`Great bones' in Oella

An interior designer goes to work on 1850 granite home in former mill community

December 28, 2007|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

There's no false modesty from Leslie Lewart when it comes to her dream home.

"It's enchanted!" she exclaimed, standing on the rear balcony of her restored mill cottage in Oella.

Oella was founded in 1808 in Baltimore County, across the Patapsco River from Howard County's historic Ellicott City.

Smatterings of hillside houses built of granite along with two-story brick rowhouses were built for the workers and their families of the old Union Manufacturing Co. mill, which was later replaced by the William Dickey & Sons textile mill.

The original millrace that channeled the river waters to run the mills was built in the early 1800s. In 1972, Tropical Storm Agnes not only damaged the millrace, but closed Dickey & Sons for good. The mill is undergoing conversion into upscale apartments.

Eight years ago Lewart, a New York City native then living in Owings Mills, found herself caught in a seven-month whirlwind of life-altering events. In November 1999, her Ellicott City store, Rugs to Riches, burned to the ground. Two months later, her husband left.

"I bought this house in June 2000 and everything changed for me," she said.

Her granite cottage, built in 1850, had been restored by a man who had every intention of living there, but ended up getting married and moving into his wife's Oella house. His property went up for sale

"I walked in through the front living room and saw first all of the exposed [interior] stone and the floor-to-ceiling windows in the kitchen," Lewart remembered. "The house had great bones. There were three bids on it. I bought [it] in 24 hours."

Lewart paid $292,000 for the two-story cottage with kitchen addition on a half-acre lot. All of the land is at the rear of the house - the front entrance is at the edge of a narrow winding road. Lewart restored a shell of a barn that sits at the end of her yard. It is now a 600-square-foot, brightly painted guesthouse that she rents out.

She spent $80,000 on landscaping and to build a screened porch to the side of the kitchen, two back decks and a master bath.

The home's layout is a simple one. The first floor contains the living room, kitchen and a powder room. A second floor, with sloped roof and ceiling, houses a bedroom and bath. The basement is partially above grade in the front and in the rear. It contains the master bedroom with separate bath and an office.

A creative designer with her own business, Leslie Lewart Interiors, she particularly fancies the juxtaposition of carved and ornate accessories against the rough backdrop of the home's interior.

"All of this stone is a perfect foil for my furnishings," she said, pointing to an ornately carved gilt picture frame hanging against rough-hewn granite.

She calls her living room "the womb," the warm and cozy place where all of her friends want to hang out. Here, under exposed ceiling beams, a slate floor has been painted white. Traditional, overstuffed furniture is covered in chintz and embellished with colorful throw pillows. Silk fringe hangs from linen lampshades while silk flowers rest in ornamental vases. What was a window before the kitchen addition now serves as a bookcase. Multipaned windows, the woodwork painted white, sit deep in granite sills.

Against the rugged look of the living room, the kitchen addition is painted in a tan, faux-marble effect. A large, built-in cabinet, painted green, hides the pantry and refrigerator.

Lewart has created a cozy sanctuary on the lower level with yellow walls. The master bath a sunken tub sunk in front of bay windows at ground level. A heated slate floor is a luxury touch.

Content with her cottage and its two additional inhabitants - a black Pekinese named Bailey and a Lhasa-poo called Cosmo - Lewart plans a long stay.

"It's magical here," she 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. Find our Dream Home archive at baltimoresun.com/dreamhome. Keywords: COLUMN

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