In the winter of 2003, Kirk Bauer bought an old mill house in Howard County's historic Ellicott City. His intention was to rehab the property (as he had done with four other houses) and then sell it.
The work went smoothly until April 2005.
"At that time, I legally separated from my wife," said 60-year-old Bauer, who is the executive director of a nonprofit national organization called Disabled Sports USA. "Then, I needed a place to live."
And so Bauer, in essence, sold his house to himself. Three and a half years later, he has no regrets.
From the street, the three-story Colonial-style home is rectangular in shape. But it started out, like many others in the area, as an 1895 one-room house with a side porch, and over the years has been the recipient of many additions.
Bauer, who bought the 2,400-square-foot house for $97,000, began renovation work on its exterior. The original structure was stone, and subsequent additions were variously of brick, stucco and even a portion of plywood.
To bring the exterior look to a pleasing congruence, as well as to comply with historic-district codes, Bauer placed stringers over all of the exterior materials and then applied Williamsburg blue German lap wood. He put on a new roof, replaced 30 windows, installed new plumbing and electrical systems and added birch-tone interlocking laminate flooring.
Furnishings are true to the period and include many pieces of early-20th-century mahogany purchased from Objects Found, a consignment shop in Catonsville.
Standing on the 40-foot-wide deck he built onto the back of the house, Bauer talks about the process of rehabbing as a relaxing pastime and about how he plans to remain in his "spec" house for the foreseeable future.
"For me, rehabbing homes is kind of like therapy," he said. "Running a nonprofit organization can be stressful. Here, I can be my own boss."
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making the house his own
* Kirk Bauer added bull's-eye molding to all of the doors and windows in the interior additions, thus creating a pleasing and uniform segue from one period of construction to another.
* He also rolled a Sheetrock compound on several interior walls to mesh them with portions of walls that are original stucco.
* Before securing the dining room floor, Bauer dropped it slightly below the adjoining living room floor to make the ceiling appear higher and the room seem larger.