Wayne and Wende Allen found a second home, their vacation escape, in a convenient location — 24 miles from their Harford County home.

"Most of our friends who have second homes have them at the beach, in the mountains down south," said Wende Allen, a 46-year-old physician's assistant at a fertility clinic in Bel Air. "That's where you typically think your vacation home should be, hours away. But we have found our paradise retreat in our same county, our same comfortable community; yet it feels like we've escaped."


The Allens' hideaway is a circa-1940 two-story bungalow of stucco and siding on the banks of Otter Point Creek adjacent to Flying Point Marina, where the couple kept their boat for many years. The property needed work inside and out — a job Wayne Allen, 51, who owns a commercial construction company, was prepared to tackle. His wife embraced the challenge, as well.

"We settled on this house on a Friday afternoon in August, spent the night [here], as it was our 22nd anniversary, and the next morning we immediately tackled the brick fireplace in the sunroom, whitewashing the brick with a diluted white paint to create a cleaner and brighter appearance," Wende said.

That task marked the beginning of a seven-month renovation of the 2,200-square-foot interior that sits on 19,100 square feet of property. The renovating and decorating all had to be done on a very tight budget, but with a bit of vision, a lot of know-how and a knack for bargain shopping ("Except for a few new pieces, the house was furnished using Craigslist," Wende said), the couple pulled off a renovation that their friends say shouts HGTV.

Visitors are greeted on the front porch by a mural painted by Baltimore artist Nancy Maher that could almost be a window to the water.

The finishing touch on this nautical look is the gray, weathered vinyl flooring, giving the impression that visitors are standing on a pier. (Not to be confused with the Allens' actual 100-foot pier at the edge of the lawn.)

"We added wainscoting to the mudroom entry [and] bronze hooks for coats," Wayne said. "[I] suspended a wall-to-wall bench made from a floor joist from a very old building renovation."

Beyond the mudroom is the kitchen, which was another very large project. Dated oak cabinets were brought to life using a Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations coating in a deep shade of cabernet. Granite countertops were also added, along with glass subway tiles for the counter's backsplash.

Wayne designed and built a white coffered ceiling that contrasts with the dark gray painted behind it.

"The kitchen has that 'wow' factor, yet the changes were not expensive," Wende said.

Adjacent to the kitchen, the home's dining room is reminiscent of an upscale beach cottage. The walls are painted the lightest shade of gray, a nice contrast with the dark furniture. The couple found a wood plank table that they finished with a dark stain, and then came upon eight dark open-backed chairs on Craigslist to complement it. In the corner is another restored piece.

"An old corner cabinet that was warped and in pieces on the basement floor was stripped of at least six coats of paint and sanded," Wende Allen said. "[We] replaced the glass and repainted it with a Rust-Oleum cabinet product [and] installed it back to its original location in the dining room, [where] it reflects the era of the house."

The home's piece de resistance is the sunroom, separated from the kitchen by a half wall and ledge. In addition to whitewashing the fireplace on the couple's first day in the home, Wayne tore out the damaged drywall ceiling and replaced it with knotted pine. He removed the room's dated paneled walls, adding drywall. Dramatic, full-length windows, nine sets in all, were painted white at the sills, and a 9-foot, three-paned door to the deck was installed.

With soft blue walls and white draperies on the windows, the 40-by-20-foot sunroom has only one new piece of furniture: a powder blue, microfiber sectional sofa placed off center in the room. A 9-foot wide light beech entertainment center sits at the opposite wall. This piece was a find from Chesapeake ReStore, a retail store that benefits Habitat for Humanity.

Striped, upholstered occasional chairs, which Wende said were a great deal from Overstock.com, sit near the fireplace. Nautical-themed accessories and wall hangings were found at HomeGoods and T.J. Maxx.


The master bedroom and the home's only bathroom are found on the first level. On the second level, running half the depth of the house, is the "apartment" of the Allens' 17-year-old daughter, Delaney, which she decorated herself.

Wende said her favorite room in the house is the north-facing deck, "providing unrestricted views of both the sunrise and sunset over the water."

"This is where we come to de-stress," she said. "Why wait for retirement when you can enjoy the dream retreat now? And you can't start a workday any better than drinking that first cup of coffee watching the sun come up over the water."