Blending old home with the new in Ellicott City retirement living

The plush light brown sofa, French country tables and ivory rug come from their old family room; the earthy salmon chairs are from their former living room. But the accent pieces — the couch's throw pillows in blues and the turquoise accessories on the tables in Laraine and Bob Hardy's new living area — are new and contemporary in design.

Two selections of artwork from around their old house — one by the front door and another over the sofa — add splashes of bright color. Bob's grandfather's grandfather clock presides over the setting that includes a television, giving the living-family room a classic, yet not-so-formal air. Natural light streams in from windows way up in the high-ceiling living area.


"As soon as people come in, there isn't a person who doesn't say they love this room," Laraine said.

When the Hardys, married nearly 55 years, decided to downsize last year from their longtime Columbia home to a senior community nearby in Ellicott City, they wanted to use their own furnishings — though fewer of them. But they also wanted to freshen the look for their new digs.


"We wanted to transform the traditional into a more modern feel," said Laraine, a former head nurse at the Maryland School for the Deaf. Her husband Bob is a retired chairman of the University of Maryland, College Park's department of human development and director of the school's Institute of Child Study.

The Hardys turned to JoAnn Berkoff, owner of Finishing Touches Design Service in Ellicott City, with whom they'd worked before. She helped them choose what to keep from the old house with an eye toward making the new place homey and displaying the artwork, collectibles, heirlooms and travel memorabilia that are meaningful to the Hardys.

The new single-story, two-bedroom, two bathroom duplex in the Lutheran Village at Miller's Grant features a contemporary open floor plan and high ceilings — the lowest is 9 feet — that add to its spacious feel. The Hardys wanted the second bedroom for guests, typically grandchildren who enjoy having their own lair, with a television, when they visit.

"Each of the grandchildren has claimed it as their own," Laraine said.


The Hardys picked out the duplex before it was finished, so they were able to select some of the finishes, including beige walls, deep brown wood floors, and a brown and tan granite for the kitchen counters, all blending with their wood furniture.

The style set in the living area — the old-new mix of furnishings with earthy woods and beige with pops of color in the art and muted turquoise — continues throughout the home.

"We like this artist," said Bob Hardy, pointing to a trio of bold-colored prints by figurative artist Itzchak Tarkay that are mounted over a much-loved antique tea cart by the front door.

The grouping, Laraine said, enhances the eye-catching nature of the art and alerts guests to what art to expect.

In all, nine Tarkays, some of them serigraphs, are one of the unifying design elements of the house.

Another is the ivory Venetian window blinds that came with the duplex. The couple's former home had draperies, most made by Laraine; the recessed blinds offer a very different, sleek look that takes advantage of sunlight.

"I like the openness," said Laraine, who hasn't ruled out the possibility of adding a valance here and there.

The kitchen's tall white cabinets provide plenty of storage, she said, noting that with counters on three sides of the room, "I have more counters than I need."

The kitchen's touch of turquoise: a large, shallow bowl in a sunburst pattern. The kitchen is open to what the floor plan showed as a dining area and a family room.

But the Hardys had their own ideas.

"We decided we didn't want two living spaces," Bob said.

They wanted a home office. Its L-shaped desk fits nicely in what would have been the dining room. Decorative memorabilia and antiques found a home there, from a simple clay model of a church from the couple's trip to Belize to autographed baseballs to family documents more than a century old.

Lighting coming in through glass doors brightens the dining space, which occupies the floor plan's family room. And the doors open to a back concrete patio and view of woods.

Anchoring the space is a Chinese-style rug with sn elegant pattern of colorful flowers and branches.

When illuminated, "the dark blue is almost iridescent," saidLaraine , adding that "the intense colors, the violets, the blues, the pink" warm the room and pick up the blues around the house. They also echo some of the tones in the art on the walls, including an inexpensive canvas of a watery view that's over a sideboard.

The dining table seats six, and Laraine said she not yet needed to add the leaves to make it bigger.

Beds in the two beige carpeted bedrooms got facelifts with new comforters — a sophisticated white jacquard pattern topped with a turquoise-patterned throw pillow for color in the master suite and a more playful ruffled white comforter with an earthy red pillow for the guest room. A teddy bear, a gift from the couple's grandson, is usually the guest room's only occupant.

The master bedroom suite features a large walk-in closet and a bathroom with a separate shower and tub. Between the bedrooms is a hallway with a second full bathroom, livened with turquoise towels, and a laundry room lined with cabinets that hide everything from extra light bulbs to gift wrap.

Two small wood Guatemalan midwives chairs decorate the guest room, much-loved reminders of a trip the Hardys took a couple of decades ago.

"We carried them home, each came in a rattan bag, they came in pieces," Laraine recalled. "When we were in the airport, we heard people say, 'Look at them, what they are using for luggage.' It was the rattan bags" they were pointing to.

At home, Laraine stained the pieces and assembled the chairs.

What's really meaningful to them is that their new home's décor reflects them.

"It's us," she said.

Dream realized. "It's one floor and I think the size — it's more than adequate," Laraine Hardy said. Just as the décor they love blends the old and the new, the couple added new friends made in the community — some through activities offered there — to the ones they've known for decades.

Dream design. They adore the front porch, which offers shade and a breeze that takes the edge off summertime heat. Not only do they read or "sit and rock out there" in warm weather, but the porch is a natural place to meet people who are walking by, Bob Hardy said.

Dream location. The Hardys wanted to remain close to family and longtime friends and stay in familiar territory, where they are active in their church, Epiphany Lutheran Church in Columbia Hills. Bob enjoys attending Orioles, Ravens and University of Maryland sports events, and the couple like the convenience of being near Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport, major roads and trains for travel. The community is minutes from Ellicott City shopping and restaurants.