The house on Waveland Road in Catonsville is a work in progress -- new paint, new carpet, new rooms.
It is a source of wonder to neighbors, and of pride to owners Bernard and Rosemary Wright.
"I consider my home and garden a haven," Rosemary said. "I'm proud of all the work we've done."
From the outside, the Wrights' home looks much like its neighbors -- a box of fieldstone and red brick set in the middle of a neatly tended yard.
"It just tickles me when people who have never been here before drive up and see the outside of the house -- nothing special -- then see their faces when they see the inside," Rosemary said. "People smile when they come through my house."
Over the years, the Wrights have spent at least $14,000 on materials and countless hours renovating their house.
Rosemary and Bernard each owned a home in Catonsville in 1990 when they decided to marry. Bernard -- Bernie to his friends -- was a widower living in the house he and his deceased wife bought after their sons left home. Rosemary was divorced, a single parent of one son and one daughter.
At first, Bernie and Rosemary considered selling both houses and buying or building a bigger one for themselves.
"A new wife, a new life," Bernie said jokingly.
Then he and Rosemary saw the potential in his house. By purchasing materials as they went, and doing most of the work themselves, they figured they could create something unique.
Bernie originally bought the 1,260-square-foot house -- which was built about 40 years ago -- in 1981 for $72,500. It was a simple home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, basement and one-car garage.
The house has been expanded to almost 1,700 square feet thanks to the addition of a closet and a family room, and it boasts a backyard that looks like something out of Home & Garden magazine.
Bernie, 67, has worked in construction since he was 14 and retains a deep love of working with wood. Rosemary loves gardening. And neither is afraid of hard work.
So, they got married and got to work.
First was the addition of a closet to the master bedroom, which is in the front of the house. Bernie cut a hole through the wall separating the bedroom from the front porch, then bricked in 3-foot-deep portion of the porch.
Next, he designed an addition to the house -- a large room extending from the front to the back of the original house. The old living room and dining room are now formal living and dining rooms, while the addition houses a breakfast nook and serves as a family room. A laundry room and powder room are tucked into one side of the addition.
When it was time to start building the addition, Bernie's sons came to help.
"It was like watching a ballet," said Rosemary, who videotaped the event. "They didn't have to discuss it. They all just knew what to do. It was amazing."
She and Bernie renovated the kitchen during the same period they were building the addition -- new cabinets, appliances, flooring.
"It has everything a woman could want in a kitchen," Rosemary said. That includes two microwaves, a garbage disposal and a hot-water tap for the sink.
Once all that was complete, the Wrights got busy on the backyard. They started with a deck.
"This small deck kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger," said Bernie. "Thank God there was a fence [to stop at]."
The deck, laid in a basket weave pattern, stretches across the back of the house and encircles a tree. To one side, a latticework gazebo hides the only unexpected hardship Bernie ran into during all of his renovations -- a thick, concrete block.
The first owner poured the cement foundation and put a toolshed on it. The Wrights tore down the shed, but couldn't do a thing with the slab. Bernie and a friend worked all of one afternoon working on it with a jackhammer.
"We maybe chipped on corner off," Bernie said.
Instead, he designed the gazebo off one end of the deck. Then he built a toolshed farther back in the yard.
But he and Rosemary had plenty of room left.
Their home sits near the front of an 8,200 square-foot lot. Even with the deck and gazebo taking up about 830 square feet, Rosemary had room to work and make a garden.
She hauled in dirt, mulch and compost. She designed and planted and pruned.
Since beginning the project, the Wrights have spent about $1,000 on plants. And it shows.
Flowers and other plants bloom throughout the yard in beds that are part of the Wrights' lawn eradication program. The more flowers, plants and shrubs, the less lawn to mow.
There are benches and birdhouses, a hammock, an umbrella table with four chairs, and two speakers set into the ground that pipe music from the house to the yard. There is even a small pond with a fountain spurting from its middle that the Wrights made by sinking an old claw-foot bathtub into the ground and surrounding its rim with field stone.
"She really worked hard," Bernie said. Not that he was standing by idle.
He also installed new ceramic tile in the entryway and updated the bathroom -- complete with phone jack and cable outlet. He also replaced all the old cast iron porch railings with white-painted wood.
Rosemary has redecorated the house with new carpet and wall paper and paint.
Her daughter, Rachel Lowell , 17, lives with the Wrights, as do their two pet dogs.
When they speak of their home, the Wrights most often speak of each other. They are proud of one another, and happy with their life together.
And the house still isn't done. Next up: the basement bathroom.
"Our neighbors are always asking us -- don't you two ever stop?" Rosemary said.
The answer? Not yet.
Pub Date: 6/21/98