From cow barn to people palace Transformed: Lone and Marty Azola turned a "run-down old barn" into an award-winning home. Cows are no longer permitted inside, of course, but there is room for many things, big and small, in the 8,000-square-foot attic. @

January 11, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,SUN STAFF

The two buildings on the property weren't connected. The yard was full of construction debris. The attic was full of farm implements. The last rehab was done in 1940.

If they didn't have the pictures to prove it, no one would believe the gracious home Lone and Marty Azola have created from a dilapidated, uninhabitable former dairy barn.

The alteration captured a Grand Award -- one of two in the contest -- in the adaptive reuse category of the Renaissance '97 contest, sponsored by Remodeling magazine and the National Association of Home Builders Remodelors Council. The project, located in northwest Baltimore County, was featured in the September issue. A judge commented that in the renovation "nothing was subtracted from this structure that would have taken away its essential character and nothing was added that would have detracted from it."

The dramatic change wasn't achieved easily.

"We moved here 8 1/2 years ago -- the kids were small then. It looked like a dump," Lone said, sitting on a sofa facing the wood stove in the long, mauve-painted living-dining room one recent night.

"Actually, it was a dump," said Marty. "For the construction site. We took out five Dumpster containers" full of trash before beginning the renovation. "It had a sewer connection, and electricity -- 60-amp electric service [the modern standard is 200 amps] -- but all the utilities had to be upgraded. The piping was all shot; the wiring was out-of-date and unsafe; all the finishes were in bad shape."

"There was no kitchen space," Lone said. "Just a tiny little counter, and a little sink and a propane stove. "It was just a run-down old barn."

Why would anyone tackle such a renovation? The Azolas had little choice. Caught up in the real estate collapse of the late 1980s, the Azolas went through bankruptcy and the barn was the only property they had left.

And so the couple, who had been high school sweethearts, started over.

At first, they admit, it was depressing.

The larger building, former garage and dairy barn, had been shut down and simply left in place in 1940. The smaller building had been converted to a caretaker's apartment about the same time. Together, the two buildings formed a shape somewhat like an open staple leaning to one side.

"The main design problem," Marty said, "is how do you make more of a house when it's so skinny?" Both buildings are essentially one room deep. "We tried to keep what we could for historic purposes."

Connecting the two buildings started to solve some of the problems. The door to the kitchen was originally the front door. The mostly glass connection created a new vestibule and turned what had been oil-tank storage space into a breakfast room.

"So the kitchen became the hub of the house," Marty said.

Three years ago, in a fit of inspiration, Marty bashed through the far kitchen wall to create a pass-through to the breakfast area. The raised, glassed-in area now looks back to a covered patio, screened with trees and vines. Then they redid the kitchen, reworking and faux-finishing the cabinets and papering the walls.

The kitchen still isn't huge or fancy, Lone pointed out, but it's highly efficient. "The 'work triangle' in this kitchen really works."

To the right of the kitchen is the living-dining room area, a long narrow room with a wall of five 8-over-8 windows. It needed little work. One window had been covered over, and they opened that They refinished the pine floor and Lone selected the rosy-mauve paint for the walls. Antiques and newer pieces blend harmoniously on oriental rugs.

Also in this wing, down a short hall, are a bathroom and three small bedrooms, those of the children -- Tony, 22, Matthew, 20, and Kirsten, 18. Upstairs, reached by a rustic ladder to a trap door, is what Marty described as "a club attic" for the kids' TV and exercise equipment. At the far end of the wing is his woodworking shop.

In the larger building, a window in what was the end wall of the breakfast area was turned into a door, and the space that was formerly used for washing the cows became the master bedroom. On either side of the short hall leading to it are a small, simple bathroom (with a leg tub and free-standing sink) and a closet.

For a while, the next room beyond that was where daughter Kirsten kept her pony. "We could hear him in there at night, kicking the walls," Marty said.

Now it's a cozy den, retaining its Dutch door to the outside. At the back of this space was a raised walkway that led to the old tack room. Now it's a handsome wood-paneled mini-loft, with bookcases and a ledge for memorabilia.

The old tack room is a bike shop for the Azolas' son Tony. Beyond it is garage space, and up a flight of steps is Marty Azola's office -- where a further set of steps leads to one of the real prizes of the property: the attic. Eight thousand square feet of storage space. "Pack rat that I am, I have a place to put everything," he said.

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