According to conventional wisdom, life in the country is simpler than in the city. But for Deborah Weiner and her family, it's the opposite.
Weiner, a longtime news anchor and investigative reporter for WBAL-TV, spent nearly two decades living in a large home in northern Baltimore County. Two years ago, she and her husband, attorney Barry Gogel, and children Mia, now 19, and Alex, now 16, decided it was time for a change.
They sold their home in the county, packing up their lives (and their two chihuahuas, named Rice and Beans) and snapped up a tidy gray colonial in Homeland — an area Weiner, a native Baltimorean, had long admired.
"It always had a fairy-tale quality to it, so when I saw this house, I thought, 'This is fantastic,' " she says.
The house was move-in ready, too — Weiner and her family made very few changes, even keeping the former owners' paint colors in most spaces.
The move involved more than just a change of address. It was an opportunity for the family to streamline and simplify the way they live.
"We decided to change our lives to move closer to everything we use, to simplify our lives," says Weiner, who now lives an easy 10-minute commute from work and loves that she can walk to neighborhood lakes, Belvedere Square and Zen West.
"Our house is smaller; we have a lot less stuff," she added.
At about 2,500 square feet, the home has a plenty of space for the family of four, but its efficient layout doesn't leave room for a lot of extra things — something that pleases Weiner, who says that she prefers clean surfaces to clutter.
"It was a process to get here, having been in a house for 18 years," she says. "We had a pool, a lot of lawn to mow, a lot of stuff to take care of. We didn't realize how much it was bringing us down."
The family spends a lot of time on the main floor of the two-story home, where a well-appointed kitchen, with warm wood cabinets and pale green tile countertops opens to a comfortable family room decorated with photos and other mementos collected throughout the years. Beyond the family room, an enclosed sunroom extends from the back of the house – it's a calm space, where Weiner likes to sit and read.
As a child, Jim Fielder knew Sophia's Dairy as the big house he couldn't enter.
"The farm I grew up on is three miles from here," says Fielder, a Harf
Weiner's aversion to clutter does not mean she's a strict minimalist. She just likes to make sure the items that surround her are things that genuinely make her (and her family) happy.
"When we were moving out of the house, I would look at everything and ask, does this bring me happiness? Does it make me smile? If it did, it came with us," says Weiner. "That's how I make decisions in general. If I see something and I'm not sure how it would work in the house but it makes me happy and makes me smile, it's in."
Those photos scattered around the family room make her smile, as does the large, low-slung white sectional sofa in the sunroom. Like several pieces in the home, the sofa originally belonged to Weiner's parents — Arleen, a retired television producer, and Arnold Weiner, a prominent Baltimore attorney — who also recently moved from northern Baltimore County to the city.
"I really lucked out with my parents having nice taste and wanting to give their daughter their stuff," says Weiner.
Her parents also bequeathed an oval dining room table that holds many memories for Weiner.
"From the turkey at Thanksgiving to the apples and honey at Rosh Hashana, the table has great meaning for me and my whole family," Weiner says.
She admits that her family, busy as they are, hasn't used the table as much as her mother did. But it still plays an integral role in their family story.
"I've become the keeper of family traditions," she says. "So I'm the keeper of good vibes around the dining room table."
Weiner's parents aren't her only family members who contributed to the home's decor. Throughout the house, Weiner displays photographs shot by her sister, Florida-based photographer EJ Stern. Two large flower photos by Stern welcome guests in the front hallway, and in the living room, Weiner chose several vibrant, semi-abstract images of advertisements Stern shot in Paris Metro stations.
Upstairs in the master bedroom, Weiner's self-proclaimed "obsession" with light is on full display. To maximize the light in their airy, white room, the couple cut a large square window in the wall between Weiner's closet and the bedroom proper, allowing light to stream in.
The room is grounded by a pair of dark wood sliding doors, which separate the main bedroom from the newly renovated bath on one side and Weiner's impressive closet on the other. (She describes it, with humor, as a "Barbie dream closet.")
The home's design is personal, but Weiner consulted with local designer Christopher Bitter to fine-tune its overall look.
Weiner says she and Bitter communicated easily, bouncing ideas off one another. In the living room, he was instrumental in helping Weiner keep one of her parents' pieces: a folding screen that was originally covered with Napoleonic war imagery.
Those graphics didn't fit the airy vibe of the formal living room, so Bitter recovered the screen with bright blue and white toile, playing off the room's deep blue chairs and blue-and-white rug.
As charming as the inside of the home is, the outside holds equal appeal for Weiner and her family. The flat yard is fenced in, allowing Rice and Beans to run off their energy, and the house is bordered on the left by a shortcut from Homeland to Belvedere Square.
Just next to that shortcut sits a small patio where Weiner and Gogel like to spend time, chatting up their neighbors as they stroll past the yard.
"We love it because we're very social people, so we're always holding court," she says, laughing. "We didn't have that kind of pedestrian traffic before, and we're really social creatures. It's great for us. We have a constant source of people we can interview."