A rural cottage grows up Transformation: It took five long months, but Angela and Luke Steckel managed to turn a "hunting cabin" look into the eclectic Victorian they call home.

Dream Home

September 06, 1998|By Adele Evans | Adele Evans,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Last winter Angela and Luke Steckel's friends were calling them crazy.

The idea of transforming a tiny cottage into an "eclectic Victorian" sounded outrageous. Now those friends are eating their words, while they stretch their necks to get a full view of the three-story creation.

"I knew he could do it," Angela said. "I've seen what he's done before."

The couple always had loved the Victorian style, but those homes were hard to come by, especially at the right price. When they found a 1940s-era cottage in Sparks, and Luke said he could change it, Angela wasn't going to try to talk him out of it.

And she's glad she didn't.

After only five months -- albeit working sunrise to sunset, seven days a week -- the couple has a 2,000-square-foot home that soars three levels, with a roof so steep that it was intimidating to even a longtime roofer who helped complete the job.

No charge for labor

"They don't do roofs like that anymore," Luke Steckel said. "The roofer hadn't seen one like that in 28 years."

The Steckels added to or enhanced virtually everything in the home.

The original home cost $140,000, and the rehab materials ran another $50,000. "He didn't charge me for labor," Angela said.

Because Luke builds custom homes for a living, he knew where and how to shop for materials; that kept the costs down.

He recycles what he can from previous jobs, sniffs out building auctions, salvages items from old homes being demolished -- and even duplicates ornamental pieces such as moldings.

Before moving to Maryland, the Steckels lived in Allentown, Pa., where they found a bounty of odds and ends used in the house, including moldings, windows and even the front door.

Nothing in the project had to be special-ordered, and nothing was sky-high in price.

The Steckels say they like Sparks because it is beautiful and quiet, and still only a few minutes from Towson, where Angela, a marketing executive, works.

Their home sits on four wooded acres. Today, passers-by sometimes mistake it for a church because of its soft white tones and vertical configuration.

One of the first things Luke did was rip off the old roof and work his way up. Things got treacherous at times, especially because he was working during the rainy winter months.

"The roof worried me," Angela remembers. "He was very tired."

As it turned out, the only injury Luke incurred was a bruised thumb after hitting it with a hammer.

One of the reasons the Steckels were attracted to the bungalow was that its foundation was intact. While the top of the home presented a challenge, the Steckels knew the house would need no expensive and grueling foundation work.

"There's incredible savings not having to put in a foundation," Luke said.

"Plus, the first floor was semi-OK. The seller was quick to take the offer because I declined a building inspection."

One of Angela's favorite exterior additions is the front porch. Luke made each horizontal and vertical piece of porch railing of concrete, pouring each into an individual mold. Each part took a full day to dry. There are 70 pieces in the porch, and the job took a month and a half to complete.

Another source of pride is the upper-front facade with its 3,000 white scallops. Each cedar scallop was shaped and painted by hand, then installed, one by one.

BTC Inside the three-bedroom home, the couple wanted a light, airy feel. Pine-paneled walls were painted a refreshing white.

"Some friends said, 'You're painting over valuable stuff,' " Angela recalls, but "it felt like a hunting cabin at first."

Angela was in charge of interior design. Antique furnishings and old and new plaster moldings complement the styling. A wooden stairway, which Luke designed and built, rises from the foyer to the second and third floors. The balusters are 85 years old, topped with an oversized mahogany rail.

The kitchen also has been rehabbed, except for the iron sink, which Angela wanted to keep because of its unique draining board. New cabinets, a granite counter top straight from the quarry, modern lighting, tile and even a small vertical wine rack brought the area up to date.

'Fool people'

The two upper floors have 9-foot ceilings and plenty of round, arched and vertical windows, all salvaged from various auctions or sales. Luke obtained one molding pattern from a piece of iron gate. He set it into rubber to make the mold, and then poured in the plaster.

"If I can fool people, that's what I do," Luke said. "I did a lot I've never tried before, like building the stairway from scratch and adapting old and new pieces."

The master suite is spacious and airy. Luke is particularly proud of the master bathroom, which features a curving marble counter and marble shower.

Though Luke said he may get itchy feet and want to build another family home in the future, Angela's getting used to living in her eclectic Victorian.

"At first we said five years. Now we're at 10 years or 15 years," she said. "It's getting so nice, I don't know if we'll ever find something comparable."

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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