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A smart Victorian

HACKENSACK, N.J. A traditional Victorian in forested Vernon Township, N.J., holds a secret: It's really a technophile's dream. The 17-room dwelling is a SMART house. Computers control all the heating, cooling and electronics so that all of it can...

HACKENSACK, N.J. A traditional Victorian in forested Vernon Township, N.J., holds a secret: It's really a technophile's dream.

The 17-room dwelling is a SMART house. Computers control all the heating, cooling and electronics so that all of it can be operated outside of the home by a computer or through the telephone system.

But before being so smart, the home was just a dream for homeowners Tom and Melissa Welch.

With five kids, the Welches wanted something even bigger than their 3,800-square-foot house nearby, that would be kid-friendly with lots of bedrooms, bathrooms and cozy, inviting main rooms.

They found the basic plans for the house 20 years ago in a magazine and kept them until they were able to buy a nearly 2-acre lot eight years later and begin building.

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Tom wanted it to comfortably fit his home-based computer business, which had several employees, and he wanted to infuse it with the latest computer technology. On top of that, he wanted it to be elegant.

So with experience gained from his previous job building homes and his current computer knowledge, he installed computer and electronics bays, 7 miles of cables and discreet wall panels that control the heating, air conditioning and entertainment systems.

In June 1999, they moved into the 8,850-square-foot home and its seven bedrooms, five full bathrooms and two half-baths.

"This house was the dream house," said Melissa. "We've been a revolving door (for kids) since we've moved into this house." Later, they bought 20 adjoining acres for privacy.

Keeping with its Victorian styling, two porches wrap around much of the home. Even the two garage buildings, each allowing three cars, have stained-glass windows.

Beautiful mahogany front doors with leaded glass windows open to a foyer and a starburst design inlaid in the hardwood floor. Above, the soaring, two-story foyer highlights an oval window etched with a tulip design.

French doors lead into a cozy family room or parlor, lined with wainscoting and crown molding. The gleaming floors are inlaid with a black walnut border and continue through the home.

Most rooms sit at more gentle 20-or-so-degree angles, rather than the standard 90 degrees, said Tom, allowing for a refreshing, less boxy layout.

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A butler's pantry lined with bead board wainscoting offers a closet for plenty of storage, two Viking warming drawers, an ice-maker, granite counters and display cabinets.

The Welches wanted the kitchen, their No. 1 gathering spot, to be special, and spent $150,000 for special details such as custom cabinetry, the four-person island, farm sink, Viking stove, abundant display shelves and a pass-through to the octagon-shaped breakfast room.

The master bedroom and bath offer spectacular forest and mountain views that stretch to High Point State Park. There's also access to a private patio and wrap-around porch overlooking the pool.

A unique dual fireplace connects the two rooms. In the master bath, Tom chose three Kohler sinks delicately hand-painted with scenes from Sleeping Beauty and radiant-heated floors.

The third level offers a dramatic, cherry-paneled library, like a grand version of the gentleman's study of the past with a fireplace, ornate moldings and wrap-around bookshelves.

A bonus room over the attached, three-car garage served as Tom's office, fitting at least six desks and a kitchenette. The home is wired for 50 telephone numbers.

Most bedrooms on the third floor have their own bathrooms.

Built on a slope, the home's lower level has a walk-out to the pool and double French doors fill it with natural light. It contains a big central area, a home theater, a room with gym equipment that will stay with the home, the control room housing all the electronics and additional rooms.

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Nine-foot ceilings on all three floors provide a spacious feeling. The home includes a battery that shifts power to a generator if the power goes out.

The home is listed at $1,499,000 by Allen Wein of Prominent Properties, Sotheby's International Realty in Saddle River, N.J.

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