Wrapping present around the past Home's old, new elements are linked

Dream Home

November 29, 1998|By Adele Evans | Adele Evans,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

No, the rain doesn't pound like a hailstorm when it hits the hand-formed tin roof of Karen and Mike McConnell's "dream home in progress" -- but they hear the question all the time.

When the couple moved in, the home had a new, cedar shake roof. But then it began growing.

"It was beautiful, but we have lots of trees," said Karen. "We had vegetation growing off our roofs. The skylights were leaking, too. Another cedar roof wasn't the answer."

The tin roof was just one of the rustic elements the couple added as they began to enhance their Phoenix home, part of which is a pre-Civil War log cabin. They insist that their dream isn't completed yet, as they continue to link old and new elements of the house and make discoveries about it in the process.

This house isn't the only unique property they've had.

Their former home was an octagonal duplex in Mount Washington.

The older section of this house, which faces the road, was once a working farmhouse, with two levels. It fell into disrepair over the years until it was stripped in 1983 as the developer prepared for renovation.

The builder added a two-story wing perpendicular to the original structure, and that new wing serves as the couple's primary living space today.

According to some not-so-revealing title searches, the old section is actually an "old and older section." The original pre-Civil War portion was expanded long ago to make the farmhouse. The wing has an almost dollhouse style, with low ceilings, single-paned windows, small doors and a dainty blue stairway leading to the second floor. Although renovations are in the planning stages, the older rooms are now used primarily for a sitting room, guest bedroom and storage.

The McConnells particularly love the exposed logs that line the exterior walls of the older section. The right plaster wall in the foyer features these logs.

The log wall was once an exterior wall of the old home and now divides the two wings, with a door in the center. The McConnells hope to expose more log work in the future.

To the left of the foyer is the new wing, still rustic, but with modern elegance and comfort. The primary living space is the "great room," featuring thick pine floors, hand-milled poplar beams, French doors, soaring windows, cathedral ceilings, a massive stone fireplace, and sunken kitchen within the great room.

Karen and Mike have decorated their great room with old farm tools and arty items, such as pottery, a coffee table crafted from a railroad switch plate and industrial pulleys. Karen even went for blacksmith-forged curtain rods that she says are much sturdier and the same price as the thin brassy ones.

Though it takes a great deal of effort to maintain the home, the payoff is worth it.

"It's a private, relaxed area," said Mike.

"In the city, your energy level ebbs," said Karen, who works as a travel agent. "But then you come here and smell the air, and it seems cooler."

The master bedroom, part of which overlooks the great room, is also full of antiques, including a bright red claw-foot tub in the bathroom. The bedroom can be reached from the foyer stairway or, if you're upstairs in the older wing, from a connecting gallery that links the upper floors of old and new.

The only modern-looking part of the home is below the main floor.

A spiral staircase winds down from the great room to Mike's office and composing room.

A graduate of the Maryland Institute, College of Art, he runs Wet Inc. and does Web page design, illustration, production and graphic design for clients such as Anne Arundel County and Carroll County General Hospital.

Mike's greatest enjoyment comes from looking at the wood, the framing, the post-and-beam construction, and relishing the solitude of the 5.5 acres. And the one thing Mike is most proud of is the stonework around the home.

The fact that the home had no landscaping didn't bother Karen, because they had a vision for the home.

After paying $187,500, they put in about $25,000 for a new garage, decoration and landscaping, and even became part of the Maryland Wildacres Program, which promotes natural landscaping.

The McConnells also have had to fill in springs that were flowing too close to the foundation and build a three-car "carriage house" in the same style as the house.

"Everyone's looking for the typical, square, four-bedroom home," Karen said. "Everyone in the world went through it, but we got it. We wouldn't give it up for the world."

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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