`I live in a dog house'

Dream Home

Donna and John Hoffman share space with four terriers in rural Sparks

March 23, 2007|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Over the river and through the woods is an apt description of the path that leads to the Hoffman house in Sparks, where tall trees are thick along winding two-lane roads, and an occasional log cabin or framed bungalow peeps from the hillsides.

Four terriers bark out a welcome beyond the green iron gates of the property where a two-level home fits like a puzzle piece into the irregular grade of the land.

"I live in a dog house," Donna Hoffman joked, plumping the pillows on her trundle bed in the home's second level, while her four "children" scamper about.

"The whole appeal to this small house is the dogs and the deer. I had to have something far from the road for the sake of my dogs [and] I spend a lot of time on my deck just watching them."

Donna Hoffman, a 57-year-old decorator and Persian rug wholesaler, along with her husband John, purchased the 60-year-old, 2,400-square-foot house in the woods in 1996. They paid $180,000 for it and the 2 acres it sits on. They later bought the little cottage next door and its 5 acres for $175,000.

Donna Hoffman considers the total an excellent price for 7 acres of prime property in northern Baltimore County.

Another $60,000 went for improvements to the house they occupy, including installing central air conditioning, constructing two decks with sliding glass doors, and laying ceramic tiles in the kitchen and family room.

Hoffman refers to the home's cozy, interior charm as "rustic, with nomadic influences" mainly taken from her two warehouses of carpeting, furniture and accessories.

The ground-floor entrance, accessible from the front drive, opens to a delightfully appointed room whose centerpiece is a brick fireplace along its back wall. A flame roars in the hearth. Its mantel - like the rest of the room's molding and trim - is painted a lime green. The walls are a deep red-berry shade, a fitting backdrop for the many Chinese accent tables and hung paintings.

"Forget the notion of black lacquer and mother-of-pearl," Hoffman explained of the tables. "Certain provinces in China are known for their colors, such as orange [and] yellow."

"This provincial country furniture dates to the Qing Dynasty, who were great admirers of the Ming Dynasty."

Persian rugs, with bright borders and central folk themes of animals and villages, sprawl on the ceramic tile floor.

Hoffman has devoted an entire bedroom on the first level to carpets, layered like pancakes, one over the other.

"Persian rugs only come from one place," she noted, "and that is Iran. All others, such as those from Turkey, China, and India, are considered Oriental."

The second level has the large living room, an open kitchen and two bedrooms and a bath.

John Hoffman's love of ships is reflected in a large oil painting of an ocean liner hanging over the living room's made-up trundle bed, and a tall model of a sailboat placed on the ledge of a multi-paned window.

An avid collector of paintings, sculptures, and folk art, Donna Hoffman points to a 6-by-4-foot painting of 19th-century ballroom dancers gliding across a gleaming floor under a shining crystal chandelier. The canvas is wedged temporarily into the picture window opposite the kitchen.

"There's no rhyme or reason to my buying this piece," she laughed. "It's a large, `mansion-style' painting, but I like it and bought it because I could."

Other pieces of artwork include brightly beaded animal figurines with each individual bead set in honey wax, blue and white Chinese porcelain, and a collection of jade Tibetan teapots.

The kitchen is marked by its unusual use of stucco. Donna Hoffman has applied the paste over cabinets, back splashes and bi-fold doors, some embellished with her own folk art symbols, a project she claims she would not take on again. The effect, however, is stunning and "Old World."

Living in this secluded house in the woods provides hours of restful contemplation among her treasures, where this busy woman can view "nature from every window."

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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