In the fall of 2006, a homey little Cape Cod built of brick and flagstone and situated on a tree-lined street in northwest Baltimore County waited to be purchased by people who would fall in love with it. Its former owners, one of them a contractor, had completely renovated the quaint 1940 house, rendering it in move-in condition.
At the same time, a couple from Crofton - Stan Lacienski, a recruitment specialist at Towson University and his fiancee, Leonie Farrington, a registered nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital - were hunting for a home closer to their workplaces.
"We were driving down the street and saw the sign 'Dream Realty,' and from the moment we stepped inside knew that no other house would do," Farrington said.
The compact, two-story home reminded Lacienski of the Cape Cod-style house in which he grew up in western Massachusetts. To Farrington, it represented all of the quaint cottages dotting the streets and hillsides in her native Ireland.
The two were determined to have the house. After they learned there were other bids on it, they wrote a letter to the owners, who had moved next door into a larger home, a fixer-upper.
Their plea worked. In November 2006, the couple, along with Farrington's 11-year-old twin daughters from a previous marriage, moved into the 45-foot-by-40-foot home. They paid $344,000 for it.
"This house was a turnkey operation," Lacienski said, laughing. "We turned the key and started living in it."
They did, however, make some improvements, spending about $30,000 to turn the basement into bedrooms for the girls, Megan and Sarah, and to landscape the property and finish a sunroom and the attic.
The home's appeal lies in its rustic, Colonial feel. A dining room set made of Mexican pine, the living room's oak tables, a leather sofa and a Windsor-back side chair all stand on original oak flooring. A remodeled kitchen features maple cabinets, tumbled-stone backsplashes and ceramic tile floors.
Nestled into the dormers of the second-floor bedrooms are mahogany and oak Colonial-style night tables and armoires complemented by four-poster beds in both the master and guest room.
Asked if they would ever consider leaving their cozy cottage, Lacienski and Farrington respond simultaneously. He shakes his head no. She says one word: "Never!"
making the house their own
* In Ireland, Leonie Farrington said, everyone names their house. She had a brass plaque made to hang beside the front door with the word Tigdaragh deeply engraved. In Gaelic, it means "Tig's house," a tribute to her son, who died in infancy.
* Stan Lacienski had bookcases built into the walls under the multiple windows of the sunroom. These display his greatest treasures - his books - for all to see.
* Both Farrington and Lacienski collect folk art and use the pieces to give the rooms in their house a rustic feel. For instance, in the dining room, four framed prints of the Williamsburg, Va., capitol building (in each of the seasons) grace the walls.
See more pictures and read about other dream homes at baltimoresun.com/dreamhome