A tune plays softly when you open the door to Rosalie and Joe Manfre's home. The music is a sweet lullaby. It's as if the house is welcoming you inside with its song.
Upon closer inspection, you notice a small, round, brass-colored music box sitting just above the doorway. When the door swings open, it pulls a string to start the music.
The hidden music box is just one of the many things that the Manfres love about their 70-some-year-old Colonial in Overlea.
That's not surprising, considering that music has always been important to the Manfres. In fact, music greatly influenced their home-buying choice. Rosalie and Joe are two-fifths of the local band Spitshine. She plays guitar. He plays the drums.
The group performs several times a month in the Baltimore/Washington area.
Of course, being musicians, both Rosalie and Joe have day jobs. She's a secretary, and he is a driver for United Parcel Service.
There were many things that the Manfres were looking for when they went home-shopping a year ago. They wanted an older home with "solid-wood floors, stained-glass windows and a cozy place with lots of charm and character," Rosalie said. But more than anything, they wanted a place with a large enough basement to convert to a music room.
Their previous house, a small home in Morrell Park in Southwest Baltimore, wasn't equipped to handle band rehearsals and late-night jam sessions. The couple bought the home because it was a bargain, Rosalie said. "It was a place to live, never our dream home," she said.
"We always planned to move," Joe added.
In the Manfres' old house, the band practiced in a second-floor bedroom.
"It was small and cramped, and your ears would ring by the end of the night," Joe said.
But now, the Manfres have the music room they always wanted -- and it's just four small steps from the basement outside door. The entire room was rewired to accommodate all the band's electrical equipment. The concrete floor was carpeted, a ceiling was put in, and the room was soundproofed.
"We didn't want to annoy our new neighbors," Rosalie said.
Joe joked that they never soundproofed their previous music room because they didn't care about annoying the neighbors -- who only called the police on the band one time.
"Here we moved in all of the instruments under the cover of darkness," Joe said.
Not only is the music room ideal for the musicians of Spitshine, but it is also ideal for music lovers. The Manfres put in a wet bar and entertainment center, built a mini-refrigerator into the wall, and furnished the room with a comfy couch and love seat.
"It's a nice big space, friends can come and listen now," Rosalie said.
There's more to love about the home than the music room of their dreams. The Manfres got what they wanted -- solid Carolina pine floors throughout the home and stained glass windows in the living room and main hallway. The couple decorated their living room in sea green and ocean blue to match the stained glass.
"Standing here with the early morning sunlight coming through those windows -- this is just the prettiest place in the whole house," Joe said.
But it's the details that they like most about the home. Things like the music box above the door or the fact that the curtains left in the formal dining room match the wallpaper perfectly or that the tiebacks for the curtains in the casual dining room are made from two very large steel spoons. Rosalie, who collects antiques, was taken with the vintage stove in the home's cheery red and white kitchen.
"We fell in love with this place instantly," Joe said.
The couple had spent a great deal of time looking for a house and would have probably settled on moving somewhere else if it hadn't been for the fact that the person buying their old home needed extra time to come up with the financing.
"We looked at lots of places. Many had the things that we wanted," Rosalie said.
Instead of settling on another house that was "just a place to live," the Manfres used their extra time to continue their home search. "We had almost given up," Rosalie said.
But then she saw a listing that caught her eye.
"The listing itself was very understated," Rosalie said. "It just said 'charming home, wood floors,' and not much else."
But there was something interesting about the date that the home was listed -- Sept. 29. "That's our wedding anniversary," Rosalie said.
Maybe it was karma, maybe it was fate, maybe it was just a coincidence, but something told Rosalie that she and Joe should see the house.
They saw the home late at night, but wanted to make a bid on it almost immediately. "Our real estate agent told us that we
should at least see the place during the daytime," Joe said.
And in broad daylight, the home was even lovelier.
The couple purchased the home for $98,000 and have put in about $25,000 in renovations.
Besides the music room, the Manfres remodeled the front porch, reworked the plumbing and electrical system and added a deck to the back.
"All of our friends are so house-jealous now," Joe said.
On the way out of the door, Joe hands out a flier for Spitshine's next performance at Mum's bar in Fells Point. And as the door closes, the music begins once more.
Pub Date: 12/06/98