The house where Einstein dwells Couple transform a cramped bungalow into their little castle

Dream Home

September 22, 1996|By DeWitt Bliss | DeWitt Bliss,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"Little" would fairly describe the Cedarcroft Road bungalow that Fran Weisfeld bought in 1988 -- not only for its outside appearance but also for the tiny right-angled rooms inside that were closed off from one another by too many doors.

But you'd hardly recognize the place now, for all the imagination and physical labor that she, her two now-grown children and her husband, Dr. Max Weisfeld, have invested:

The little side porch common to neighboring cookie-cutter homes is gone, but a graceful front porch has been added and the facade given a new look.

Rooms in the first-floor living area have been opened up -- the interior doors removed, and old partitions sledge-hammered away in a remodeling that created unusual angles and spaces in walls and ceilings.

The second floor was expanded by building a bedroom over the kitchen, which had been housed in a one-story rear extension, and two small bedrooms were turned into offices.

'A comedy show'

"It was a comedy show, there were so many doors," said Weisfeld, a 47-year-old podiatrist, leading a tour of the now-airy living area and its eclectic decorations -- such as a wallpaper map of the globe spanning a living room wall nearly 15 feet long. "We don't need an atlas to look up places in the news," he says.

In the dining area, a Volkswagen Beetle door is mounted on a wall and holds the Weisfelds' collection of magnets -- souvenirs of places and things they love, from a miniature box of Dunkin' Donuts or a hamburger and fries to MTA passes for Oriole Park's first opening day game and Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game.

He has a thing for Beetles, including a collection of models in a built-in wall display, and a real one kept covered on the driveway and in the garage in the winter.

And there's the soft-sculpture banana tree, a display piece that she persuaded Greetings & Readings to sell, under which sits a soft-sculpture, life-size Albert Einstein purchased at the Sugarloaf crafts fair in Timonium for about $200, including the clothing.

"We could actually wear the sweater," Max Weisfeld says.

"We used him for Halloween, sitting with a bowl of candy. The kids didn't know what to make of him," adds Fran. Weisfeld, 49, a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital, recalling the reaction of trick-or-treaters.

"Al" has also sat on the porch -- unmoved, of course, by the waves of passers-by.

In the back yard the Weisfelds added a wooden deck this summer.

Photos tell the story

The smiles come easily now, but the dream house was a piece of work. Witness the Weisfelds' scrapbook of photos, showing the before and during stages, with walls torn apart or gone.

Fran Weisfeld recalls wondering, as a first-floor wall was demolished, whether the second-floor would come crashing down. (It didn't.)

Many of the changes were functional -- such as the lowering of the living room ceiling to 8 feet, both to provide space for the ductwork of the air-conditioning and modern heating they added, and to make it more cozy.

A square at one corner was left at 10 feet and painted a dark blue in contrast to the white of the rest of the ceiling.

The dining room has a similar ceiling treatment, but with the higher portion in the center and painted red.

A pair of windows in the living room was replaced by a windowless bay which provides space for an entertainment center and a fish tank.

The room's rear wall includes built-in bookshelves and space for more ductwork.

"We did a lot of things twice," he says. "You have a vision, build it, and have to live with it, or you have the courage to do it again. Too many times -- it's human nature -- you have to settle for what you have."

"That's where the front porch came from," his wife adds. "I always wanted a front porch, to be able to sit out in the morning with a cup of coffee and the sun coming up."

The couple's work also included finishing the basement, site of the air-conditioning and heating system, with rooms for the laundry, a workshop and storage; installing a built-in vacuum system and audio speakers with individual volume controls throughout the house; and overhauling the exterior siding.

It sounds as if the house has been an all-consuming task, but the Weisfelds say they have had time for other interests, including travel. "But this is a lot of fun," they say, "and it's good for the Hechingers and Home Depots of the world."

Pub Date: 9/22/96

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