Making his place theirs

Flexibility: Instead of searching for a new home, a Catonsville couple decided to renovate his $92,000 bachelor house - to the tune of $250,000.

May 05, 2002|By Liz Steinberg | Liz Steinberg,SUN STAFF

After William Richkus and his wife, Sharon Dubble, decided to stay in Richkus' Catonsville home, it took nine months, more than $250,000 and a good deal of flexibility to turn the 1906 house into their dream home.

What they did was update the home by adding a 15-foot-deep addition that transformed an old home into something that, as Dubble said, "really works for you and feels like you."

Dubble moved to Mount Washington from Atlanta in 1996 to accept a Loyola College faculty position and met Richkus shortly after.

FOR THE RECORD - In the Dream Home feature in Sunday's Real Estate section, the company responsible for the renovation to Richkus-Dubble residence was misidentified. The Post & Beam Construction Co. Inc. of Forest Hill did the renovation. The Sun regrets the error.

The couple, both in their 50s, married in 1998 and Dubble's father, a minister, performed the ceremony in a grove of trees outside Richkus' Catonsville house. Dubble moved in with the understanding that the couple would, in a few years, build a new home.

"The whole idea of building a house [was] we could come up with what we want," Dubble said.

They managed to do that without moving.

After a year in the house, Richkus and Dubble, both of whom have one daughter in her 20s from prior marriages, began to consider staying. However, renovations would be necessary.

The square home sits on a half-acre, near a cul-de-sac on tree-lined Osborne Avenue. Richkus, a vice president for a Columbia environmental consulting company, purchased the home for $92,000 in 1981.

The couple hired Brennan + Company Architects to discuss how to achieve what they wanted. Renovations, by Timber Valley Post & Beam Contractors, began in March 2000.

"For this old house, they had to add roof supports" from the basement to the third floor, Dubble said. "That meant tearing out old plaster in all of the rooms."

The couple decided to stay in their home while renovations were under way, even if it meant living with a quarter-inch of plaster dust in the kitchen every day.

Initially, they slept in their bedroom while the living and dining rooms were closed off. Then, they slept in what is now the exercise room. Finally, after the couple had "literally 3 square feet" left in the kitchen, they spent a week at a local hotel, followed by a weekend vacation on the Eastern Shore.

By staying in their house, they "got to watch the contractors work" and were available to help iron out any glitches in the design, said Richkus.

On the first floor, the couple added a sunroom, which they filled with plants. The glass-walled room adjoins the dining room and looks out on the back deck, which leads to a pond and waterfall.

Dubble wanted stone floors, so the couple did the kitchen and back entrance in limestone. The addition allowed them to add a walk-in pantry and a half bathroom on the first floor as well.

A staircase leads from the wood-floored foyer and the kitchen to the second floor and the master suite.

To form their master suite, Dubble and Richkus merged the original master bedroom, Richkus' daughter's room, and part of the second floor of the addition.

The daughter's room became a walk-in closet and an exercise room; the addition became part of the master bedroom and the bath, complete with a free-standing glass shower, therapeutic tub and limestone and granite detailing.

"Oh, we're just loving it," said Dubble, who described the bath as an indulgence.

Next to the bedroom the couple share an office, which, like the bedroom, is enlarged by the addition. They built bookshelves and moved their washer and dryer into the office closet.

On the third floor, which had been unfinished, they constructed two guest bedrooms and a bathroom.

When their children visit, "they can have privacy and we can all have bathrooms," Dubble said.

Dubble and Richkus added carpeting and built mini-closets under the eaves. The architects tried to maintain the original angled roof, which Dubble described as resembling "a slight pagoda."

They also added central air conditioning. In one of the rooms, the air conditioning duct extended farther than they had expected, so they built a window seat on top of it.

They constructed new windows to resemble the originals, which had diamond-shaped panes.

The couple restored the wraparound porch, which had been walled in to form a room by a prior owner. It had served as Richkus' office, but without heating, "it was not very convenient," he said.

"I have to say, those people knew what they were doing when they designed those old houses with wraparound porches," said Dubble. In their tree-lined neighborhood, people "still use them like living rooms."

When the renovations were finished around Christmas, the couple invited the neighbors - who had been watching the progress - as well as the contractors and their families over for a party. The contractors have since gotten other accounts in the neighborhood, Dubble said. The architect is also planning to enter the couple's home in two national competitions.

"My daughter, of course, who grew up here, had a little bit of a shock," when she saw the newly redone house, said Richkus. But in the end, both daughters "love it."

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