A few layers hid dandy farmhouse in Westminster Renovation: When the Caplans first saw the home, they said it was 'awful.' But underneath paneling and sheet rock was the original wood -- something good to work with.

Dream home

August 23, 1998|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Rosie and Stuart Caplan weren't looking for their dream home when they first set their eyes on a small, one-story farmhouse in Westminster in 1988.

At the time, the two were living in a townhouse in Reisterstown. They had been there for only 18 months and didn't even have a living room set in the home.

But a friend spotted the farmhouse for sale while looking for land in the Westminster area and thought the Caplans would like the place.

"On a whim, we decided to take a look," Stuart said.

They still remember their first impression of the home.

"It was awful," Rosie said.

"A dump," Stuart said.

But it had potential.

Stuart, a carpenter by trade, went into the attic and noticed something -- wood.

"Underneath the paneling, underneath the sheet rock and the drop ceiling was the original wood," Stuart said.

"It was going to be a challenge. It would keep us very busy," Rosie said. "But I loved the fact that nothing was around us. And we like old things."

Residents in the area estimate the home is 75 to 80 years old.

"Ten minutes after we saw the place, we made an offer on the house," Stuart said.

The farmhouse in Westminster was the perfect place.

The first thing to arrive at the new house was a disposal unit. The Caplans spent the first two weeks trying to strip as many layers from the floors and walls as possible.

After that, they officially moved into the home.

The Caplans would spend 14 months of weekends and late nights after work trying to reach the original wood in the living room and dining room.

The carpet was removed and the entire floor had to be sanded since the previous owners had painted it brown.

After the faux wood paneling and sheet rock were removed from the walls, Stuart carefully took down each wood plank. Each plank was then sanded and placed in a pile.

Soon the living room was filled with piles and piles of wood planks -- literally hundreds of individual pieces of wood that had to be put back up.

But first, the drop ceiling had to be removed and the entire ceiling was also sanded. "I think Stuart spent the entire 14 months on scaffolding," Rosie said.

The couple lived in the bedroom and kitchen during the renovation process.

"And the kitchen was ugly," Rosie said. "I'm surprised we didn't lose weight, the kitchen was so ugly."

To make matters worse, the house had no insulation and only a kerosene heater.

During the winter, ice would form on the inside of the windows, and Rosie would wear her winter coat in the house, wondering whether it might be better to just stay in her car.

Dirt and sawdust were everywhere, it seemed.

"It was awful. Just awful, miserable," Rosie said.

But things eventually would get better.

"I remember the day that Stuart started to put the wood back up," Rosie said.

"I stood there and looked in total amazement and went, 'Ah-ha'," she added in a heavenly sing-song voice.

After the living room and dining room were completed, the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen were remodeled.

That job was not as complicated as the living room and dining room, and was finished in a matter of weeks.

Stuart removed the original vanity in the bathroom and replaced it with cabinets he custom-made.

About five layers of linoleum were peeled off the floor in the tiny kitchen, which once was the outdoor porch to the house.

When the renovations were complete, the house was still small: 1,300 square feet -- perfect for two people.

But of course, the Caplans couldn't stop there.

The couple had talked about putting an addition on the house and, when Rosie's mother, Ann, moved into the home in late 1995, the couple decided to double the space, adding another 1,300 square feet with a new master bedroom, bathroom, guest room and office.

"We have plenty of room now," Rosie said. "We have closets just for coats. It's wonderful."

The Caplans figure they saved thousands of dollars by doing the bulk of the renovations themselves.

The couple purchased the home for $98,000 and spent $30,000 on the first major renovation and another $40,000 on the addition.

"We have no savings account now," Rosie said jokingly.

"We have something more valuable now than a savings account," Stuart said. "We have this place."

Pub Date: 8/23/98

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