Towson rancher a house for the ages


Contentment: "I'll live here until I'm 102, if I can," Jon E Stephens says of the residence she has enjoyed for 45 years.

August 29, 1999|By Karen Ludwig | Karen Ludwig,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Housing trends may come and go, but ever since Jon E Stephens bought her Towson rancher 45 years ago, there has been no other place that she'd rather call home.

"I'll live here until I'm 102, if I can," Stephens says, standing in her kitchen sipping a glass of mint-flavored iced tea, while classical music streams in from another room.

The three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bathroom house occupies a half-block-large corner lot off Stevenson Lane in a quiet, residential Baltimore County neighborhood. It is surrounded by gardens of wisteria, black-eyed Susans, cosmos and hydrangeas mingled with birdhouses, fountains and small stone statues.

During the years, Stephens, a floral designer, has raised her five children here and welcomed four grandchildren to the family. She's entertained countless guests with regular Sunday brunches, backyard barbecues, engagement parties and girls' night get-togethers. She's discovered and developed her artistic talents. And she's amassed impressive collections of everything from American pottery to local art to antique inkwells.

"This has been my dream house since the beginning," says Stephens, recalling the first time she walked up the sidewalk and through the rancher's front door. "I walked in and thought, `Ooooh, I love the fireplace,' and then I saw one big wall where I could put all of my pictures."

She was sold, and still is.

Little by little, Stephens has updated the house, which in 1954 cost $17,500 in fee, brand new. Not long after moving in, she decided to enclose the carport to make room for growing family. Along the way she added a patio on the side of the house, built a gazebo, painted the interior walls, furnished, refurnished, decorated and redecorated. She estimates the house is now worth about $160,000.

Stephens works part time at Radebaugh's Florist and Greenhouse and reserves two days for staying at home and concentrating on her art. Her original clay replicas of Baltimore rowhouses have become a profitable home business since she started making them in the 1970s.

She also enjoys creating pen-and-ink drawings and painting furniture and lamp shades, which she sells at exhibitions. Her kitchen and den serve as a makeshift studio area for her creative endeavors, which have also spilled over to decorate other parts of her home.

The living room is more formal, with its fireplace as a focal point and a deep red-and-rose color scheme tastefully tying everything together, from the wallpaper to the curtains to the fabric on the chairs.

Stephens says a friend helped transform the living space into a visitor-friendly room by moving the furniture into a more inviting arrangement. She loves the input her friends offer on decorating.

The furnishings are a combination of antiques that Stephens inherited from her mother and sister, and pieces she's purchased locally and abroad. Her collections add character and are on display everywhere from the mantel to the coffee table to the cabinets.

Outside, off the den, is the patio. With plenty of comfortable seating, and lots of shade, it is ideal for entertaining. Occasionally, a band has set up there for a night of music, while the surrounding yard and accompanying gazebo have accommodated dozens of guests and tables laden with food.

Stephens enjoys the company of more intimate groups here, too. "Friday nights, the girls all meet here and have our wine; we've been doing it for years," she says.

Every year Stephens does something for her house, she says, adding that it doesn't necessarily take a ton of money to make a difference.

Last year she installed new flooring in her kitchen, and this year she'll lay new carpeting in the den. Five years ago she retiled the bathroom, transforming it from outdated yellow and black to elegant creams, silvers and golds. Her family helped with a bigger makeover in the early 1990s.

But some of her favorite changes have been the small ones, like the mix-and-match knobs -- apples, pears and muffin tin shapes among them -- that she recently put on her kitchen cabinets, or the dusty pinkish paint on her dining room walls.

One thing has remained constant through all of the cosmetic changes, big and small; the house has always suited Stephens' changing needs, from those of a single working mother of five to those of an empty-nester with a lively social life and a passion for art and collecting.

"I can't imagine that I could ever leave such an easy house -- all on one floor, the washer and dryer in the kitchen, an easy-to-care-for lawn; it's perfect for me," she says. "I think it's nice for people to feel that way about their homes. If you love your house, it shows."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.