The grass was greener


A cottage across the street from a real estate listing captured their lives

Real Estate


A little over 13 years ago, newlyweds David and Janet Coleman thought they had found their dream house on a quiet, tree-lined street in old Catonsville.

The house in southwest Baltimore County seemed to fit the bill: It was between their respective workplaces - he in Sparks, she downtown. It was older and had character.

But then, as they were leaving the house with their real estate agent, they spotted a "for sale" sign on the lawn across the street.

"We walked into this one with the Realtor, saw the foyer, and David said, `This is it,'" Janet Coleman remembered.

While seated at the large kitchen table in the rear addition of their home, the Colemans show a visitor a photo used in the initial sales pitch for the home in 1923. The English country-style cottage on Holmehurst Avenue was billed as a "one-of-a-kind" Mohler Brothers design.

Solidly built of masonry, stone and cinderblock with a sloping slate roof, the original asking price was $13,000, according to the information printed on the back of the photograph.

"I guess we overpaid," joked David Coleman about their $144,500 purchase price.

Over the past 13 years, the couple has spent close to $210,000 on improvements. They installed central air conditioning, put in a flagstone walk and replaced the garage roof. Three years ago, they built a two-story addition onto the back, expanding the house to 2,300 square feet.

The couple wanted to make the addition roomy and functional without compromising the architectural integrity of the cottage. They decided on wide-planked, pine flooring and 4-inch floor molding. A dozen multi-paned, floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides allow maximum light. The walls have been painted a soft yellow, a pleasing contrast to the taupe club furniture.

The addition opened up the kitchen, which the couple updated with oak cabinets and Corian countertops. A large cherry hutch, a family heirloom, sits against one wall.

A traditional living room occupies the front of the house. A brick fireplace rests on a slate hearth. Queen Anne-style furniture is covered in cranberry damask.

A multipaned door opens to a side porch under the home's sloping second story. Wooden arches serve as supports, accenting the cottage look.

Like the living room, the dining room is formally decorated with an 8-foot-long Federal style mahogany table and a corner hutch with an arch opening.

The foyer, which initially sold David Coleman on the house, has been a room he has enjoyed renovating. He replaced the original flooring with marble and covered the only window with a large pane of ecclesiastical stained glass. A church pew sits under the window. Both pieces came from his parents' parish church in Elizabethtown, Pa.

The second-story addition has been constructed with a sloping roof, consistent with the original front. This architectural touch allows for a 20-foot cathedral ceiling in the couple's master suite. In this large space they have created a cozy sitting area adjacent to a four-poster bed.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Write to Dream Home, Real Estate Editor, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, or e-mail us at

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