When Todd Taylor suggested to his wife of three decades that they become the fourth generation to live in his family's Sears Roebuck kit house in Ellicott City, she thought he was kidding. They couple had finally gotten their place the way they liked it, and the old homestead needed more than substantial work.
"He said, 'You could have a dog,' and I said, 'I want carte blanche and two dogs,' " Candace Taylor recounted.
Deal. The couple wanted the home to reflect its history. But they wanted it to suit their family's lifestyle, exude a welcome to friends and be thought of by Todd's sister and brother as the family home. Their goal was to restore, update and enlarge.
After a year and a half of work, they moved in the Thursday before Christmas and were immediately so comfortable that they filled their new home with guests all week.
"It's like it was meant to be," said Can-dace Taylor, a middle school math teacher.
In 1920, Todd Taylor's great-grandfather ordered a kit house for his hilltop property.
"It was pulled up Church Road on a wagon - by a mule," said Todd Taylor, deputy state's attorney for Howard County.
When built, it had seven rooms, four of them upstairs bedrooms, and a bathroom. It was less than 1,000 square feet.
When the current Taylors took the white house over from his late parents, existing additions brought it to 2,200 square feet. They modernized a first-floor bedroom and bathroom as a guest suite, and turned the small kitchen into office and laundry rooms, uses better suited to an out-of-the-way location.
What they really wanted were contemporary gathering places - a first-floor family room opening into a kitchen - and a comfortably sized master suite upstairs. With the addition, the house is now a five-bedroom, four and one-half bathroom home. It is 4,200 square feet.
Todd Taylor's sister, Beth Friedemann, who lives nearby, played an integral role. The rear staircase from the master suite to the family room was her idea.
"I can spend somebody else's money quite well," she said.
But it's a great convenience, Candace Taylor said. Especially when the couple's grown daughter, Sarah, is home with friends, or when they have guests, it adds privacy.
The Taylors unified the house by repeating favorite wall colors throughout: rich gold, red and blue, accented by white moldings. They kept the original wood floors - the uneven ones have charm - and matched in new wood for the addition.
"We live back here," Candace Taylor said of the gold-toned family room and kitchen.
A fireplace flanked by built-in shelving anchors the family room and provides space for family photos and generations of mementos.
"We are finding all kinds of little knickknacks around the house, some from my parents, from trips," Todd Taylor said.
Because she enjoys cooking, and the family entertains often, Candace Taylor upgraded the kitchen appliances and had two cookbook shelves built into the island.
One wedge of the cherry kitchen indulges Todd Taylor's barkeeping talents. It's outfitted with everything including a mini-fridge. Another corner conveniently nurtures a coffee bar in the breakfast nook.
The ceiling fan in the family room has propeller-like blades, a nod to Todd Taylor's late father, Frank Todd Taylor, a former director of the National Transportation Safety Board.
"It's not just a house, it's a home with lots of good memories," said Friedemann.
Many of those are tied to the outdoors. Still standing is a mini-forest that two generations of children have played in. Huge boxwoods descended from George Washington's home - Todd Taylor's grandmother secreted clippings from a garden club trip to Mount Vernon - remain on the side.
Because the exterior had to be in keeping with regulations for the city's Historic District, the front of the white house with black shutters looks much as it did in old photos.
The Taylors built a wrap-around porch to replace one that succumbed to insects in the 1960s. They are restoring the gardens, with their ponds, that had been the site of a cast party for The Goddess, a 1958 movie filmed in Ellicott City (Todd Taylor's grandfather had a bit part as a shopkeeper).
"I'm preserving it for my family," Todd Taylor said.
And the dogs? They're not here yet, but Spooky, the cat, awaits their arrival.
Dream element: : Party space. Large areas, such as the inside of the U-shaped driveway and a side patio, are open so that the younger set can consider having outdoor weddings there. Beth Friedemann's reception was at her parents' home, and Chris, their brother, was married there.
Design inspiration: : Big old trees. Some are more than eight stories tall. The Taylors lowered the window height in the breakfast nook by about a foot when Candace Taylor said she lacked a good view from windows when seated there, and added transoms above, giving the nook a nest-like feel.
Surprise feature: : Pocket doors. They solved problems of locating three doors close together in the master suite.
Personal touch: : The color palette. Interior hues take their cues from a needlework pillow, a souvenir the Taylors bought in Paris. It depicts a gold-outlined greyhound on a red background; white trim threads have hints of midnight blue.
Design tip: : Draw to scale on graph paper. Working with the builders, Candace Taylor repeatedly redrew the kitchen to get the proportions and features the couple wanted.
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