Eric Bjorkholm and his partner, Curt Hauer, knew they had found the perfect home the moment their Realtor had walked them through it - a stately Georgian-style manor house north of the city. The location was ideal for quick downtown commuting. Additionally, the 1930 brick structure, situated on almost an acre of land off West Joppa Road in Ruxton, offered the opportunity for creative renovation, something the men had done in the two places they previously had owned.
But, it was the first property they had looked at in the Baltimore area, and the two decided to visit several more that same day. By evening, they were back at the manor house with an offer. That was in December. They settled in January and began renovations, and they moved in a month later.
Not normally impulsive, Bjorkholm, 31, a human resources manager with Wachovia bank, had been transferred from Washington to Baltimore. Hauer, 40, a vice president with SunTrust bank, was able to get a transfer along with him.
"We thought that Baltimore County would be a nice change from urban D.C., where we were right in the throes [of downtown] on Pennsylvania Avenue," said Hauer.
The men paid $430,000 for the home - a good price, they thought, for a three-story, 4,800-square-foot brick-and-masonry house with first- and second-story side porches (five in all), center hall, sunroom, five bedrooms, five full baths, two powder rooms and finished lower level.
"The [home's] bones were good," said Hauer, who especially loved the original wainscoting and wood paneling on the interior walls.
The men estimate they spent approximately $150,000 over the past 10 months on updates. They lived without a kitchen for the first three months, since its renovation was top priority. The home's plumbing was updated, all of the interior walls painted, the lower level redone, and three floors of original oak flooring re-finished.
A boxwood hedge encircles the property like a fence, with a wrought iron gate that opens onto brick steps and a brick paved walkway that leads to the dual-column, covered entrance. Three dormer windows jut from a sloping slate roof, forming the third story. On one side a covered porch runs the depth of the home, with an overhead porch accessible from the second story. On its other side, a sunroom addition is topped with yet another porch with white wooden rails.
Thurman, a 4-year-old basset hound mix, likes to rest at the foot of the center hall's open staircase. Fashioned of red oak, the staircase's white carved spindles wind gracefully to the third-floor landing. When a visitor arrives, the dog instinctively heads toward the kitchen in the rear of the house, his nails clicking on the polished, red oak flooring.
The renovated kitchen is clearly the gathering place for visitors. Decorated in a French country theme, its cherry wood cabinets exude warmth and complement the tan and gold granite counters and earth-tone slate floor. A 10-foot-long center island - also of cherry wood and granite - serves as a buffet when Bjorkholm and Hauer entertain.
Sliding doors lead from the kitchen to the covered back porch, where Adirondack-style rocking chairs and a wrought-iron patio set provide a casual "living room" atmosphere during warm weather. A wrought-iron fence encloses a large backyard with trees beyond. Only the low hum of traffic beyond the trees indicates an urban area nearby.
A formal dining room next to the kitchen has been designed around the magnificent woodwork original to the home. The wainscoting on the lower half of the walls has been painted white, while the upper half is coated in a rich burgundy, accented by picture frame molding, also in white. Dupioni silk draperies in olive and gold hang at the two front windows, billowing out at the floor. The same treatment graces the French doors that open to a side porch.
"Most everything in our house has a family tie," noted Bjorkholm as he pointed out a Williamsburg brass-ball chandelier over the mahogany dining table. From his childhood home, the fixture features eight polished arms, their candle bulbs topped with little black shades. A three-piece, mahogany china cabinet displays a dinner service for twelve that once belonged to Hauer's mother.
Across the center hall, a formal living room has the same woodwork. The paint chosen here is a subtle taupe with the trim in white. Against this subdued background, a white brick fireplace holds center stage along with a Victorian settee and two occasional chairs. A 1906 working Victrola rests in one corner of the room, its chubby arm riding the grooves of a 78-rpm record playing a foxtrot.
A more casual atmosphere is found in the sunroom, painted a soft green.
Plantation blinds cover the large windows for a crisp, seaside look. Leather club-style furniture and plants give the space a "Florida room" feel.
The halls on the second and third levels are wide, allowing room for chairs, tables, and even an antique Singer sewing machine.