Staying true to history

dream home

Outbuildings were a significant draw for preservationist couple

March 22, 2009|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Baltimore Sun

In October 1996, a northern Baltimore County newspaper ran a notice of public auction for a historic farmhouse.

"The ideal buyer for the Kenilworth property," the caption under the farmhouse photograph read, "would be interested in restoration."

The article was providential for Vicki Franz, who, along with her preservationist husband, Doug, had been looking for just such a property for over a year. Living in Federal Hill at the time, and having renovated several houses there, neither was picky about location.

"It wasn't so much where, as what," she remembered. "The property needed to be historic [and] we wanted outbuildings."

And so, after a walk-through prior to the auction, Vicki Franz, publisher of MD Arrive magazine, told her husband she had found the house they had been looking for.

The couple purchased the 3,700-square-foot brick main house and three fieldstone outbuildings, including a smokehouse, two-story servants' quarters and a section of an old icehouse.

"The bones of the house were solid," Vicki Franz said, standing at the end of an expansive lawn in front of the three-story farmhouse with a seven-column front portico. "We didn't change anything structurally."

However, the interior renovation took almost three years to complete, during which time the couple and their two small children lived in the servants' house. Today, the kids are teenagers and the Franzes rent out the charming little structure.

Renovations to the main house included repairing plaster walls, removing at least 12 coats of lead paint on the window frames and sills, a complete kitchen renovation and painting.

The 85-foot-wide farmhouse appears huge when viewed head-on. However, except for what was once a pop-out kitchen (now a family room, office and bathroom), the depth of the house is only 18 feet - or one room wide. Originally a foursquare Federal design constructed in 1834, an expansion to include a second front entrance, main hall with staircase, parlor and second-floor bedroom was added in 1865.

"It's like a rowhouse turned sideways," said Franz, describing the design. "We actually had to get rid of furniture."

But, with their appreciation for all things old, the fun part of renovating the house was finding the right furnishings. "We love the hunt," said Franz, a former Baltimore Sun advertising manager.

Standout pieces in the house include parlor furniture with needlepoint-upholstery on Queen Anne-style chairs, Windsor-backed bentwood chairs and heavy draperies at windows whose frames extend to the floor.

The main hallway serves as a game room - a skittles board is prominently in place for all to enjoy. The game, always a hit with her visitors, was a precursor of pinball.

Franz's favorite room is the kitchen, with custom-made cherry wood cabinets, stainless-steel appliances and soapstone countertops. Drawers and cabinets under the island are fashioned of bird's-eye maple that contrasts warmly with heart-of-pine flooring.

When one is seated at a plain rectangular wood table in a room filled with plants, crockery and old framed pieces of needlework on the walls, the open land and the stone outbuildings are visible through multipaned windows.

"Every season is wonderful here," Franz said.

Dream element: : Outbuildings. The Franz home is an authentic, early-19th-century farmhouse with several outbuildings, all on 4 acres.

Design inspiration: : History. The farmhouse dictated period and style - utilitarian pieces and accessories mesh with a slightly more formal 19th-century dining room and parlor decor.

Surprise feature: : A smokehouse-turned-shed. Franz turned one of the outbuildings into a well-organized gardening shed.

Personal touch: : The home was a perfect match historically for Franz's period pottery collection.

Design tip: : Be authentic. "The main thing about the kitchen design was that it has the look and feel of an old farmhouse," Franz said. "Not fancy, not something it isn't."

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Write to Michelle Deal-Zimmerman, Real Estate Editor, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278 or e-mail us at

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