Victorian gets a 25-year makeover

A 1901

Renaissance: The rambling house was once so run-down that the owners' 6-year-old son called it a "spook house."

December 26, 2004|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Twenty-five years ago, Bud and Pam Nixon bought a 1901 Victorian home in Lutherville at a trustee sale.

Originally built for $2,500, the clapboard, Queen Anne-style house was, according to the Nixons, badly run-down.

Still, an instant love affair began.

"I remember saying at the time, `This is the house we're going to die in,' " Bud Nixon says of the couple's first look at the property. At the time, their 6-year-old son, Andy, called it the "spook house," a child's impression of a rambling home with an octagonal west wing and a third-floor turret.

The Nixons paid $68,500 for the 4,000-square-foot home, living for a while in a second-floor apartment while undertaking extensive renovations. Over the past 25 years, the couple estimate, they have spent $230,000 on a new kitchen, roof, floors and heat pump, partial air conditioning and an east-wing addition. The nine-room home has two-and-a-half bathrooms.

FOR THE RECORD - A photo caption in the Dec. 26 Real Estate section gave the incorrect last name of Bud Nixon, a Lutherville home owner. The Sun regrets the error.

The acre lot is just off the northern twists and turns of Bellona Avenue. The neighborhood offers what Pam Nixon, a 58-year-old homemaker, refers to as "a country flair, yet two minutes from the Beltway."

A large gazebo on the front lawn is a remnant of an earlier house that sat on the property. Built in 1842, the gazebo is one of the oldest structures in Lutherville. A life-size Father Christmas is rigged inside, one of more than 300 Santas in Pam Nixon's collection.

The home's main entrance faces south. There is no foyer. Inside the front door, a small anteroom creates what the Victorians called an airlock. Three additional doors, at 45-degree angles to each other, open to a closet, the living room and a hallway that separates the living and dining rooms.

By closing the front door before opening the others, cold or warm weather can be kept at bay.

The living room (or parlor) is a step back in time, with 10-foot ceilings and walls painted a rich mustard color.

The living room's octagonal shape dictates furniture groupings away from the walls and into the center of the space. Two camelback love seats of soft, pastel embroidery and carved wooden legs are placed in front of a poplar-framed fireplace in the room's northwest corner.

An ornately carved oak-framed mirror sits atop the mantel. A miniature Christmas tree is placed on a marble-topped mahogany table in front of the largest of the room's three windows. A brass chandelier original to the house hangs in the center of the room, the flutes of its four pressed-glass lamps pointing downward.

On the parlor walls are gilt-framed antique photographs of the Nixon family and several lithographs by artist Erma Davis Bates, whose family originally owned the home and who lived there until her death.

The couple's library is off the parlor and accessible through original pocket doors. The deep cherry-red of the walls contrasts with the white floor and ceiling molding. The library is smaller than the home's other eight rooms and includes built-in bookshelves and warm furnishings such as a red leather pub chair.

Double doors on the room's west wall lead to an 8-by-9-foot sun porch decorated with wicker furniture covered in striped fabric of red, green and cream.

East of the main hallway, a dining room features floral wallpaper, built-in wooden cabinets and a pass-through to the kitchen. In the pass-through, the Nixons have placed a holiday treasure, a set of Nativity figurines of Lenox porcelain.

The remodeled kitchen features cherry cabinets and granite countertops with brick-colored flecking. A pine hutch rising almost to the ceiling stands out against white wallpaper decorated with green vines.

From the kitchen, a hall of windows leads to the Nixons' family room addition. The spacious octagonal room has 32 windows.

"Our object was to bring the outside in," says Bud Nixon, 62, the retired president of Rukert Terminals Corp. in Canton. "We've made no effort to be Victorian here. This is where we sit and relax."

Larry Link, a local architect, designed the room, intending for it to replicate the front lawn gazebo and the home's west wing. An oak ceiling is made up of eight horizontal sections that taper to an octagonal cupola 20 feet high.

Eight small windows that are operated electronically surround the apex, where a ceiling fan hangs. Warm air rises in the summer, and the apex acts as a chimney release, Bud Nixon says.

The walls are painted a warm butternut color. One windowless section houses a gas fireplace and entertainment center. Hundreds of Santa figurines, in a variety of shapes and styles, are placed about the hearth and around a furniture suite of light blue fabric adorned with dark blue stars. French doors open to a large deck.

"I love the family room addition," says longtime friend Gwen Vaughan. "It reminds me of the Thomas Point Lighthouse, which is so fitting, given Bud's family [Rukert Terminal] business."

A carriage house has been converted to a two-car garage and a craft area on the first floor. A circular iron staircase leads to a second-level addition above the garage, Bud Nixon's 50th birthday present to himself. Here, in his getaway, he enjoys his model car, train, and airplane collections. The room includes a television, a computer and a refrigerator.

A carpeted staircase in bold floral patterns leads to the second level of the main house, which includes a guestroom, a master suite and a tiny nursery for the couple's granddaughter.

The third floor, which contains the turret, also was renovated as their now-grown son's bedroom and play area when he was a child.

Twenty-five years after first setting eyes on his old Victorian, Bud Nixon still wants the home to be there forever. If the couple must leave, he says, "I'd love to keep it in the family."

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