David and Deborah Russell in their dream home, a townhouse in Abingdon.
David and Deborah Russell in their dream home, a townhouse in Abingdon. (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun)

Downsizing often means making big changes in lifestyle. David and Deborah Russell never regretted the decision to do so.

With their daughter, Marie, long out of the nest, the couple thought it high time to leave their six-bedroom single-family home in Harford County and find something smaller to accommodate their needs.

There were self-imposed conditions, however. They would not leave the area, nor would they spend a fortune on new furnishings. The Russells discovered a new development, Monmouth Meadows, close by their former home. They were so impressed that they purchased one of the Ryan homes — based on the plans — for $249,000. Theirs would be in the first group built.

The townhome was not even finished when Deborah Russell contacted interior decorator Mary Yeager of Singular Design Interiors Inc. to work with her.

"I wanted Mary in from the beginning," she said. "We walked around in hard hats and did a pre-dry-wall inspection for placement of lighting, electrical and cable outlets."

Together the women assessed the couple's furniture and talked about achieving a particular style while staying within the Russell's budget.

"We talked about color and what we wanted from a house," said Russell, a 54-year-old branch manager for Susquehanna Bank. "I wanted lovely; traditional with European earthiness, but also a place where we could relax and feel at home."

Because their house was among the first built, Ryan Homes gave them $25,000 in options and upgrades. The Russells chose an expansion, or bump-out, at the rear of the home, which faces south. This bright area, adjacent to the kitchen, now serves as combination breakfast nook and sun room. The couple also selected hardwood oak flooring on the first level, granite countertops in the kitchen and a full bathroom in their lower level. Finally, in keeping with their idea of traditional country comfort for the family room, they opted for a raised-hearth gas fireplace built of flagstone.

"I'm not the kind of person to change things, so I asked Mary to create classic [looks] but not dated ones for this room," Russell explained.

Using the Russells' furniture, a cozy room was created with the fireplace as a focal point. A comfortable, pub-style sofa in hunter green corduroy sits perpendicular to a pair of reclining wing chairs upholstered in floral tapestry. Adding to the traditional country look are three mirrors hanging behind the sofa, each framed in heavy dark molding. The largest of the three features a frame within a frame etched in gilt.

Sheer draperies in blended shades of muted green and gold hang on windows in both family room and breakfast nook, tying both areas together with a continual line of fabric.

Two stunning details define the breakfast nook while creating casual elegance. The first is a round pedestal table with a glass top, with tapestry cushioned chairs around it. The second detail is more of an eye-catcher. On walls painted an eggshell color, a dark wood-framed painting of a Mediterranean landscape is centered inside a much larger rectangle of white molding, in which metallic damask wallpaper has been placed. The overall effect in the room is one of French country decor.

A multi-framed glass door in the corner of the nook opens out to a deck looking down on a fenced-in yard.

These two rooms, together with a country kitchen of dark wood cabinets and stainless appliances, make up the entire back end of the first level.

"This area is great for entertaining because it's so functional," said Russell. "This space says, 'Hello. Come on in and we'll put the coffee on!'"

The front part of the house features the living room, dining room and staircase to the second floor. The feeling here is traditionally formal. The appearance of an entrance hall has been fashioned at the front door side of the wall where a 6-foot-high gilt-framed mirror sits against gold damask wallpaper of a floral motif. Directly below the mirror sits a brocaded settee. A long, narrow carpet from the front door to the staircase finishes off the look of an entrance hall without walls.

The living room proper is decorated in earthy tones, yet formally. A pair of floral brocaded, Queen Anne-style chairs in shades of rust, brown and cream sit at the window, while a transitional, Federal-style sofa upholstered in chenille of a complimentary shade of light rust sits across from them. Directly behind the couch and a glass-inset library table of cherry wood, a traditional dining room table and chairs, also of cherry wood, are enveloped in an accent wall painted a muted shade of pumpkin.

Three bedrooms and two full bathrooms are on the second level. Still a work in progress, the guest room is a study of black and white, made delicate by touches of stenciled birds on the walls, as well as a headboard that saw an earlier life as a lacy cast-iron room divider.

"The basement is where we gather and watch TV," said David Russell, a 55-year-old systems engineer for Johns Hopkins Hospital and a professional trumpet player. "A lot of living goes on down there."

Indeed, with pub-style leather furniture and an 80-inch, widescreen TV, every day is a sports lovers' dream. Unless, of course, David Russell is busy rehearsing for a performance. Several music stands are set up around the open room and complement the area's loveliest piece of furniture. A display cabinet, a 30th-anniversary gift from his wife, holds the musician's 10 trumpets.

And while the couple may have cast off a lot of furniture and possessions when they downsized, their choices were sound ones. Indicating the black lacquer showcase with its glass doors and gleaming trumpets behind them, she said thoughtfully, "Our history is here."

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Making the dream

Best decision: The Russells hired decorator Mary Yeager of Singular Design Interiors Inc. to work with them in fashioning a home environment that was traditionally pleasing and formal, yet comfortable and welcoming. All of this was done using the couple's original furniture and with a strict budget for accent pieces, fabric and accessories.

Personal touches: Deborah Russell learned, with her decorator's assistance, to give new life to treasured pieces the couple owned, such as a different grouping of three floral still-life paintings done by a family friend to add new interest and the purchase of a Hindu sculpture to top off the serene feel of the living room.