$200 worth of paint lets a castle emerge


Govans: Newlyweds from Washington find a farmhouse in the city.

October 05, 2003|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If there is one thing Bridget and Josh Speiser realize about their lives today, it is how lucky they are.

"New city, new jobs, newly married and ... new house," Bridget Speiser says, summarizing the past four months of her life.

On Bellona Avenue, between York Road and Saint Dunstans Garth in Govans, the Speiser home is not easily spotted from the street.

Behind a high, creosote picket fence, nestled among spruce and pine trees, a circular brick pathway converges at the porch of their 1880, clapboard-framed Victorian. Outlined along the second- and third-story gabled facade, gingerbread carvings define windows that are protected by tan shutters.

Bridget Speiser, 33, a veterinary technician at a Towson cat hospital, sits in the library of the L-shaped farmhouse. She says this room is her favorite because of its original, rugged pine flooring and fireplace along the west wall. Her husband, Josh Speiser, 33, is a sales associate for Plaza Art Supply.

"Can you imagine?" she says. "This room was originally lavender."

That was before she coated the walls in dark evergreen while leaving the white crown molding, window frames and the wainscoting inside the large bay window seat.

Seated on an earth-toned animal print chaise lounge (purchased from the former owners, and part of an ensemble that includes an armchair and hassock), Bridget Speiser relates how quickly everything seemed to come together for her and her husband.

"We felt that there would be a lot less pressure living in Baltimore [than their native Washington], and we were amazed that we could get [such] a house up here for under $600,000. This is the second house our Realtor showed us, and we knew this was the one as soon as we were on the front porch."

The couple paid $227,500 for their dream, thrilled that the former owners had torn out the interior and totally rehabbed it before placing it on the market.

"I'm not a fixer-upper, but I wanted a house I could put some personal work into, like painting," Bridget Speiser says.

About $200 worth of paint constitutes the only added expense for the house to date.

Special pieces in her library include her grandmother's wooden mantel clock, and faux leather-bound stacked books that, when opened, encase a brandy bottle and four shot glasses. She says this novelty item got plenty of use during Prohibition.

To the left of the center staircase, the living room is carpeted in rich Berber with a brown on beige variegated design. Under 9-foot ceilings, the windows - two on the west side, and one on the southern front of the home - are dressed in the clean lines of Venetian blinds. Bridget Speiser is glad they came with the home because the cost of fitting them would have been expensive. The room is sparsely furnished as the Speisers take their time in acquiring the right pieces. They are, however, proud of their two Spanish, carved ladder-back chairs and their oak drop-leaf table.

The living room, library and kitchen are on the ground level, with two bedrooms on the second floor and two garret rooms on the third floor.

In the kitchen, a black, laminate counter juts from the east wall, defining a space that includes all-new appliances and a window over the sink. Bridget Speiser can look through the window at her slate courtyard, brick patio pond, picnic benches and expansive back yard.

Friends Noah and Pam Matson from Takoma Park love visiting the Spiesers.

"The back yard is so flat and usable," Noah Matson says. "It's great for croquet and bocce ball, and I love their turtle, Murphy, who lives in the pond."

Bridget Speiser has enjoyed expressing herself through the use of gold paint on the staircase walls and in the hallway of the second level.

The second level houses the Speisers' television room and a master bedroom across the hall. A laundry room, bath, and dressing area are to the rear. A second staircase leads to the third level of the home. Here, on the east and west side, are two pitched garret rooms. One serves as an office.

Out in the front yard, Bridget Speiser comments that it is difficult for her to believe she lives in the city because it is so quiet around her house most of the time. And she identifies with people who find sanctuary in their homes.

"I love my house and all the old trees," Bridget Speiser says. "I feel safe and protected here."

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