Couple opens shop in colonial house HOME IS WHERE THE HISTORY IS

March 30, 1995|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Admire a painting or an antique at Spring Blessing Farm and the owners will offer to sell it to you.

A hand-painted sign on Green Valley Road, a few miles outside Union Bridge, beckons visitors onto the 15-acre farm.

"Most people stop to tell us they love the sign," said Karen A. Thatcher. "We tell them to come in and buy."

Most of what decorates the nearly 200-year-old home, which is soon to be featured in Country Living magazine, is stock for Karen and Dale F. Thatcher's new shop, also called Spring Blessing.

"It's all for sale," Ms. Thatcher said with a laugh. "This is a new business venture, but one we have always wanted to do."

Opening the home to strangers for the past few months has led to one good experience after another, Mr. Thatcher said.

"Most people have been really receptive," he said.

The couple rescued the Williamsburg-style colonial from ruin 22 years ago and have been redoing it ever since.

"We are talking no floor, electricity or plumbing," she said. "My dad cried when we moved in here, but I was so possessed. I always wanted a country home."

The Maryland Historical Society dates the original buildings to at least 1804. The owners have documentation that says the home was standing in 1808.

The Thatchers have seen their share of setbacks as they restored all three levels of the house. Four years after they moved in, a fire nearly destroyed the structure.

"We just rebuilt," she said. "We never thought of selling."

It became a point of honor, Mr. Thatcher said.

"We had decided to preserve a house," he said. "We were loyal to that commitment. We didn't come here to build a new house."

Through the years, the couple and their two grown children "played farm" by raising livestock -- everything except horses. Now, sheep and lambs dot the pasture.

As the Thatchers restored each room, friends admired the work in progress and the many accessories the couple accumulated. A shop seemed like the next step.

They have converted most of the rooms into a showcase for his paintings, her crafts and quilts and their collectibles.

And, of course, they can show off their house, too.

Ms. Thatcher, who thought her home could appeal to a wider audience, sent photos to Country Living magazine.

"They called us right away and are going to do a feature on our house," she said.

James Cramer, editor-at-large for the magazine, said the pictures sold him on the house, even before he visited it. He expects to schedule a photo shoot next month.

A story will accompany the pictures, in an issue next spring. The publication has a circulation of about 2 million readers.

"I just love the way Mr. Thatcher did murals on the walls," Mr. Cramer said. "The murals are so unique, really their thing."

Stand in the middle of their Maryland Room and you can imagine what the editor envisions "as a sail on the bay." Above the chair rail are waterside scenes; below the rail, walls are mottled blue like water.

Mr. Thatcher's brushes have touched most of the walls in his home and his folk art paintings will be the mainstay of the shop.

"My major thrust with the shop is to announce Dale as an artist," Ms. Thatcher said.

But visitors will find many other treasures. A 200-year-old blanket covers a chair and guests "won't be able to tell the difference" between antiques and reproductions, she said.

The shop stocks hand-stitched and painted bride boxes, intricate floral arrangements and small trees, which Ms. Thatcher makes and decorates. Crafts, made by friends, also have a place.

In the basement, where the cornerstone forms part of the wall, is a pencil slate floor, which Ms. Thatcher laid by hand. The room, once a kitchen, is also full of collectibles.

The larger antiques may not turn over quickly, said the owners. But, they promise shoppers new paintings and collectibles with each stop.

Spring Blessing Farm is open weekends or by appointment.

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