Twelve years ago, the Caples of Westminster bought an 1850s brick mill house on 5 bucolic acres, complete with stream and small wooden bridge that they crossed on their way up the driveway.
They loved the five-room, three-level house, which had been renovated before they moved in. But after their first child was born, they started thinking about an addition.
"We needed more space. We didn't have a dining room and we only had two bedrooms," says Robin Spampinato Caple.
The Caples considered building a two-level brick addition that would blend easily with the existing structure, but eventually decided on a more creative solution -- using a log home of similar vintage to solve their space problems.
Mrs. Caple, a longtime Westminster resident, had become interested in log homes a couple of years earlier when she saw one being dismantled. She and her husband, Arthur, learned that it had been purchased and would be moved to another site.
"That got us thinking that would be a great way to do our addition," Mrs. Caple says. "We really liked the look of the logs with the chinking," a plaster-like substance used to hold the logs together.
Once the Caples decided to use an old log home, the challenge became finding one that would fit their needs. They wanted a structure that measured at least 20 by 30 feet, but most log homes built in the mid-1800s were not that large.
Using the same broker who had dismantled the Westminster house, they eventually found a house near Thurmont in Western Maryland where the elderly owners could no longer climb the steep steps.
The owners had planned to demolish the log home and rebuild until the Caples stepped in and bought the house, had it taken apart, transported to their property and rebuilt on a new foundation.
"Every log was numbered, so they'd get everything back in the same place," says Mrs. Caple.
Because the mill house and log home were of such different styles, the Caples decided to bridge the gap with a two-story connecting addition.
Across the front of the original house, the new addition and log home, the Caples also had a new front porch added, which along with matching clapboard on the addition and coordinated trim on all three buildings pulls the unique house together.
The project required some shuffling of rooms. For example, a bedroom on the ground floor of the original house became a playroom for Cassie, 7, and Larissa, 3. The former living room has become the dining room, the "parlor" is in the new addition and the first floor of the log home was transformed into a family room.
The master bedroom, which takes up the entire second floor of the log home, has an adjoining walk-in closet, master bath and balcony on the second floor of the new addition.
The original house, which had five rooms, 2 1/2 baths and a mudroom, now is eight rooms, 3 1/2 baths and mudroom. It has doubled in size to close to 5,000 square feet.
Because the log house's two brick fireplaces were not included in the purchase, the couple added a large closet where one once stood and rebuilt the second. They had found the foundation of an old barn on their property and hand-carried each of the rocks to the house, scrubbed them and had a mason turn them into the new fireplace, which dominates the family room.
Similarly, several trees that had to be cleared to make room for the log house have been reincarnated as a bar in the new parlor and flooring in the master bedroom.
The Caples have done nearly as much work outside, undertaking extensive landscaping.
And, in addition to building the front porch, they have had a three-level brick patio added across the back.
"People do find it unique," says Mrs. Caple, describing visitors' reactions to their hybrid house. "We like it because it's really comfortable for us and it's great for entertaining."