Roomy home in city ends long commute



Bill and Lorraine Spencer were so taken with the 85-year-old home near Belvedere Square in North Baltimore, that they signed the contract on the hood of their car the same day the agent showed it to them.

Nine months after moving, they remain grateful for soaring prices in the Bowie area that allowed them to sell their rancher there for nearly double the $170,000 they paid for it three years earlier. The three-story, 3,000-square-foot Belvedere Square home, just off York Road, cost less.

Though Baltimore's lower housing prices relative to the suburbs played a role, it was a daily, round-trip commute of 75 miles that precipitated the move. Lorraine Spencer's job at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and son Michael's enrollment at the Baltimore Lab School kept mother and son on the road over 10 hours each week.

"This wasn't making sense [after] we sat down and did the math," said Lorraine Spencer, 42.

Husband Bill Spencer's job in marketing research is work he does from home.

Moving to Baltimore was the answer, the couple decided. But they had specifications - the house had to be built before 1950, there had to be bedrooms on more than one floor, and window seats were a must, as well as a gas stove.

In addition to fulfilling these requirements, their chosen home sits on a quiet street of diverse housing styles, from bungalows to colonials, with large yards.

From street level, the Spencer house is a standout - three stories, constructed of cedar shake siding with oversized double-hung windows and salmon shutters and a wide terra cotta tiled front porch, with two Doric columns.

Built in 1920, the house is a combination of many styles, according to Bill Spencer, 45.

"There's a bit of craftsman, along with farmhouse and Colonial," he said.

"It's a mutt," added his wife, laughing. "But somehow it all works."

The couple paid $295,000 for their six-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bathroom house, but they say they "felt it was home" the moment they arrived in April.

There was work to be done, however. The couple paid a contractor $51,000 to strip and repaint the exterior trim, repair a hole in the siding, replace all but two windows, refinish the hardwood floors and install a new kitchen.

From the entrance foyer, the home gives the impression of being larger than it really is, thanks in part to the 9 1/2 -foot ceilings. A hanging lamp of colored glass just inside the doorway radiates a prism of light onto the ceiling.

A spacious dining room to the right of the entrance is filled with light from a bay window, complete with a 6-foot-wide window seat. The room is lined with bookshelves to accommodate more than 2,500 volumes. An eight-foot-long mahogany dining table rests in the center of the room.

"Because this house was neglected for so many years, much of the original appointments remain," said Lorraine Spencer.

That includes the claw-foot tub on the third floor, as well as glass knobs on just about every door.

The living room features walls of thin white paneling that the Spencers plan to paint a pale yellow. A restored, carved oak clock, 2 1/2 -feet high, rests atop the mantle of a brick fireplace they plan to restore to working order.

A tan leather, rolled arm sofa, large maple armoire and bright wool rug of Native American influence contributes to the Mission-style ambience of the home's interior.

The remodeled kitchen is behind the hall's chunky wood-slatted staircase, and occupies the rear of the home.

"Everything in this kitchen is what I wanted," Lorraine Spencer said. "I never got to [design] a kitchen before."

There's a custom stainless sink "deep enough for a stock pot," glazed maple cabinets, white appliances and black quartz countertops. Greenish-gray ceramic floor tiles present a clean, minimalist look.

The second floor's four bedrooms were converted to a master suite, a guest room and an office each for Bill and Lorraine Spencer. An enclosed sun porch on the floor's southeast corner provides a quiet place to get away from it all.

The third floor is the province of their 11-year-old son and is referred to as "Michael Land." Its space fills the home's 40-foot width, but due to a sloping roof the depth is 18 feet.

Michael's bedroom is on the east side. His game room, which has a large project table, is on the west side.

"I sleep on the floor in here," he said, indicating his comfy pieces of inflatable furniture.

As much as the home itself, the Spencers appreciate what they call "the quality of life in Baltimore." They know all of their neighbors and are active in the community association. Son Michael simply loves the room, the large backyard, and his special floor.

"My best friend thinks I have the perfect life," he said. "And he's right!"

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