Along the winding, country roads of Upper Falls, in northeastern Baltimore County, whitewashed fences enclose fields of summer crops. Red barns, roadside vegetable stands, country churches and stamp-sized cemeteries are all a part of a rural landscape that belies the proximity of Interstate 95.
On many visits to his uncle's farm in Upper Falls, Jay Wachter and his wife, Filomena, longed to be part of that landscape. For a long time they eyed a dilapidated Gothic Revival farmhouse, circa 1860, that sat on 3 1/2 acres atop a hill.
"For years I'd drive by and want to restore it, thinking a white farmhouse on this knoll would be a fine property someday," Jay Wachter remembered.
The farmhouse was bought and restored - by another family.
But then, on his way to a Fourth of July party at his uncle's house in 1997, Wachter saw a for-sale sign posted in front of the house. "I'm your man," he told the owner.
The Wachters paid $275,000 for their 3,400-square-foot, three-story dream house. The previous owners had done a great deal of updating: They installed central air conditioning, added storm windows and covered the exterior clapboard in white vinyl.
The wife, an avid gardener, also had planted perennials that provide continuous blooming throughout spring and summer. The Wachters spent $50,000 to add a great room.
To furnish the place, the couple drew on their collection of authentic period pieces. Jay Wachter grew up on a family farm compound, called The Homestead, in northwestern Baltimore County and inherited many of its antiques. They also could draw on pieces from his grandfather (of Von Paris Moving and Storage) who collected many interesting items over the years.
With a sunny southern exposure, the home looks out over a wide front lawn. A brick walk, lined with English boxwood, runs from the driveway to a covered porch that stretches across the home's entire front. A porch swing and white-wicker furniture rest in front of floor-to-ceiling, double-hung windows, their wavy glass an indication that they are original to the house.
The front door boasts a transom and side windowpanes. It opens onto a center hallway and a staircase. On the hall's soft floral wallpaper two oil paintings - one of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the other of Gen. Robert E. Lee - flank a mahogany framed oval mirror of beveled glass. At the foot of the staircase, another oil of Benjamin Franklin stares placidly down.
A formal living room and dining room occupy the east end of the farmhouse. A Steiff grand piano sits at the parlor's front windows. Jay Wachter, 58, is a professional musician and owner and president of Entertainment Consultants, a Baltimore talent resource and special events production company.
The walls of the two rooms are done in a neutral off-white with light mauve trim. Two Queen Anne wing chairs sit perpendicular to the living room fireplace while a rolled-arm sofa rests opposite the hearth. Flowing chintz draperies adorn the windows in both rooms.
A particular treasure in a dining room filled with mahogany Hepplewhite furniture is a large carved mahogany buffet with an attached mirror. A family heirloom, the piece's mirror displays a prominent hole, the result of Wachter playing with a BB gun as a young boy.
The family room on the other side of the hallway is painted a soft yellow and includes built-in bookcases filled with one-of-a-kind volumes. A 10-foot-high, carved mahogany, roll-top secretary commands the room's southwest corner. A first edition of Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi is displayed on the fireplace mantel along with a few more volumes of the author's work.
The carpeted oak staircase leads to a bright second-floor center hall, wide enough to accommodate a bureau with mirror and a green plush armchair in front of a lace-curtained window. The master bedroom features a cherry suite with a four-poster bed crowned with carved pineapples.
Jay Wachter's second-floor office, as well as a guest bedroom decorated in black and white, are what Filomena Wachter, 56, describes as "the modern rooms."
Two third-floor garret rooms have been left in their original, whitewashed plaster. One room is used for storage, the other as a bedroom, the walls romantically decorated with floral wreaths and the wedding gowns of both Filomena Wachter and her mother.
The couple considers the first-floor great room addition "our favorite room, where we sit and relax when people come over."
The 25-by-18-foot room off the Colonial-style kitchen was designed to be consistent with the rest of the home. The ceiling is of board and batten construction and rises 18 feet at its peak.
Homey, chintz-covered furniture sits in front of a Benjamin Franklin fireplace (called that because of its high hearth and 7-foot-high mantel). Across the room is a rectangular oak table set with bright, floral crockery, surrounded by six ladder-backed chairs.
It is at this table, looking out the back windows to their deck, old smokehouse and stable, that the Wachters reflect on their good fortune to have come across their Camelot. Filomena Wachter named the farmhouse for the legendary kingdom of King Arthur, noting that, from the start, the move was meant to be.
"The prior owners even had a horse named Lancelot," she said.