For artist Susan Yonkers, a Maryland Institute College of Art graduate and gardening enthusiast, and her craftsman husband, Bill, a large outdoor canvas was a prerequisite.
So the couple found a single-family, ranch-style home on 2 acres in a relatively secluded spot off Mays Chapel Road in Baltimore County.
"It's an oasis; a home for all seasons," said Susan Yonkers, 64, seated at her sunroom table and gazing out through wide windows into her backyard as birds gathered at one of her feeders and hopped on the granite stones of the landscaping. "There's always something in bloom."
But she quickly points out that the main house — at the time, the only house on the property — was quite a different place when they purchased it for $270,000 in 1997. The original 1969 exterior construction, typical for the period, was of very light, almost pink-colored brick, with a large enclosed carport attached to its side.
Today, the exterior brick is painted a dark gray, allowing the home to be more in harmony with the area surrounding it. Focusing on the 3,600-square-foot interior, the couple renovated a hall powder room and a master bathroom. They turned a guest bedroom into a dressing room, replaced the house's roof and all of the windows. They laid quarry tile in the sunroom and hired Mike Eagan of Eagan Enterprises, a construction company, to deal with the obtrusive carport.
The solution was a two-story addition comprising a ground-level mudroom/workroom, a guest room, guest bath, powder room and Susan Yonkers' second-story studio, now used as the TV room. Decorated, like the rest of the home, in what the couple refers to as "comfortable, eclectic decor," the furnishings exude a style very much like the country cottages they visit on their trips to England.
In the living room, yards upon yards of English toile fabric hang at the windows, drape over tables and cover pillows that sit on sofas and chairs.
Portraits painted by Susan Yonkers line the walls leading up to the room, while several completed canvases occupy a far corner, stacked upright, one against the other.
A large, homey and attractive country kitchen is located in the central portion of the house. It is here that Bill Yonkers, a 70-year-old retired financial manager, has put his own artistic stamp. He created cabinet facings from old, worn shutters and replaced some of the cabinet doors with old barn windows. Granite countertops and ceramic tile complement the warm hues of the cabinetry and soft yellow paint on the walls. For contrast, blue plates are hung on the walls above the cabinets. A window above the sink opens to the enclosed sun room with its bamboo furniture.
The home's entrance hall features English wallpaper with a soft red floral print against a gold background. A hall leads toward one end of the rancher where the master bedroom is located along with the former bedrooms of the couple's grown children, Willy and Amanda. All three rooms are decorated in various shades of toile fabric. The walls of the master bedroom are painted a deep shade of red to contrast with the blond furniture.
Books — some 15,000 — fill the couple's home, having previously been the inventory of their now-closed business, The Bookshop of Stevenson Village. Old books, new ones, rare and hard-to-find volumes and complete collections by various authors are found on bookshelves, tables, even mantels in nearly every room of the house. Equally as ubiquitous as the books are the formal family photographs in sepia and black and white in every room.
"We can't move now," said Bill Yonkers. "We have a lot of stuff and it keeps growing."
Some of that expansion has taken place outdoors, where he constructed several outbuildings. Built with attention to detail, they include a large barn for entertaining, a greenhouse and potting shed, a new art studio for his wife, a garage, two pergola-topped outdoor sitting spaces and an imposing stone tower.
The interior of the barn, in addition to the spacious greenhouse, features a lavishly decorated great room they call the Pub Room. It was designed, according to Bill Yonkers, after the office room in the Henry Ladew mansion and boasts rich wooden paneling, a ceiling of wainscoting, a fireplace, multipaned windows and Colonial-style furniture.
Still, it is in the sunroom in the main house that the Yonkers find most comfortable.
"Hellebores, snowdrops, Adonis, and winter aconites [are] blooming now," Susan Yonkers said. "Our favorite shrub is our philadelphus. It is fragrant and lovely in the spring [along with] the cotinus, callicarpa, hydrangeas and our new edgeworthia."
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Making the dream
Dream realized: "We've lived in this house the longest of any and have put a lot of ourselves into [it], the gardens and the other buildings on the property," said Susan Yonkers. Their 2 acres is a compound of beautifully constructed and placed outbuildings. Most impressive is the stone tower, built in homage to the Maryland 400, members of the 1st Maryland Regiment, who were heroes in the Battle of Long Island during the Revolutionary War.
Dream interior: "The sunroom is our favorite," said Susan Yonkers. "We have decorated it with comfortable furniture and things we love, our antique garden tools, books and plants.
Dream collection: In a home filled with lovely and interesting collections of artwork, china and needlework, picking favorites among these things might be difficult. But Susan Yonkers offered a few. "Some of our favorite collections are our antique garden tools, 20th-century silhouettes, our Lusterware, blue and white dishes, and, of course, our books."