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CHARMING MIX OF VICTORIAN AND 'OTHER'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sure, the Przywaras have done a lot to their Victorian-era home in Essex on a tiny peninsula called Eagle Nest Point.

They've dug out a basement 77 years after the house was built. They've added a 20-by-26-foot family room with breakfast nook, turned a bedroom into a bathroom, added front and back porches, built a barn and herb house on the two-acre grounds and surrounded the property with a white picket fence.

But the crowning glory has got to be their most recent project -- a 9-foot-square belvedere the couple constructed in the basement and added to the roof two years ago.

"I put it together in sections and numbered each piece so I could get it up quicker," said Ron Przywara, a customer service representative for the State Highway Administration and amateur woodworker and carpenter.

"We had to cut a 9-by-9-foot hole in the roof," said Lorraine Przywara, an antiques collector and dealer. "It was open like that for seven days. I prayed it didn't rain."

The Przywaras were lucky; the belvedere, reached by a narrow staircase in one of the bedrooms, was finished before the rains came.

From the third-floor perch, the couple has a panoramic view of the area, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay clear to the Eastern Shore.

"I'm going to put a nice chair up here so I can just sit and read a book," Mrs. Przywara said.

The belvedere also adds an interesting architectural detail to their 1907 house, a rather plain and run-down American four-square design when they bought it a decade ago.

When the couple first looked at the house in 1984, they almost passed it by. "This was not a dream house when we moved in," Mrs. Przywara said. "We took one look and said, 'Too much work.' "

But the couple, Essex natives who wanted to stay in the area, didn't have a lot of time to look at properties. The state had decided to condemn their previous house and land for an extension of Route 702, and they had 90 days to find a new house.

"Our friends had bought this house and then decided to build a new one across the street," Mrs. Przywara said. They offered the Przywaras a good price, so they took it with some trepidation.

Since then, however, it's become a 10-year-long, pet project.

"Sometimes I wonder, do we own this house or does it own us?" remarked Mrs. Przywara. "But I think we're almost finished."

The couple has done much of the renovation and construction work themselves. Mr. Przywara has a woodworking shop in the barn and has added moldings and decorative woodwork throughout the house.

"Lorraine gets the ideas and then I start drawing," he said. Many of their project inspirations have come from homes they've seen on vacations to places such as Cape May, N.J., and Key West, Fla.

"The belvedere idea came from Cape May," Mrs. Przywara said. "It was a trend in seaside communities, so wives could look out to sea for their loved ones."

Since their house is on a peninsula overlooking the bay, the Przywaras thought it made sense to add one.

But not all their additions and changes have been "architecturally correct," which they readily admit.

"We're not pure. We're flexible," Mrs. Przywara said. "This is our dream house and we wanted it to have things we like."

For example, the addition to the house is more Colonial than Victorian, with dormers on both sides of the roof and a large, Colonial-style fireplace on the end. Most of the other details they've added are Victorian-era, but they didn't like Victorian-style fireplaces.

They also opted for vinyl siding rather than wood siding.

"In our other home, we were constantly painting. We painted the house one year and the barn the next. We were tired of painting," Mrs. Przywara said.

Regardless of the mix of styles, the effect is charming and enhanced by the couple's extensive landscaping. Mrs. Przywara's flowers fill the yard and the couple has added new brick sidewalks. They keep geese in the yard, which honk noisily as guests approach.

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