A farmhouse fit for another 5 generations Homestead: Kenneth and Lisa Simms have breathed new life into a century-old family home they expect to pass on down the line.

Dream Home

November 22, 1998|By Rachel Brown | Rachel Brown,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Computer-enhanced imaging technology can smooth out cracks and imperfections in old photos. Kenneth Simms -- with his hands -- has done the same thing to a house in the Hanover area of Anne Arundel County that's been in his family for five generations.

"My great-grandparents moved here when my grandmother was 7 or 8," he said. The 100-year-old farmhouse came into his possession 12 years ago, after Simms' great-uncle died and his grandmother gave the house to him.

For the first five years, Simms -- a woodworker -- shared the house with his sister, Veronica. But she moved out when he got married.

Now, Kenneth Simms and Lisa, his wife, share the home with their son, Kenny Jr. In 1995, they decided to take out a $6,500 loan and breathe new life into the home.

"I'd always lived in the city, and this place reminded me of vacations to the country in North Carolina," said Lisa, who had lived in Baltimore.

The original Simms homestead had 30 acres, but land sales over the years reduced its size. Kenneth Simms' house sits on nearly three acres. His grandmother maintains another 17 wooded acres behind his property.

"A real estate agent who visited several years ago appraised this house and the [3-acre] lot at around $195,000," Simms said.

But there was work to be done on the house.

Simms said his first priority was to build a two-story garage behind the house. "I needed a workshop so I could begin work on the house," he said, adding that he, a friend and an uncle constructed most of the garage during a two-week vacation.

Next, they tore out the interiors of most of the rooms in the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, removing crumbling plaster walls. The most dramatic change came when they turned an old mud room that adjoins the living room and kitchen into a sitting room.

The spacious, elegant room now has French doors, a yellow pine floor and ceiling fan.

"It hadn't been built on a cement footing, so the whole room was lopsided and the walls were buckling," Simms said, explaining that he tore down the room, added a concrete foundation and had a deck built.

"There was a narrow door to the living room and another one to the kitchen," Simms said. "I wanted to open this whole area up, but I brought in an experienced carpenter to help since these are load-bearing walls."

Today, the entrance to the living room is framed with wood columns, and the kitchen comes into full view with a counter and stools highlighted by track lighting.

"Sometimes when people have an old house, they want to keep it all in a similar style," Simms said. "But the renovation destroyed most of the woodwork, and I didn't want to re-install ruined pieces." The white vinyl siding and hunter green shutters also belie the home's age.

That's not to say that Simms is not sentimental or doesn't have an eye for the nostalgic or historic.

Family artifacts -- old bottles, metal ice cream dippers and a wooden butter print used to stamp a design on homemade butter -- are displayed over the kitchen cabinets. The kitchen has a wood-burning iron stove that was original to the house.

A new potbelly wood stove stands in the living room. "When we gutted this room, I thought for sure we'd find a fireplace, but all we found was a hole for connecting a wood stove," Simms said.

His grandmother's upright piano is in the dining room, and old but sturdy wooden rocking chairs are in the new sitting room. The sitting room and living room feature well-crafted wainscoting.

Also in the living room is a birch secretary, with drawers and glass cabinets, built by Simms. "I planned on giving this to Kenny for his desk, but it turned out so nicely, I wanted it downstairs," he said.

And his talent isn't lost on Lisa Simms.

"He's a great father, a great husband, and he's handy," she said. "I give him full credit for everything in this house -- even the colors -- he picked out everything."

The kitchen is wallpapered with a diamond pattern of muted blues and pinks; both colors are picked up in the floral wallpaper and trim in the sitting and living rooms.

Simms has future projects in mind, including refinishing a laundry room and an upstairs storage room, as well as building a table for the dining room. But he isn't worried about the time frame for getting them done.

"I plan to be in this house the rest of my life," he said. "My grandmother was the same age as my son is now when she first came to this house, and someday this will be his."

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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