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Dream home

Old Catonsville is happiness squared

Family takes pleasure in historic home and friendly neighborhood

By Marie Marciano Gullard, For The Baltimore Sun

4:45 PM EDT, April 4, 2013

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Old Catonsville boasts turn-of-the-last-century buildings and schools, fine restaurants, antiques and music shops, and a library. But scattered among the Victorian structures are Arts and Crafts-style homes built in the early 20th century. It is in one of these that the Shaw family resides, just blocks off of the town's main street.

"We moved here from just two blocks away," said Kelley Shaw, a 37-year-old speech pathologist. "Our [other] house had no driveway and we loved the porches on these old houses."

Indeed, a wide wraparound covered porch is a staple of — and selling point for — any number of these architectural styles. Added to that was the home's cedar-shake siding and its slate roof.

Shaw and her husband, Dan, a 37-year-old fire captain in Fairfax, Va., purchased the American four-square sitting on a half-acre in 2012 at a price of $430,000.

"Structurally, it was in great condition," Dan Shaw said about the 1923 two-story home with a dormered attic. "I had to refinish all of the oak and mahogany inlay flooring and windows on the second floor."

"And every single piece of trim was painted Williamsburg blue," his wife added, remarking that there was a lot of painting on their fix-up agenda.

Fragrances greet the visitor at the large entrance hall, the welcoming and warm feel provided by scented candles throughout the first level. Here, craftsmanship is immediately evident in the winding staircase with carved wooden risers, the leaded-glass windows and transom around the front door, and the railing's chunky newel post. The tones of the wood complement the light yellow paint of the walls.

An archway under the staircase leads directly into the kitchen. The blue walls there are barely visible beyond a slightly ajar oak door original to the home. Custom wood cabinets cover the home's many radiators. A large one rests directly on the wall below the staircase, its mantel-like shelf displaying artwork, a plant and lit candles.

Adjacent to the hall, French doors open onto the home's living room, where walls are painted a soft celery color and a brick fireplace climbs to the 10-foot ceiling. A pair of multipaned doors, one on each side of the fireplace, lead to the wraparound porch. Oak floors gleam, taking a cue from the walnut-colored leather furniture.

"Hands down, [this] living room is my favorite," said Kelley Shaw. "It is such a great, spacious, yet warm room. The French doors and fireplace make it so comfortable. We love spending time in the living room."

On the far side of the room, built-in bookshelves with leaded glass doors flank another set of French doors leading into the large dining room. The spaciousness of the room is punctuated by 10-foot ceilings and side bay windows opening to a southern exposure.

"We like to entertain in these nice big rooms," said Kelley Shaw. "People come in here and say, 'This house is just like my grandmother's!' "

A first-floor addition is off the dining room and adjoins the kitchen. The space includes a breakfast room where the Shaw boys, Brendan, 7 and Nick, 6, do their homework. The room, painted a soft shade of gray above a chair rail with a bright, cadet blue below it, is enhanced by two built-in corner cabinets, painted white to match the chair rail and ceiling molding.

Just beyond this room, the family room presents a picture of relaxation. A large sectional sofa in tan microfiber is positioned in front of a wide-screen TV mounted on the wall. In the room's far corner, shelves built into a large closet store toys, games and books. Wooden blinds adorn all of the windows. An electric keyboard sits between two of them, while a corner table holds a computer.

"The kids live in the attic," quipped Dan Shaw walking along the second floor and up a staircase to a loft room that any child would find cool beyond words.

With walls painted purple for the Ravens and orange for the Orioles, the room hosts twin beds placed on either side of a dormer window. Twin lighted closets with slatted doors are on the opposite side.

Below the attic, four bedrooms make up the home's second level. One serves as a TV room and one as Dan Shaw's office, which deatures a great leather swivel chair, a one-time fixture in the Baltimore City Courthouse.

Kelley Shaw speaks of the house and neighborhood that is their dream find.

"It suits our family perfectly. We love the wraparound porch, fireplace, high ceilings and character that only a house from the 1920s can have," she said.

"This house is in the heart of historic Catonsville [and is] perfect as well, as our boys can go out and play with friends in the neighborhood; freely, as we did when we were younger. Catonsville is such a unique treasure, and we feel lucky to have found this gem of a home in which we plan to grow old."

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