When Leslie and Jon Welfeld moved into their home in Owings Mills in May, it was just in time.
The couple desperately needed to find someplace bigger than their Pikesville condo for their rapidly growing family. The couple already had a 13-month-old son, Justin, and Leslie was due to have a second child in late September.
The Welfelds first started looking for a house nearly two years ago, when their family was just beginning.
"It was slow going. Nothing was ever quite right," Leslie said.
The couple knew they wanted to move to the Owings Mills area. There were several neighborhoods that attracted the couple, but the homes the Welfelds wanted always seemed to be out of their price range.
After spending many, many weekends going through real estate ads in the newspaper, working with agents and driving around looking at homes, Leslie decided to look on the Internet.
"I don't even know why I did it," she said. "One day I had five extra minutes, so I decided to just play around, and I found this place. I never saw it in the real estate section."
Initially, the split-foyer home was put on the market at $285,000. When Leslie saw the listing on the Internet, it was down to $240,000.
That was a little more than the Welfelds wanted to spend. They really didn't want to go over $200,000.
But the home was in a nice neighborhood the Welfelds liked, off Park Heights Avenue in a heavily wooded area, so the couple decided to take a look. Luckily for the Welfelds, the owner was eager to sell and willing to negotiate.
"The house sat on the market for nearly a year," Jon said. "We seriously underbid it. We got it for $225,000."
What the Welfelds got was not just a bigger home in a neighborhood perfect for a couple with a young family but also "a well-designed, simple, solid, box" of a house, Jon said.
There was nothing physically wrong with the home, it's just that the house had no aesthetic beauty, Jon said: "It was plain Jane to the max."
So now the Welfelds had a second deadline to meet.
After nearly two years, they had finally found a house just in time for the birth of their second child. Now Jon had less than two months to renovate the home.
The Welfelds settled on the house at the end of May. Leslie wanted the place in move-in condition in time to celebrate her 30th birthday, July 17, in her new home.
Jon had big ideas for what to do to the house and the nearly 2 acres surrounding it. "My husband has great vision," Leslie said.
"I had a lot to do. At least 10 major projects and only two to three days to complete each one," Jon said. "But I have a lot of energy and a lot of great ideas. I watch a lot of cooking shows and home improvement shows."
So from 7 a.m. to almost 2 a.m. every day, Jon worked to transform his "plain Jane" house into something with a little more personality.
Jon's work schedule and lifestyle made this somewhat easier. While Leslie works full-time as a nurse, Jon works part-time as a caterer on weekends and as a full-time dad during the week.
While Leslie worked during the day, Jon would take little Justin with him to the new house and work on his many home-improvement projects.
"It was great. He was the most-behaved little boy the whole time," Jon said.
Jon began his renovations with the inside of the house and replaced all of the light fixtures. "They were so plain," Jon said. Pointing to an ornate chandelier in a hallway, he said, "This was just a light bulb."
Jon then painted the all-white walls of the house a variety of vibrant hues, including deep purple in the master bedroom, burgundy in the dining room, mustard in the living room and forest green in the family room.
Plain white tiles in the foyer were replaced. A new sink was installed in the kitchen. built-in shelves were removed. Decorative molding was put into the formal dining room. The downstairs bathroom was remodeled and retiled.
Jon also wasn't completely happy with the two small rooms on the lower level of the house.
"It was torture for me, but I knew what I had to do." Jon said. "I called Leslie and told her, 'I have to tear down that wall.' "
So he did.
Then he built a new mantel around the fireplace and put in new carpet on the lower level.
But he wasn't done yet.
Jon raided a trash bin outside the now-defunct Rascals nightclub in Pikesville and hauled home a major part of the club in the back of his truck.
The tall, purple wooden booths from the club were cut down and turned into a breakfast nook in the kitchen. Jon even added speakers inside the booth, so diners could hear music while eating. Then he re-upholstered his kitchen bar stools with leftover fabric to match. Downstairs in the family room are two light fixtures that once lighted a dance floor.
All of that work on the inside of the house was just the beginning.
Outside, Jon cut down trees that blocked the front of the house, tore apart the front walkway, leveled a steep, sloping back yard with tons of dirt and built a large fish pond and stone wall. The fish pond was Jon's masterpiece, he said: "I like to sit here and just look at it."
Through it all, with walls coming down, sinks being torn apart and late-night trash bin raids, Leslie never complained, never questioned and never doubted that her husband would get done in time. "I just let him do what he wanted. I trust him and I knew whatever he did would be right," she said.
"Everything worked out great."
The couple did celebrate Leslie's birthday in their new, remodeled home. At the party, that bench from Rascals proved very useful. Ten nieces and nephews were able to sit down at the table.
"This house is perfect for us," Leslie said. "A lot of people say this home is great for older people since the bedroom and bathroom and kitchen are all on the same floor, but it's also good for someone with small children." Now that baby Jacob has come home, late-night feedings are easier when Mom doesn't have to go downstairs for a bottle.
The Welfelds also like the convenience of having the second bedroom attached to the master bedroom. While some people might not like the sliding door between the two rooms, Leslie thinks the room is the "ideal nursery."
"I never dreamed I'd own a home like this," Jon said. "I feel like I was blessed by God to find this house."