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Lifestyle Home & Garden

Starting over but keeping the memories close

When her husband of 30 years died in 2004, Rosalie Lijinsky decided she no longer wanted to live in the 3,000-square-foot home they had shared with their daughter in the Columbia neighborhood of Hickory Ridge.

She sold the house the same year for $720,000, more than double the purchase price, and rented a townhouse in Columbia with a view of Lake Elkhorn. Five years later, she purchased a townhouse in the same community overlooking the lake for $370,000.

Her new home, built in 1986, has four stories, but it's about half the size of her previous residence, she said. It is large enough for Lijinsky and her two cats, Buddy Sam and Tootsie, but the challenge has been finding space to display all the artwork, quilts and mementos from a life filled with travel around the world.

Since moving, Lijinsky has updated the kitchen, enclosed the porch with screens, and added landscaping and skylights. But mostly she has made the house her own by filling it with her artwork, books and midcentury furniture.

Lijinsky, 69, was born in Tennessee and grew up in Cortland, N.Y. She graduated from the University of Rochester, and earned a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary biology at the University of Tennessee at Oak Ridge. Throughout her career as a cancer researcher, she has used her maiden name, Elespuru.

In 1973, she married William Lijinsky, whom she described as a larger-than-life Englishman, who was born in Liverpool and was 10 years her senior. Three years later, they moved to Frederick, where he was head of the Chemical Carcinogenesis Program at the Frederick Cancer Research Center. In the 1980s and 1990s, couple lived twice in Japan, and William Lijinsky was interviewed about his work on "60 Minutes."

In 1994, the family moved to Columbia, making the commute easier for Rosalie, who had begun working at the Food and Drug Administration, where she now researches cancer causes as a biologist in the Genomics and Genetics Laboratory of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

They raised their daughter, Catherine, now 33, in the large house, which had a swimming pool, but "after my husband died, it was too big," Lijinsky said. "I decided it was time for me to start a new life."

Now, sitting on a built-in bench of her wooden deck, she can see the sunset glow of Lake Elkhorn through the leaves of summer trees, and hear the sounds of people talking to each other as they walk and bicycle on the path around it.

"In the fall and winter when the leaves are down, you can really see the lake," she said. The townhouse is on a cul-de-sac that residents decorate for Halloween and Christmas, she said.

Inside, the living room is dominated by a photograph-topped piano, a simply designed couch with a wooden frame and cream cushions, and a rosewood bar, which was a wedding present from Lijinsky to her husband. The furniture is grouped to create seating around the working fireplace. A large sculpture of a female figure carrying two smaller people, purchased years ago at a Baltimore craft show, perfectly fills the alcove next to the fireplace.

Nearly every wall and surface is crammed with artwork. A puppet from India, dressed in an elaborate silk ensemble, has found a home in the first-floor powder room. An enormous beaten-tin sculpture from Africa dominates a wall on the main floor. The master bathroom contains two signed, limited-edition Salvador Dali prints. There are two framed works from artist Jeremy Gentilli, one original composition and one print known as the "English Gentleman," an homage to her late husband.

A quilt from the 1800s covers the bed in the fourth-story loft, and Lijinsky said she has about 15 antique quilts in all.

Every piece comes with a story. An ebony hippo was purchased in Kenya in 1985. A large pink dollhouse that sits by her carved mahogany four-poster bed was something "my husband had started making for our daughter and never finished," she said. The 1950s tile-topped tables in the screened patio were owned by her mother, who died in 2012.

When Lijinsky moved in, she updated the sunny kitchen with white cabinets and dark brown granite countertops. She ripped up carpet and put hardwood on the entire main floor, as well as the stairs leading to the second level. She also added two skylights to the loft on the top floor.

Though she's still figuring out how best to display her treasures and memories, Lijinsky said she is pleased with her new home.

"It's still plenty big, but it's half the size of my old house," she said. A place to keep the past alive, while looking to the future.

Have you found your dream home?Tell us about it. Send an email to homes@baltsun.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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