping in the trees," she said during a spring day in her new home. "And there were birds in the birdhouse we put up last year. The trees are turning green. I sat down to have my breakfast. I love it here."
In 2015, after working with Williamsburg Homes and interior designer Michele Drury of Drury Lane Interiors in Ellicott City on plans for the new place, the couple moved in. Last summer, the Franklins added a patio and the porch.
"I always wanted a screened porch," Anne Franklin said. "I love to sit out here when it's raining. You don't get wet and you're still outside."
A sign on the porch says "RELAX," and that's what everyone does there, she said, whether eating at the teak table or unwinding in the blue-cushioned seating.
"I really had some very specific design ideas for that porch – a center door when you go down the porch stairs, a white railing," she said.
Franklin said the views from the porch complement those from inside the four-bedroom, 3 1/2-bathroom house, which has an open floor plan.
"I love it," she said. "It's open, yet it feels comfortable and welcoming." That goes for visitors of all ages – especially her grandchildren.
It has exactly what the couple wanted in the Howard County community, including a layout that works well for gatherings of all sizes, and it has a first-floor master bedroom suite.
"We had Corky's 60th birthday party here, and the flow was amazing," Franklin said, noting that at least 50 guests attended. "People used every room."
That's what the couple – Anne is a real estate agent and her husband is in car sales – had in mind.
"It has so much light," Franklin said. Ten-foot-high ceilings and big windows allow sunlight to pour into every room.
The Franklins knew they'd use their furniture, most of it in traditional style, in the new house. They liked the decor's color basics – grays, whites and wood accented with colors in upholstery and artwork.
"We had this wall built here specifically for this piece," Franklin said, pointing to a wood curio cabinet against a sliver of wall that divides the wide hallway from the living and dining spaces. Franklin filled the cabinet with such keepsakes as her great-grandmother's decorative pitcher, her mother's lacquer boxes from Russia and her own porcelain lemon tree from Italy.
Against the wood floors and gray walls – a shade with a blue-green cast – upholstery, artwork and custom rugs stand out. In the living room, that includes a cream-colored couch with a bright painting of birch trees above it. In the dining area, a round, hand-hammered copper dining table has an ivory and copper-color rug below and a crystal chandelier overhead.
The kitchen and family room provide a less formal area, which Franklin called "perfect" not only for herself and her husband of 17 years, but also for a group – important for a couple who often have guests.
The kitchen's centerpiece is its large island, where a veined granite surface adds blue and other colors to a space that features white cabinets.
"We can sit here, but if I need this space for serving, I just move the chairs" at the island, Franklin said.
"This was supposed to be a bigger pantry," Franklin said, although it holds plenty, and the large kitchen features ample storage. "But we decreased the size, so I could fit my table in."
A wood plank table with a reclaimed leather bench on one side adds a rustic touch.
"We have family dinner here on Sundays," Franklin said. One of her daughters lives in Maple Lawn with her family, and the other lives nearby. (Her son and his family live out of town.)
Family photos are displayed in the wall units in the family room, where they flank a stone fireplace. A curved sectional sofa in light cocoa with gray undertones in the weave – one of a few new-home purchases – seats at least 10.
"This is where we watch TV all the time, and the kids play here," she said, referring to her grandchildren, who have a play table and toys there.
The home is ideal for Hudson, the couple's dog. Steps from the backyard is a dog park, where the Franklins have made friends. "I'm the chairman of the dog park committee," she said.
Hudson keeps Franklin company in her home office from a chair where he can watch her or look out the front window or nap. With French doors and a glass transom, the room's interior, with built-in cabinets to store paperwork, and gray Shaker-style paneling is always visible.
The upstairs is for guests, with its children's play area on the landing and three bedrooms. Walls of a yellow bedroom are decorated with animals and the names of Franklin's grandchildren, and a crib makes the space convenient for a young grandchild to sleep after a bath in the suite's bathroom, with parents steps away. A Dr. Seuss theme takes over the second bedroom, including a "One Fish, Two Fish" wall. "My grandchildren love it," she said.
The master bedroom suite on the first floor wasn't the driving force in the move, as it is for many empty-nesters. But the Franklins decided it would be wiser to plan for living entirely on one floor. They chose to include a beige bathroom to blend with their existing bedroom furnishings.
"It seemed to make sense to us, for our age, because we don't have any plans to leave Maple Lawn. It's a 60-plus, forever home," Franklin said.
DREAM REALIZED: The couple's home gives them what they wanted: a green setting, flexible space, soothing colors and ample closet space throughout for convenient storage and easy organization. A three-car garage keeps vehicles out of the elements. Anne Franklin planted a small backyard garden in memory of a son.
DREAM DESIGN: The kitchen backsplash features unusual custom art. Franklin sent a photo of a tile design with birds – her affinity for birds is displayed in several pieces of art in the home – to an artist who based a hammered and brushed aluminum design on it.
DREAM LOCATION: Family is close by and old friends aren't far. The Franklins are involved in Maple Lawn activities, including an empty-nesters group. Among the community's conveniences are shopping and restaurants, with more outside the development. Columbia and major roads are a short drive away.