`Grandmother house'

Dream Home

Ellicott City couple spruces up a spacious, early 20th-century foursquare home

Real Estate

December 29, 2006|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Five years ago at this time, Helen Szablya and her husband, Chuck Dann, were driving through the stately neighborhoods in the vicinity of Catonsville when they decided to buy an old house. Their plan was to look for one year. If they didn't find exactly what they were looking for in that time, they would quit the search.

"I always wanted a `grandmother' house," said Helen Szablya, her term for an older home with big rooms, high ceilings, wide front porch and an entrance hall.

Within two weeks of their decision, they had their dream home, signing a contract in January 2002 on a large, foursquare home high in the hills behind old Ellicott City's Main Street.

It was modeled on the plans of a Sears kit house. The original owners, named Talbot, bought the plans from their neighbors a few doors down. As owners of the now-defunct Talbot Lumber Co. in Howard County, the builders had all of the needed materials at their disposal. That was in 1911. The house, an Arts and Crafts movement design on 1.3 acres overlooking Patapsco Valley State Park, stayed in the Talbot family until five years ago.

"The house was structurally good [and] all renovations were in excellent condition," Szablya continued. "It was priced to sell at $525,000."

Two weeks before their February move-in date, the couple hired contractors to paint the 3,300-square-foot interior in colors more to their taste. They've put $200,000 into upgrades, including refurbishing the original Southern heart pine flooring, extensive landscaping, a new kitchen and adding patios.

The former owners built a three-room addition at the rear of the house, with a keen eye toward detail and consistency of style. Contained in the 19-foot-deep by 44-foot-wide extension is a family room, full bathroom and the couple's master bedroom. That and the kitchen are the most used areas in the house.

Six large windows in the family room look out on tall backyard trees and provide abundant natural light. A black leather, tuxedo-style furniture suite is set off by pale yellow walls.

The pale yellow walls are carried over to the master bedroom, which has modern, light teak furniture and a bright orange-red quilted comforter on the bed. A multicolored quilt made by Szablya's grandmother is a wall hanging.

An L-shaped bar of cherry wood topped with granite separates the family room addition from the home's original kitchen. Cherry cabinets and stainless steel appliances coordinate with walls painted terra cotta.

The terra-cotta walls are carried over to the living room. White trim molding and chair rails form the backdrop of a parlorlike atmosphere where four tapestry-covered wing chairs are placed in the room's center for cozy conversation.

The dining room and front center hall are painted a sand shade. As in the rest of the house, white molding on ceilings and baseboards, as well as bull's-eye molding on windows and doors, presents a finished, polished look.

A grandfather clock stands at the hall's front entrance, with a large butter churn resting beside it.

"We roll up the carpet here in the hall for dancing when we have parties," Szablya said.

The upstairs is a genuine four-square design with four rooms off the center hallway. Dann and Szablya have home offices here. Dann, 60, is an attorney, and Szablya, 54, is director of communications for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

The couple's respect for the home's age and interior design is evident throughout. Of particular pride to them is a china cabinet, original to the home's kitchen, that they have repainted and placed in their dining room.

"This house is out of an era that is long gone," Szablya said. "It has a life of its own, [and] we're the caretakers."

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

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