When Cindy and Jay Ordes found a rowhouse in Canton Square in February, they knew they had to act fast. They had tried to buy one of the popular homes before, but failed as six bidders waged war for a house that had been on the market for less than a day.
So when they saw a similar house for sale, a two-bedroom house on Elliott Street, they sprang into action. Mrs. Ordes called the real estate agent, explaining that they had already been qualified for a loan and could buy quickly.
The next day, a Monday, they visited the house only to find the 10-year-old structure was in desperate need of repair after a decade of renters. "I kept saying, 'Oh, my God.' I said it so much that Jay told me to stop saying it," she recalls.
Despite the concerns, the Ordeses signed a contract to buy the $160,000 house that night. "I knew we wanted to be in this area because it's so convenient," said Mrs. Ordes, a home economics teacher at Joppatowne High School in Harford County.
Between May, when they settled on the house, and July 6, when furniture arrived, the couple set about making the house a home. They hired a contractor, Doug Rohe, who created a wall where a fireplace had been in the living room, built a linen closet where a door had been off the master bedroom, installed new kitchen appliances and counters, and built a pantry and bookshelf in dead space in the kitchen, improved the upstairs stairwell, and replaced doors.
As quickly as Jay Ordes tore down something old, Rohe was installing something new.
"I was the break-it-down and get-rid-of-it person and he was the fix-it-up guy," said Ordes, an electrical engineer.
While Rohe was building things up, Cindy Ordes and a close friend, Cynde Hendrick, an art teacher at Joppatowne High, painted and put up wallpaper throughout the house.
All the walls were painted an off-white, which won't clash with the draperies and upholstery covers Mrs. Ordes sews.
In the upstairs bathroom, she went against the advice of experts and applied vertically striped blue wallpaper, accentuating the 14-foot ceiling in the room. The goal was to make the room look taller and it worked, she said, adding, "I think it's really great."
The wallpaper in the foyer and kitchen, and the draperies in the dining room have a red Waverly flower pattern. The wallpaper matches the upholstery on the dining room chairs (covering an institutional orange seat cover consistent with their former life at the Sheraton Inn in New Orleans).
The suggestion to use the wallpaper along the foyer's 8-foot corridor was her mother's, as was the idea to install oak flooring throughout the first floor, including the powder room and kitchen.
"I have to give her credit -- it really works and works well," Mrs. Ordes said.
In the living room, the red of the draperies contrasts with a dark blue sofa and love-seat combination, the only new furniture in the house. The room has the warm feel of a Victorian parlor.
"I want people to think of this as a place where they can sit down and talk," she said.
The basement offers a "dormitory" area for the couple's two daughters, Barbara, 20, and Diana, 18, students at Johns Hopkins University who live on campus except during breaks. When the daughters move on, the basement will become an office area, their father said.
The guest bedroom, looking out on Canton Square, offers the couple a chance to show off a 100-year-old quilt that Cindy Ordes acquired from her mother "after getting on my knees and begging and begging her for it." The flower pattern quilt now is complemented by matching quilt pillowcases, a gift from Merrie Street, the mother of Diana Ordes' boyfriend.
The renovations, including the contractor, cost $14,000 to $15,000, the Ordeses estimate. About $650 was saved by carefully choosing the wallpaper and fabrics, she said.
The Ordeses like living in a house that's about a third the size of the four-bedroom Colonial in Fallston they left after 12 years.
Instead of worrying about yardwork, they sail on their 30-foot boat, moored at Baltimore Marine Center just a few blocks from their house. They can see their sailboat out the back window.
"The lifestyle fits us really well," said Jay Ordes, noting that their fear that neighbors would be young, upwardly mobile professionals was unfounded. "They're empty nesters like us. In fact, we're the youngest couple."
His wife added, "There's just about everything that we need within walking distance, and when we finish we have a great house to come back to."
Pub Date: 1/17/99