A gem for newlyweds

Dream Home

An 1856 farmhouse in Ellicott City was labor of love for couple who'd just tied the knot

Dream Home

Real Estate

February 16, 2007|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

In March 2003, newlyweds Jim Akers and Deborah Patton treated themselves to a $300,000 wedding present. In what they referred to as a "relationship compromise," (each had separate residences) they bought an 1856 Ellicott City farmhouse that been part of a 600-acre farm that was subdivided in the 1950s.

Even though the home now occupies just under an acre, the couple knew they got a good deal for the prime Howard County address. During negotiations the former owner told Akers, "I'll sell you the land; I'll give you the house."

There was never thought of doing anything but renovating. While the inherently sound structure had a few beams weakened by termites, the rest of the work was what Patton called "dreaded improvements."

To the tune of $100,000, Akers and Patton tore out suspended ceilings, repaired a chimney liner for one of the home's three fireplaces, replaced the furnace, added central air conditioning and installed new wiring.

The original 1856 portion of the farmhouse had just four rooms - two down, two up and a center staircase. In 1895, two first-floor rooms - now the kitchen and dining room - and an upper-floor bedroom and bath were added.

In decorating their farmhouse, the couple did justice to its age by filling it with furniture from the mid-19th century. Stunning country pieces are either family heirlooms, or ones purchased at antique and consignment shops. They found a few on E-bay.

The dining room is an exceptional tribute to their effort, creating a casual and cozy atmosphere. A double-pedestal oak table that expands to 10 feet is surrounded by high-backed chairs with a carved-fan design. Over the table hangs a cast-iron candelabra with 10 holders, each with a half-burned candle.

"It provides wonderful lighting," Patton said, "along with the wall sconces and oil lamps."

Natural light in the room is courtesy of two large multipaned windows framed in bulls-eye molding that's repeated throughout the rest of the home. A Federal period cabinet and corner china closet are delightful pieces as well as a marble-topped oak wash stand, an Akers family heirloom.

A large fireplace hugs the south wall, extending almost to the 9-foot ceiling. Its opening is lined with white, square tiles. The brick chimney is painted burgundy. The mantel, painted white, is trimmed in the same color purple as the bead board molding along the lower half of the room's walls.

The highlight of the country kitchen is a multidoor mahogany breakfront. Placed along the north wall of the room, it enhances the white appliances and oak cabinets on the opposite walls.

The two front rooms of the original farmhouse are the parlor and living room, separated by the center staircase. The living room contains traditional furniture that includes two wing chairs on either side of an original fireplace.

The mantel is painted using a technique "known as grain-painted wood," said Patton, a 57-year-old freelance writer. "[This] is a technique for painting over bad wood, improving its texture."

She pointed out that this treatment is used elsewhere in the house, mainly in unseen areas such as on the inside of closet doors. A standout in the living room is a large oak and glass display cabinet filled with Akers' collection of ancient Greek and Egyptian artifacts. These include coins and figurines - many over 4,000 years old.

The parlor has a game-room feel. Here, Akers, 66, an employee with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has an antique one-armed-bandit slot machine as well as a pachinko game on display. Vintage gumball machines line the top of a bookcase and framed movie posters hang on the green walls. The home's third fireplace is in this room. The most ornate of the three, the hearth boasts a floor-to-ceiling mahogany mantelpiece that's original to the house.

The farmhouse's second story contains a wide center hall with a window overlooking the front yard. One wall is lined entirely with bookshelves. The two front bedrooms are original to the 1856 structure while the back room added in 1895 is used as Akers' office. An adjacent room, added in 1947, serves as Patton's office.

The couple is minutes away from the amenities of Ellicott City and a 20-minute ride from downtown.

"It's a pleasure to live here," Patton said.

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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