Standing in the driveway of Arleen Dvorine's Lutherville property, it is clear she has successfully realized her dream of converting an old carriage house into an office and home.
The 240-year-old, one-story structure served as the stable for the long-ago gentleman farmer and owner of White Manor, a mansion still standing and still occupied further down the winding road.
A gently sloping roof flows into the exterior's cedar shake siding. Multi-paned windows — colonial in style and with cream trim — are symmetrically placed on either side of a portico, also in a cream color. Just below is a solid oak door, flanked by narrow windows and topped with Palladian-style glass.
Once inside, behind the Colonial-style facade, a different sight greets visitors. From the formal reception area, past a pair of identical urns opposite each other and resting on chunky wooden pillars, the spacious and casually elegant living room is anything but Colonial. Rather, it is completely after the fashion of English country style, which will be revisited after a walk down the adjacent hall to the home's impeccably rendered country kitchen.
"I saw this house the evening [my agent] called and put a bid on it the next morning," said Dvorine, a professional interior designer. "Luckily the bid was accepted."
Seated in a ladder-back chair at her kitchen table, Dvorine recalls when she purchased the property in 1986, it had already been through a number of owners who had installed a swimming pool and built a tennis court. Dvorine replaced the roof on the carriage house along with installing new electrical wiring, plumbing and heating. Cedar-shake siding and stone were added to the exterior and every window in the 5,500-square-foot home was replaced. Molding, paneling and special decorative wall treatments were placed throughout the interior first level. The full lower level opens onto a patio and sloped lot at the back of the home.
"I actually purchased the house for the lower level so that I could create an office and bring my clients here," said Dvorine, who now shares the home with her husband, Ronald Ehman.
Curiously enough, the architectural layout in the central part of the home has not changed over the years, but, clearly, the interior design has. Dvorine imagined it as a country gentleman's home and she set about making it so. It took a while, she said, since "with designers, the clients come first, so my house continues to be a work in progress." Most areas, however, have been completely transformed, and include the living room, dining room, kitchen, spacious reception hall, den, two bedrooms and three bathrooms.
Where there once was linoleum on the galley kitchen floor and yellow paint on cabinets, there is now oak flooring and glass-front cabinets painted a muted forest green. Wainscoting has been added to the lower walls, while the upper half of the walls are painted light butterscotch, adding warmth. Wooden blinds hang on the windows and attractive, school house lamps hang from the ceiling. Dvorine displays her colorful collection of Fiesta ware behind one of the glass cupboards. She designed her own custom cabinetry to store many other collections, such as copper fish molds and restaurant ware from the 1940s.
The dining room, adjacent to the kitchen, is a stunning example of country elegance and comfort. A custom designed maple table with ladder-back chairs sits on a threadbare Bokhara rug layered over sisal carpeting. Four multi-paned windows with deep sills offer a view of the garden. Window and ceiling trim, as well as heavy paneling below the chair rail have been faux painted for a look of pickled oak.
Under the 12-foot high ceilings of the home's formal living room, pickled oak paneling and faux painted plastered and cracked walls give way to built-in, arched cabinetry on either side of stone hearth fireplace with a classically styled wood mantel. A three-section, custom built breakfront along the wall opposite the fireplace features lighted shelving under a heavily molded square center unit flanked by two arch-topped shelving units. Vases, glassware and small figurines are artfully displayed there.
The home's den, situated at one wing off of the entrance hall, features a wall of stone original to the house, indicating an earlier addition. A floor-to-ceiling grouping of four multi paned windows adds drama to the master bedroom, even as they overlook the garden. An upholstered sleigh bed sits on a second Bokhara rug and built-in bookshelves are found on either side of the softly curved headboard.
"This is why I bought the home," said Dvorine, descending into the lower level, which serves as her office and consulting rooms. The space here is decorated like a mountain lodge with cypress ceiling beams and a rustic stone fireplace. Comfortably stuffed furniture and a large bentwood chair make for a homey sitting area while an entire section of the lower level is devoted to a drafting room and another, larger area is filled with worktables, bookshelves, display cabinets and storage cabinets filled with fabric and color swatches.
"I love earth colors and I love bringing my clients here," she said.
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Making the dream
Dream realized: "I told a Realtor, who was a client of mine, that if she ever came across a carriage house or a barn [for sale] to please call me," said Arleen Dvorine of her renovated, 240-year-old barn/carriage house in Lutherville in Baltimore County. "I always dreamed about something like this – a rustic, inviting environment I could fix up."
Dream touches: Dvorine called upon her friend, decorative painter Jamie Kraft, to enhance the walls of the house with unique touches, such as the look of pickled oak in the living room and dining room coupled with walls that have been texture-painted over plaster with faux cracks added for a European villa effect.
Dream design: "I bought new furniture for the house [because] I feel that in decorating, you should remain true to the interior style," Dvorine said. "In this case, rustic/country/traditional seemed best."