Challenge on the home front Revitalization: Energized by their own home improvement effort, a Columbia couple decided to motivate other residents to upgrade their homes in aging Wilde Lake village. The project is called "Challenge Model Home."

September 11, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF WRITER

When Mario and Donna Gorjon bought their $180,000 three-story home in west Columbia four years ago, they wanted to infuse it with some of the sunshine of his native Mexico.

So the couple replaced the gloomy windows and doors of the 29-year-old home at 10457 Waterfowl Terrace in Columbia's Wilde Lake village with ones that allowed in much more light.

The dentist and his wife, a speech pathologist, also converted their garage into a sun-room; created a waterfall and Japanese garden in their back yard; added what they call a "Mexican room" by their front door to celebrate Mario Gorjon's culture; and made other improvements -- totaling about $40,000.

Once into the home improvements, the couple decided to motivate other residents to upgrade their homes in the aging village. They call the project "Challenge Model Home."

The challenge is to show that homes in Columbia's first village -- now 29 years old with more than 6,500 residents -- can be revitalized at a reasonable cost.

After three years of work, the Gorjons' home will be open to the public from Oct. 4-26. A small donation may be made -- money the Gorjons say they'll forward to the Enterprise Foundation to promote affordable housing.

"The idea that they have is wonderful -- to take an old house and update it to the '90s," says Janet Blumenthal, chairwoman of the Wilde Lake Village Board and head of the Wilde Lake Revitalization Steering Committee.

A Home Improvement Expo also will be held Oct. 12 at Slayton House to give residents access to various home improvement vendors. There is no admission fee.

The Gorjons' Ryland home was one of the first to be built in Columbia. It is across the street from the former home of the town's developer, James Rouse.

Their house and many others in the area are showing signs of age. A real estate agent, Catherine McLoughlin-Hays of O'Conor Piper & Flynn, says houses in Columbia's older villages, such as Wilde Lake, tend to sell for less than ones in such newer villages as River Hill, where some homes run more than $400,000.

Homes on Waterfowl Terrace generally sell for between $180,000 and $310,000 because the street abuts Wilde Lake and is within walking distance of a village center and the new Wilde Lake High School.

"My husband and I feel this is not a ghetto," Donna Gorjon says, referring to the way some residents have come to stereotype the village because of its aging houses and relative concentration of subsidized housing. "This could be one of the most beautiful places in the U.S."

As electricians and painters applied finishing touches, Donna Gorjon gave a quick tour of the white house with black shutters.

She entered through the glass front door, which replaced a solid door, into her husband's "Mexican room. "He wanted to bring Mexico to America," she says. "This way, he has a taste of Mexico right here in his own house."

Mario Gorjon will become a naturalized U.S. citizen Sept. 27.

Each of their home improvements makes a statement, Donna Gorjon says: "In every room of the house, you'll get a view of something. You can create a mood just by the lights at any time of day."

In the family room, the Gorjons added a wall-to-wall mirror, more lighting and cut out spaces in a wall for a giant TV, stereo and speakers. "We created our own home entertainment center for $100," Donna Gorjon says. "It gives a home-theater look without the home-theater price."

In the kitchen, they added birch-colored kitchen cabinets with nickel knobs, removed the linoleum and replaced it with Italian tile, and replaced the original appliances.

Out back, Mario Gorjon built an attractive waterfall out of stone and a Japanese-style garden. "It's just a wonderful feeling," says Donna Gorjon.

To save money, the Gorjons did a lot of the work themselves, including installing the home's new energy-efficient windows. For other work, they sought out professionals -- and deals.

"You need to be knowledgeable and need someone knowledgeable," Donna Gorjon says, "so you don't come home and find your house is a block of cinders."

Pub Date: 9/11/96

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