Growing Timonium family turns cottage into rancher



On a blustery, late November morning, the Hill house in Timonium was a buzz of activity. Christmas music blasted from the radio and kept time with the steady bang of a hammer and the high-pitched whine of a circular saw. There was no wasting time if the job was to be done by the holidays.

In Steve and Donna Hill's world, home improvement has been all about expansion - transforming their 30-foot-square, single-story bungalow in Timonium into an L-shaped rancher by adding an addition to the front and side of their house.

"We almost doubled our square footage," said Steve Hill, a 47-year-old mechanic with the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

The 22-foot by 40-foot addition is a welcome improvement for an expanding family.

While the couple's eldest daughter, Melinda, recently married and moved away, two younger girls, Stephanie, 14, and Caroline, 10, remain, along with two foster children, Kayla, 9, and Mike, 8, who have been living with the family for a year and will soon be adopted by the Hills.

Steve and Donna Hill purchased their 1958 bungalow in 1999 for $165,000. Although the home was small, it occupied a three-quarter-acre wooded lot on a wide street. The home's original three bedrooms, basement, and 1 1/2 bathrooms were big enough for a family of five. Now, six years later, the couple estimate they've spent an additional $125,000 for a new kitchen, attic flooring, a deck and the addition.

"A lot of the work around here is our own, with the help of family members," said Donna Hill, 50, a part-time legal secretary. "And we don't buy anything new."

As an example, Steve Hill points to the home's interior walls. "I went to the Home Depot and got `oops' paint," he said. "That's paint that's already been mixed up and the customer ends up not buying it."

The Pennysaver weekly shopper proved to be an invaluable source for all kinds of furnishings and accessories. The couple found their carved oak dining table and chairs as well as an oak banister among its listings.

A combined living room-dining room occupies the entire west side of the home. The buttery yellow paint serves as a soft backdrop for mahogany and oak furnishings. A hand-me-down mahogany china closet in the Duncan Phyfe style stands against one wall, opposite a 6-foot-tall cherry grandfather clock that chimes on the hour. A wedding gift to the couple, it was constructed by a relative who is a workshop teacher in Anne Arundel County.

Beyond the dining area French doors lead to a covered porch and deck. The porch features terra cotta tiling, while the deck is handsomely constructed in a pentagon shape.

The renovated kitchen presents a clean country look with white ceramic block tiles, white cabinets and white appliances. Corian countertops are done in varying shades of sea green and the walls are painted sage green.

"Now we're getting into the danger zone," said Donna Hill, walking toward the hammering and sawing, where a family room is nearing completion. This is the original part of the home, where once there were three small bedrooms. Now an impressive, 6-foot-square window on the south wall opens onto the backyard and a line of tall oaks and maples.

The new L-shaped addition consists of three bedrooms on one side of the house as well as a master bedroom along the front.

"The kids were allowed to pick out their own colors [for the walls]," Donna Hill said.

Creativity abounds in their color choices. Fourteen-year-old Stephanie chose a soft peach for two walls, contrasting them with a vivid medium blue on the other two. Her bed linens are of multicolored geometric shapes. Brother Mike chose dark blue paint, a theatrical backdrop for electric yellow Sponge Bob linens, rugs, and a flashing lamp.

Kayla and Caroline share a lime-green room. White dressers and bookcases placed back to back in the center of the room cut the large space in two and allow for privacy.

The master bedroom showcases pine flooring and emerald colored carpeting. An impressive, mahogany sleigh bed dominates the room, procured - no surprise - from an ad in the Pennysaver.

"Here is the `Eve of Destruction,' " Donna Hill shouted, in reference to the basement, perhaps a bit messy, but surely lived in.

A music room features a full set of drums and a desk piled high with books and sheet music. Barrister-style bookcases line a hallway wall that leads to a laundry room where washing is piled high on the machine. The home's original half-bath has been turned into a full bath, an additional convenience if, as Donna Hill says, "the kids would only use it."

The din of construction temporarily subsides. Donna Hill is reflective.

"This home may not be glamorous," she said. "Dreams differ depending on circumstances [but] for our `new children,' the dream is forever family."

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