They may be few and far between, but little stone cottages buried in the woods, surrounded by blooming flowers, stone pathways, fancy gates, trellises, and outdoor tables set for tea really do exist.
Karen and Todd Morrill own such a place - a getaway in northern Baltimore County. Think of a Thomas Kinkade painting or an illustration from a child's book of fairy tales. That is the enchanted place called Holly Hillside.
"We could also call it Bliss House," Karen Morrill said, sipping her tea, and gazing from the front porch onto a garden as colorful as a box of crayons.
She and her husband, both land developers, saw the sale sign two years ago and bought the property on the spot, paying $315,000 for the tiny, two-story mill house built in 1840.
Included in the price were four outbuildings, and a one-room, brown shingled cabin that Todd Morrill claimed as his hideaway, complete with a sofa, a few tables, a portable potty and stuffed bucks' heads on the wall.
"I always wanted a playhouse," Karen Morrill said of the getaway, "a place to escape to, to do artwork, and to have friends over."
And a place to satisfy her passion for gardening. Holly Hillside, named by the previous owners who were master gardeners and horticulturists, consists of 4.5 acres of gardens and woods.
Karen Morrill recently walked up the hillside behind the house where she has created several pathways of star-shaped moss, a cushion under foot.
With a 3-foot pair of garden cutters she hacked off the stray leaves of ferns that grow in abundance and surround marble statues and benches with a green lace shawl. Large evergreens appear sun-kissed with outermost bows outlined in yellow. Holly bushes, dogwood, hemlock and lilac burst from the ground.
"I sit and stare and collect my thoughts here," she said, indicating one of several wrought iron tables and chairs along the paths.
Beyond the front porch - an outdoor parlor with oriental carpet, table set for tea and a large chintz sofa - Karen Morrill has created what she calls "nine pallets of flagstone," little patios stair-stepping down the hillside. Here, along dirt paths and wooden steps she grows foxglove, day lilies, roses, blue bachelor buttons, daisies, black-eyed Susans and tall irises.
The cottage's interior is every bit the playhouse Karen Morrill dreamed of, a cozy space not far from the couple's home in nearby Sparks. It is just 25 feet wide by 16 feet in depth, and she has outfitted it with all of the necessities without cluttering it up.
Half of the first floor is the kitchen area and, like the rest of the house, has retained its original windows and pine flooring. Ceiling beams are exposed in the far corner over a sink and cupboards in an L-shaped design that has been fashioned in light colored beadboard. Countertops are of butcher block, providing a rugged, cabin effect. A whimsical touch here is a rooster painted on the recessed window over the sink. An oak round table with high-back, Windsor-style chairs sit in front of a floor-to-ceiling china cabinet painted blue and white.
The living area features a colorful, chintz-covered wing chair, a sofa upholstered in beige, tone-on-tone damask, and three highly polished cherry tables. Karen Morrill's paintings, mostly of bright-colored flowers, adorn the butter cream walls.
A focal point in this little room is the tile-covered brick fireplace with its wood mantel painted a light apple green.
A winding, 2-foot-wide staircase to the second floor hides behind a wooden door in the rear of the room. This second floor, the rear of which is but a few feet above ground level, consists of two bedrooms, one leading into the other. Multi-squared quilts rest on iron-framed beds in both rooms. Original artwork decorates the walls, many of them Karen Morrill's still-lifes.
The couple say they invested about $25,000 in the little stone house, primarily for landscaping and furniture.
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