The Cape Cod-style home appears to have been dropped into the middle of a beautiful copse of trees among several acres of landscaping. Copper maple trees fill the front yard with shade while behind the property a stone-floored patio is cloaked in trellises covered with mature grape and jasmine vines.
Beyond the patio are blueberry and raspberry bushes, as well as blackberry, red currant and black raspberry plantings. Two fenced-in gardens sit among tulip, yellow poplar, red maple and oak trees, the latter hung with tire swings.
This Harford County paradise is the dream home of Rose and Tom LeBlanc.
"We like it to be easy and comfortable here," said Rose LeBlanc, breaking the silence of an early fall afternoon. "We host small church luncheons on the patio."
It is easy to imagine the LeBlancs' grill sizzling with burgers and the old potting stand nearby filled with condiments.
Indeed, the outdoors delivers a welcome peace and tranquillity, but the house — with a substantial cedar-shingled addition over the garage — beckons.
"We moved into this house in September 1998," said Tom LeBlanc, a 62-year-old minister at two nearby Seventh-day Adventist churches. "It was a really ugly 1950 Cape Cod with one story and an unfinished upstairs attic."
The couple paid $169,900 for the two-bedroom house with one bath on 3.5 acres of land.
"Before we even moved in, we stripped out all the carpeting, with church members' help, [then] sanded, stained and urethaned the oak floors on the main floor," explained Rose LeBlanc, a 63-year-old nurse at Franklin Square Hospital. "They turned out absolutely beautiful."
Down the line, they would engage more parishioners to replace the kitchen and bathroom floors with tile. The cabinets in the small kitchen were painted white, and Tom LeBlanc built a wall of white wooden shelves to add to the cupboard space.
Over the years, the LeBlancs finished the attic, which runs the entire length of the home, turning it into a master bedroom suite with a large bathroom containing a separate tiled shower and a jetted tub. They sanded the knotty pine floor and created storage space under the eaves.
"We replaced all of the windows, installed a new furnace and three years ago we put on the [first-floor] addition," Tom LeBlanc said. "These renovations totaled $100,000. The addition alone [was] $65,000."
The addition built over the two-car garage is level with the first floor due to the grading of the property. The new space is the home's great room. Open and bright, it has a 15-foot cathedral ceiling of stained knotty pine and two peaked ends of cedar. The floors are Brazilian cherry wood.
One large opening on the original north side exterior leads to the former dining room and another to the original small kitchen, which, re-worked is now a large coat room.
The dining room is now a gallery filled with framed family pictures that include the couple's two grown daughters and their grandchildren. Stand-out pieces in the gallery include an oak china closet and an imposing roll-top desk. A hidden wall panel opens up to a craftsman-built staircase leading to the attic bedroom suite.
In addition to dining and living areas, a newly remodeled kitchen with granite counters and quarter-sawn oak cabinets occupies an entire side of the great room. Shiny copper-bottomed pots and pans hang from the ceiling, along with schoolhouse lamps. A ship's light, hanging from the ceiling above the living area, and antique farm tools on the walls give an overall feel of a large, well-built barn, with all the grace and warmth of a country farmhouse.
The home's formal living room features white trim against walls painted a camel color. An intricately carved wooden surround graces the fireplace, which is flanked by built-in bookcases. Pen and ink drawings line the walls along with a charming painting of the couple's granddaughter, who died in a car accident before her sixth birthday.
"We feel that what we've done with the house has been to make it comfortable," Rose LeBlanc said. "We finally got it where we want it."
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Building the dream
Dream element: The LeBlanc home sits on more than three acres in Harford County. Their retreat is less than five miles from major routes.
Dream design: The 1950 Cape Cod-style brick home boasts a substantial addition on the back, where the exterior cedar siding gives way to large, Craftsman-style windows.
Dream interior: The eclectic decor features a mix of country furnishings complemented with antique pieces, including a large Mission-style dining room table fashioned of black walnut and an old wood cupboard the LeBlancs fixed up and painted red. Country landscapes hang on the walls along with framed vintage prints.