In a highly mobile society where everyone seems to be from somewhere else, Sandy and Craig Doyle are throwbacks to a time when folks stayed put.
They grew up a mile apart in the Edgemere section of eastern Baltimore County; their families were friends: "We were diapered on the same table," Sandy Doyle recalls.
They went to middle school together, graduated from Sparrows Point High School together and, after marrying 14 years ago, settled down together to start a family in, of course, Edgemere. Their daughter is the third generation on Sandy's side to go to the local elementary school.
In the community's Lodge Forest section, the Doyles and their two children, Dylan, 4, and Maureen, 10, live at the confluence of North Point Creek and Long Cove in a passively solar-heated Cape Cod with rear dormers that is more than just an attractive dwelling. It's a set of lessons for anyone who nurtures a dream.
The lessons: Save your money, be careful with features that you can't change easily, look for deals on secondhand furnishings so you can conserve your funds and be prepared to invest time and energy on projects within your reach.
"We're both willing to work. I've got lots of ideas and he's the handyman," said Mrs. Doyle, an administrative assistant at the Denton A. Cooley Student Recreation Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Their ideas and skills are manifest throughout the house they built in 1986. In the muted light-green parlor off the foyer, they installed the crown molding themselves.
To complement the new furnishings, she found a tufted wingback chair with brocade fabric in a consignment shop that was listed for $60. When it came down to $40, Mrs. Doyle bought it and restored it with some Spic and Span and her husband's shop vacuum.
She cut the legs off her grandmother's library table to make it an interesting coffee table, and there's an oak buffet that also belonged to her grandmother.
On the other side of the foyer is a dining room dominated by a hutch, table and chairs that came as a set from a classified ad. On the wall are quilts from the 19th century. The cornices that grace the windows have old quilt squares that were made by her great-grandmother.
The house is filled with conversation pieces, starting with the foyer, decorated with old trunks and a sewing table overflowing with family photos and a 19th-century "shocking kit" used to treat "nervous diseases."
A downstairs bathroom features a vanity created by placing a sink in an old mahogany desk. The mantel over the fireplace was a piece of driftwood that floated ashore and fit perfectly.
The wall up the staircase is decorated with quilts made from feed bags. The staircase itself is oak; their builder quoted a standard carpeted staircase, but the Doyles felt this feature was important enough to warrant a greater investment.
"The biggest thing was to put the money in things we wouldn't be able to change," she said.
Upstairs, the three bedrooms have spectacular views of the creek and cove. In the master bedroom, the two chests of drawers and bed were found at an Eastern Shore auction in 1986.
They wallpapered two walls; Sandy Doyle photocopied the wallpaper onto acetate and ingeniously used the acetate to create a stenciled border on the other two walls.
One of the principles guiding her decorating scheme was to avoid colors and other features that would date the house as time goes by. "We want to be here forever," she said.
"Neutral colors are best because they don't date your house. Basic whites and beige. Also, the knobs on your cabinets . . . pick them gingerly. They speak to the age of the house."
From her kitchen table, Sandy Doyle can watch her husband sail his boat, the Chapter II, into the 12-foot channel that leads to their dock.
Craig Doyle, an engineering specialist at Baltimore Gas and Electric, is president of the North Point Sailing Association, and the Doyles race competitively on the Chesapeake Bay. In the winter, the creeks freeze, and skating is possible up to Old Road Bay.
"We call it the town time forgot, because it's like an Eastern Shore community, but you're 20 minutes from Baltimore," Mrs. Doyle said.