Sue and Robert Tyber had a choice when they went house-hunting nearly a decade ago. They could find the perfect home, or one with possibilities.
The house they purchased in Harford County's Rumsey Island community, just across the Baltimore County line near Gunpowder Falls State Park, unquestionably was in the "possibilities" column.
It was far too contemporary for the Tybers' tastes, with royal blue and silver foil wallpaper and black kitchen counters. The appliances in the home -- built in 1967 -- were aged. Heating ducts were smashed. Seals on all eight of the house's sliding glass doors were broken; The pool house had termite damage and so on and so on.
"My husband didn't like it," said Mrs. Tyber, a human resources and safety manager for National Gypsum. But she wanted the house, and not just because its dock would be an ideal mooring for their cabin cruiser.
"There were just so many things that I thought we could do with it," she said recently. Fueling her confidence was her faith in her husband's ability to handle just about every remodeling notion she could dream up.
"People come in here and say, 'Well, who did that?' Well, my husband did that," she said. "We work real well together. I come up with all kinds of ideas, and he just runs with it."
They didn't move in for the first six months after buying the house because they tore out the living room. One change involved moving the staircase; they used a ladder for a month to get from the first to the second floors. And it seemed as if every time they altered the exterior, such as when they tore out a living room wall that was little more than floor-to-ceiling windows, it rained.
They took out one of the bedrooms and turned it into an attractive sitting room overlooking the living room. Then they added a two-car garage with Mr. Tyber's wood shop above it and a large sun room in the rear of the house.
They completely remodeled the kitchen to give it a more traditional look, and now they are building a game room with a 14-foot antique oak bar that they hauled down from an old saloon in New York.
They have used french doors and stained glass windows, skylights and a comfortable blend of oak, mahogany and wicker furniture to give the home the Victorian feel that Mrs. Tyber saw in her mind's eye in 1986.
Their many trips to auctions and antique shops have harvested a fascinating assortment of collectibles that are on display throughout the home: crocks, bisque dolls, old toys and even slot machines. And then there are the antique clocks that Mrs. Tyber's father collected.
Mrs. Tyber has kept folders for years of ideas she has found in decorating magazines and libraries. But she has also found inspiration in some unlikely settings.
Once they were at a funeral home when the decorative molding in the room caught her attention. She nudged her husband, an electrician for General Motors.
"Here we are here to see somebody who's laid out in a casket, and I said, 'Look at the woodwork. That's what we can do in the living room,' " she said. "So he sits there and he's sketching what we're going to do."