Coloring their world one room at a time

On a corner in a quiet Ellicott City neighborhood is the ranch-style home of Michael and Kathleen Van Meter. Snuggled into a third of an acre of tall elm trees, the brick house neatly meets the aspirations for any young couple weary of renting and ready to set down roots.

Indoors, however, the scene shifts as abruptly as Dorothy's landing in Oz after racing through her black-and-white world.


"Our home tells a story: the story of an artist and his wife who have found their dream home," said Kathleen Van Meter, a 29-year-old social worker. "All of the walls were covered in an eggshell-colored paint — an artist's playground."

The couple bought their rancher, built in 1981, in 2012 for $305,000 after just one visit. Both loved the layout of a main, one-floor living area and a comfortable lower level, as well as the idea of using every room and space in its 2,112-square-foot interior.

The Van Meters were lucky:The property featured many upgrades made by the previous owners. New kitchen cabinetry was in place, along with updated air conditioning and a brand-new roof. A large screened-in porch and an open deck area clinched the deal.

"We saw the design challenge here," said Michael Van Meter, a 31-year-old Howard County art teacher. "I wanted something that would welcome guests the minute they came through the door."

That something was color and creative use of space.

"Painting was the very first thing we did, even before we got furniture," Kathleen Van Meter recalled.

Kitchen improvements included a stainless-steel refrigerator and microwave oven, granite countertops and a porcelain tile backsplash that Michael Van Meter installed with the help of his brother-in-law, who owns his own contracting business.

The living room, just inside the front door, looks far larger than it actually is, thanks to a sense of scale and color — the walls are painted two shades of gray separated by a cream-colored chair rail — and the couple's lack of tolerance for clutter. Furniture includes a herringbone sofa and love seat in dark gray accented with blue and orange pillows.

A large landscape of Ellicott City painted by Michael Van Meter commands a place of honor on the wall.

"Throughout our home, you will find nature-inspired colors, art and decor items, many [featuring] owls and birds," Kathleen Van Meter said. "My favorite room is the kitchen and dining area. Having a functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen was very important to me."

Walls painted an olive green complement tans and deep browns in the countertops, backsplash and floor. "I feel that our choices of color and decor in the kitchen create a cozy and welcoming area for our guests," Kathleen Van Meter said.

An open kitchen and dining room lead to sliding glass doors that open onto a screened-in porch. Wicker and cushioned furniture here add to the openness, while creating yet another place for the couple and friends to gather.

Two bedrooms and an office have benefited from the couple's creativity. The master bedroom is a tasteful, colorful vision.

"We decided to do an accent wall with a muted robin's egg-blue color behind our bed [with] a comforter that features vibrant colors as well," Kathleen Van Meter said.


Light, grayish-brown furniture brighten the moderately sized room, while bird paintings purchased by the couple from a traveling artist at Artscape add to the airy tone. Three framed fabric swatches over the bed give the appearance of delicate needlework.

The guest bedroom has a nautical theme, with walls painted a rich shade of deep blue highlighted by white molding. However, it is the dresser that commands comment.

"I kept thinking about an episode of 'The Antonio Treatment' [an HGTV show] … in which varying widths and lengths of wood were glued and nailed together to create an amazing shelving unit," Michael Van Meter said. "Luckily, I saved wood from our fence months before … and used the cut pieces to resurface the tops and fronts of the drawers. I used a combination of ropes and hex nuts to create the handles on the drawers."

The lower level is also a creative mixture of wall color and furnishings. A chair, love seat and sofa covered in light brown corduroy with patterned pillows is paired with a coffee table and side table all in a light rustic painted wood. An oil painting of an elephant, a gift from an artist friend, and prints of birds hang on walls painted aqua.

"[We] have enjoyed every minute of decorating and renovating our home," Kathleen Van Meter said. "You can surprise yourself with just a different paint color on the walls. We are proof that you can achieve your dream on any budget and any style."

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