After moving 14 times in 33 years, retired Coast Guard Rear Adm. Gordon Piche and his wife, Jane, were determined to find the perfect house for their retirement. After all, this would be their first permanent "post" since they were married 35 years ago.
For 10 months, the Piches searched for their elusive dream home, only to be disappointed. If the house was right, it seemed that the location was wrong.
"It became apparent that the location was more important than finding our `dream house,' " Mrs. Piche said. And, for her, the perfect location was Providence, a neighborhood near the naval station at Greenbury Point, across the Severn River from the U.S. Naval Academy. Her husband had been stationed in Maryland twice, and when she shopped at the Greenbury Point commissary, she would drive through Providence, where one of her favorite houses was a white rancher on a beautiful corner lot.
As fate would have it, in the middle of Mrs. Piche's house-hunting, the white rancher she adored was put up for sale.
The brick-and-siding structure was built in 1964 and was one of the neighborhood's 10 original houses. The interior bore all the characteristics of the period -- stained wood trim with plentiful shades of olive green and gold. It was depressingly dark for the potential buyer, who loved light, bright interiors. Nevertheless, its 2,600 square feet made for a surprisingly open floor plan.
"From the foyer, we could see the living room, dining room, family room, the sun porch and the brick patio," Mrs. Piche recalled of their first visit to the house. However, a lot of work would be needed to turn the 35-year-old house into a more maintenance-free home.
The first step to maintenance freedom was to replace all the wooden windows with vinyl replacements.
"No more painting," said Mrs. Piche, who speaks with the enthusiasm of someone who did all the painting during the home's renovation.
Contractors were hired to build kitchen and bathroom cabinets, install black-and-white kitchen counters and replace three layers of linoleum floor in the kitchen and family room with white oak to match the floors throughout the rest of the house.
The rest of the demolition work, as well as the installation of appliances and kitchen and bath cabinets, was done by Admiral Piche, who earned a degree from the Coast Guard Academy in marine engineering and naval architecture.
He created a master bedroom suite by expanding a single door into an archway, and by incorporating an adjacent bedroom that became Mrs. Piche's office/sitting room. Built-in drawers for clothing in the master bathroom made for a more efficient use of space.
A third bedroom became Admiral Piche's office. The dark cherry furnishings are accented with nautical decorations, and artwork on the wall depict some of the admiral's duty stations in Boston, San Francisco, Hawaii and Governor's Island, N.Y.
The hall and master bathrooms became perfect examples of how well light can transform space. The adjoining bathrooms gleam with white and silver striped wallpaper, chrome fixtures, marbleized tile and ceiling-high mirrored walls.
The hall bathroom was converted into a laundry room by replacing a bathtub with a washer and dryer, then adding folding doors.
A closet was removed in the master bath to produce a compartmentalized bath, placing the shower and commode behind closed doors. The shower opening is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and a support bar was added.
In both baths, 12-by-12-inch floor tile was laid diagonally and the wall tile is a coordinating rectangular version of what was put on the floor.
A window in the master bath was replaced with french doors that open to a new maintenance-free deck made of a recycled plastic material called Trex. And for added comfort they installed a hot tub on the deck. "Every evening we are in the hot tub for 15 minutes of meditation, looking at the stars and being warmed to the core," Mrs. Piche said.
The oddest room when the Piches purchased the home was the oversized kitchen with its quirky placement of fixtures. It has become the couple's crowning achievement.
Now, it is an informal dining area, with a butler's service center and walnut buffet that adjoins the family room. The kitchen is an efficient corridor, illuminated by recessed lighting.
The decor throughout the house reflects the couple's military background. Their furnishings are a combination of California chic, cottage charm and Jane Piche originals. Hues range from her favorite eggshell white to soft blues in some rooms and navy in others with accents of bold reds.
With renovations complete, the Piches find more time for their favorite things: entertaining friends, playing golf, cycling along the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail Park and traveling.
They bought their home for $260,000, in a neighborhood where houses can sell in the $300,000 range. With approximately $75,000 spent on improvements, they have reached their goal of a maintenance-free home that is equipped for the future.