From the street, the Coleman house in Timonium looks like an ordinary two-story Colonial. But the back consists of a dramatic, two-story great room with a cathedral ceiling and its own inside balcony.
It all began with a quest to bring the outside in; to live among the trees that grow so tall and wide in the Spring Lake neighborhood.
Sandra Coleman remembers telling her husband that if the 2,800-square-foot house on a third-acre of highly landscaped property ever went on the market, it would be great to buy it.
Patience was rewarded. In 1979, the house (built in 1964) went up for sale. The Colemans paid $105,000 for a property in relatively good condition. The four bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths were ideal for them and their two teenage children.
This year, at the 27th anniversary of their occupancy, the couple looks back on the money invested in the house over the years. The amount, according to John Coleman's records, totals $156,809, and includes money for a new roof, wood deck, brick driveway and walk, second-story replacement windows, landscaping, garage remodeling and great room addition. Of the total, $84,000 was spent on the great room alone.
The brick-and-shingle exterior of the original house overlooks a manicured garden shaded by old trees. Inside, from a center foyer a winding staircase leads to the second level.
Left of the front entrance, the traditional living room is carpeted in light blue and highlighted by a great fieldstone fireplace. A grandfather clock, a family inheritance, chimes the hour. On each side of the fireplace and facing each other, two Queen Anne loveseats, upholstered in damask, form a cozy conversation area.
Across the foyer, the dining room, furnished in colonial style, features a cherry wood Queen Anne table and chairs. Pastel flowered wall paper and authentic oil lamp sconces add charm. A cherry hutch displays a collection of Hummel figurines.
"We didn't do much to the kitchen," Sandra Coleman said. White kitchen cupboards and appliances enhance the terra cotta colored porcelain tiles, laid on a diagonal. John Coleman noted that "it took 6,900 tiles to cover the floor from the front foyer through the hall and to the kitchen."
A round oak table, 4 feet in diameter and also a family heirloom, offers a homey touch. So does the artwork on the wall of the kitchen's seating area.
"This painting is of my great-grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee," said Sandra Coleman, indicating the stunning portrait of a young woman, dressed in traditional garb on her wedding day.
From this nook, the addition looms large and close. One step ahead places the visitor in a cathedral-like great room, true to its name and added to the house before great rooms became a popular home feature. The addition is two stories high, with a balcony emerging from the master bedroom above.
Sunlight streams through a multipaned, floor-to-ceiling window on the new back of the house. The vista beyond is of tall beech and maple trees. A fireplace, its brick facing extending along an entire wall, showcases small arched openings to hold logs, a television set, and a number of clay and ceramic pots.
"We went with a more modern, Southwestern theme," Sandra Coleman noted of the 22-by-24-foot addition.
Navajo rugs hang on the walls. A fan, hung from the 22-foot-high ceiling hums softly. The couple's two cats rest on built-in seats in front of the cathedral window.
The outdoors is literally indoors in the presence of giant ferns and other plants, lining the room's perimeter.
An unending source of pride for the Colemans, the great room was of their own design. From the outside, it blends perfectly with the home's original siding. It is also great for entertaining where, according to Sandra Coleman, guests like to gather on the balcony just outside their master bedroom.
Traveling five months of the year and returning to mounds of yard work, the couple, at times, consider moving. They sometimes refer to their dream house as "the beautiful dilemma."
Still, there's no rush to act, no need to be hasty.
"We'll just think upon it," sighed John.
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