Glenn and Victoria Hasenfus had a choice.
If they wanted to move to the rural environment of northern Baltimore County, they would have to decide what was more important: a house large enough for their family or a nice piece of land. Because the couple worked in real estate, they knew that finding both would be difficult.
So when they came upon a 1,404-square-foot home in White Hall during spring last year, their predictions were confirmed.
The 3-acre parcel included a rolling landscape that sat next to a protected land trust of 300 acres. But the two-story box of a house had a pink interior, no insulation and barely-7-foot ceilings, and the basement had been used as a cat litter box.
The Hasenfuses quickly realized why the near-turn-of-the-last-century house had been available for two months during such a blazing market.
"It was horrible," said Victoria Hasenfus, 35, a real estate agent with Long & Foster.
Their $160,000 bid for the property - $20,000 below the asking price - was accepted. After more than $175,000 of renovations, the Hasenfuses have both the house and the land they always wanted.
The home retains a farmhouse feel with its red-brick walkway, white exterior walls and red metal roof. Inside, just beyond a shrunken formal dining room, is the centerpiece of the house - an 18-foot-wide-by-40-foot-long addition that incorporates a full country kitchen, dining area and family room.
This area includes translucent forest green cabinets, Pennsylvania cherry floors, stainless steel appliances and Formica countertops.
Above a wood-burning fireplace in the back of the room rests an arched-window mirror.
The view from this room includes a cut cornfield that slopes to a line of trees. The scenery helped inspire Glenn Hasenfus, 34, an assistant vice president for real estate at Eastern Savings Bank, to settle here.
He has an appreciation for wide-open places, having grown up near Charlotte, N.C.
"I had a vision of having a patio under the tree to the west of the house," he said, referring to his initial visit to the property.
To accomplish that, the Hasenfuses had a portion of a hill behind the original structure leveled to form an earthen semi-circle, which is supported by a 3-foot-high railroad-tie retaining wall. The addition rests there, along with enough space for an arched patio, greenery and a drainage system that runs more than 100 feet to the front of the house.
At night from the patio, the Hasenfuses can see hints of light from Towson, the suburb where they lived before moving up Interstate 83.
In a matter of four months - July to October last year - their new house expanded to about 2,300 square feet. The added space has given the couple more room to showcase their decor.
The master bedroom and bath are upstairs, the latter replete with a pedestal sink from the old Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. Next to an enclosed shower stall is a refinished claw-foot bathtub. A wooden medicine cabinet - discovered by one of Victoria Hasenfus' friends on trash day in Federal Hill - has found a home, with a new mirror and some primer, in the first-floor bathroom. Older doors purchased from a salvage company in York, Pa., stand throughout the house.
Then there's Victoria Hasenfus' great-grandmother's formal round dining table made of marble and walnut trim. It was important that it fit in with the formal dining room, she said.
"That's part of the criteria for buying a house," she said.
Tax records date the existence of the house to 1937. But neighbors whose ancestors grew up in the area said the original structure was built elsewhere at the turn of the last century. It was later moved to its current location.
A renovation in the 1980s added yellow siding, two bedrooms and a full bath on the first floor. Yet the only things of redeeming value the Hasenfuses saw when they tore the house to its roots were the wood floors and planks on the first floor.
Now that the house has been rebuilt, the Hasenfuses can spend their time appreciating nature with their son Kyle, who will turn 2 in February. The first words Kyle spoke were "ma" and "pa," and then shortly after came an improvised pronunciation of "deer." There are lots of those around, along with groundhogs, geese, frogs, cats, possum and turkey.
The neighbors nicely complete the scene, the couple say.
When the blizzard of Presidents Day weekend hit, neighbors immediately brought their tractors over to dig the family out. When Tropical Storm Isabel knocked out the power for six days, neighbors checked in on them.
The Hasenfuses always could envision what their purchase would become. But it's the surrounding nature and their neighbors, they say, that have cemented their feelings for the place.
And it's all because they took a chance on a "shack."
"It's about thinking outside of the box," Victoria Hasenfus said.
Or just adding a grand addition to it.