Spending $900,000 painstakingly; Slow: It took six years to find the lot, then three years to pick the builder, before Russ and Marcia Johnson began to build their dream home.


Russ and Marcia Johnson had a vision and determination.

When the Johnsons finally moved into their 6,000-square-foot, brick, Federal-style home in the Preserve section of Ellicott City's Burleigh Manor subdivision, it was the culmination of a 10-year odyssey. It was an odyssey that began in the summer of 1988, when the family moved from Northern Virginia after he took a position with a Baltimore-area lumber company.

Although they were enchanted with the Preserve in the late 1980s when they first saw it, they were not excited about the four or five floor plans offered by the developer, who also happened to be its only builder.

Discouraged, the Johnsons continued their house-hunting expeditions; however, the encounter left its mark.

Continuing the search for their perfect home, the Johnsons had become intrigued with the idea of building their custom home.

But with Mr. Johnson tiring of the Virginia commute, the couple quickly found a nearly completed single-family home in the Stonebrooke neighborhood, southeast of Ellicott City, and decided to buy.

"It was to be our transition home -- you know, just two or three years until we found what we really liked -- but we ended up there for 10 years," Russ Johnson said.

But their first love remained the Preserve.

In the early 1990s building bust, the Preserve's original developer found himself with a substantial amount of land but with less demand. The remaining lots were placed on the market and purchasers were able to hire their own contractors.

A wooded parcel

Finally, the Johnsons found their dream lot -- a wooded 3.3-acre parcel in the Preserve that they bought in 1994. It took them two years to decide to build and another year to find the right builder, which turned out to be Selfridge Builders.

Once the construction process began, the Johnsons continued to be deliberate in everything they did. "Our systems were flexible enough to allow for the evolution of the Johnsons' ideas," said Jim Selfridge, principal of the firm.

That evolution began with the Johnsons' sessions with architect Ron Johnston. Johnston recommended they begin with the front of the house and they would build the floor plan behind it.

The floor plan, which materialized behind the home's elegantly impressive brick front, featured the kitchen, library, and master bedroom -- all considered critical living areas by the Johnsons -- on one floor.

The kitchen was kept as open as possible, with easy access to the home's backyard amenities -- bluestone patios and an in-ground pool.

Back stairs

The kitchen also was arranged to accommodate a large, three-sided island that seats six at the breakfast bar.

The laundry room was enlarged to an ample mud room. A back stairway was included to provide access to the home's upstairs "without always having to tromp through the foyer." And, a large hall coat closet was installed behind the large curved entrance stairway.

With their entertainment needs in mind, the Johnsons envisioned an open, two-story living room with columns all around the perimeter. "[But] it looked like a huge two-story shaft," he said. The living room ceiling was restored and the Johnsons gained a fifth bedroom upstairs.

In all, construction took about 10 months. The home's cost reached the $900,000 range and reflects the rewards of the deliberate care they took to address even the tiniest details -- a home that sits back against the woods and quietly impresses.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad