When Patricia and Kim Baker began thinking about building a new home for just the two of them, they were thinking big--very big. For 13 years they had been ensconced in a 3,500-sq.-ft. contemporary-style home--which was plenty of room until they brought in their expanding businesses. Soon the rooms felt crowded and confined.
Patricia, 48, had always longed for a large house and an expansive plot of land, and Kim was a NASCAR driver and race-car builder who needed an oversize garage for his projects. So when they reaped a windfall after selling their home in 2004, they decided to build their ideal home. The new residence is home to Patricia's p.r. agency and Kim's race-car-building business. It's also a place where family and friends can visit and take a gander at the extensive trove of antiques and collectibles the couple have acquired over the years. They refer to their home, unabashedly, as the "New American Castle"--moat not included.
The castle theme grew out of their penchant for medieval architecture, cultivated during trips abroad and tours of stone fortresses in the U.S. and Europe. For years, Kim had also nurtured a passion for Renaissance Revival--style antiques from the 1800s and collected items such as a 1900s grandfather clock and a 17th century suit of armor. In December 2002 the twosome set out to build their own castle in Middlefield, Mass., a quiet, rural community in the Berkshire Mountains that has a few well-hidden, elegant homes. Kim, 49, helped design the structure and is serving as general contractor for the 11,000-sq.-ft., three-story Scottish-style castle made of gray, rough-cut stone and situated on 75 acres.
The Bakers needed only four bedrooms, but the house has many features befitting a king and queen, such as a large media room, a wine cellar, a sun-room and a 12-car garage for Kim's projects. The estimated cost of the castle is about three times the $1.5 million the couple got for their previous home, in Southwick, Mass. They paid cash with money from the sale of their last property as well as stock. "Our generation is about potential and living out your desires, and that's just what we are doing," says Patricia.
Suburbanites have grown accustomed to the sight of McMansions--enormous homes built by the superrich and griped about by the rest of us. But mostly, those monster houses are filled with growing families. Many older Americans see retirement as a ticket out of the hassles of homeownership when they downsize.