At a time in life when retired couples often consider downsizing with the goal of uncomplicating their lives, Jean and George Smorse took a different path.
In March 2000, the couple moved to Taneytown in northern Carroll County, where they purchased a home in the development of Meadowbrook. The builder allowed George Smorse, a 76-year old retired electrician and avid woodworker, to customize several interior elements of the two-story Colonial-style home while it was under construction.
"We made a lot of changes to the [builder's] set of plans," he says, with his wife adding, "He's handy and loves to do things."
A tour of the Smorse home proves that to be a modest understatement of her husband's ability. It also makes clear why George Snorse wanted a new home to "play with," where he could alter the woodwork, lighting or design as he pleased.
"We bumped out the kitchen toward the family room," he says. "I put up crown molding in all the rooms, built a ceiling light that appears to go through a kitchen [ceiling] partition and I added recessed lighting in the family room."
But he didn't stop there. George Smorse also built a brick patio and screened it in for days of seasonal comfort; built an outdoor pergola on which to grow grapes; paneled the basement and touched it off with hand-painted molding; and laid ceramic tile in the kitchen and master bath.
Those changes do not include the pieces of furniture and home accessories, such as lighted shelves, picture frames and glass-block partitions, that he built as embellishments.
"They roll out the red carpet at Lowe's for George," says his wife, 76-year-old Jean Smorse. Her husband estimates they spent about $30,000 on materials to improve, customize and beautify their home.
A cozy, eclectic appearance fills every room, while presenting a clear picture of the couple's interests by way of their displayed collectibles.
Immediately inside the foyer, for example, the eye is drawn to a curio cabinet filled with George Smorse's collection of model cars representing every decade and style. Other cabinets and shelves throughout the home display more of the collection. Across the hall in the dining room, a tea cart and hanging light fixture are representative of George Smorse's woodworking skills.
Lighthouses, which are Jean Smorse's passion, are depicted in miniature sculpted pieces, as well as in several paintings, wall hangings and linens.
George Smorse's woodcrafting handiwork is beautifully displayed in a vanity and matching bench in the upstairs master bedroom and in a quilt rack, which also holds his wife's crocheted work.
Jean Smorse delights in the fact that, after all the years she and her husband spent in California, where his job took him, they are now back home in a lovely historic area, in a home of their making. But most important, they are, once again, close to family.
And as for the downsizing that never happened, George Smorse says, "This house was like an empty shell that I could build on and into!"
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Making the dream
Dream design The Smorses' two-story Colonial-style home has vinyl siding and features a large second-story window in the front. The rear of the home includes a screened-in porch and outdoor stone patio with pergola for growing summer grapes.
Dream interior This 2,700-square-foot house has been designed with a center foyer and hallway. Between the living room and family room, an enclosed staircase rises to the second level and open second-floor hall that overlooks the foyer below. A large window is placed into the wall of the staircase's first landing, providing ample light. Three niches, built by George Smorse along the staircase walls, display china vases.
Dream accessories Throughout the home, the couple's handcrafted items are displayed, including Jean Smorse's framed needlework and her husband's furniture pieces. A "flag" constructed of wood, stained to represent the 13 stripes and with small round notches carved to hold the 50 state quarters representing the stars, hangs in the hallway.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun