Shari Elliker and Treavor Erney had no illusions about the half-million-dollar house they purchased last August in northern Baltimore's Homeland. The three-story Georgian-style home, solidly built of fieldstone in 1928 and placed among similar mansions in the Olmsted-designed neighborhood, was a majestic site to behold - from the street.
But beyond the front door, with its impressive Palladian transom, a daunting job awaited.
"This house was a major interior renovation," said Elliker, a popular WBAL talk-radio host. "It had been vacant for two years."
The prior owner grew up in the house and told Elliker about it, painting a warm family scenario of life there. His story was the good energy Elliker searched for when trying to get a feel for the home.
"I realized that a family lived here," she said. "Their story is the story of Homeland [and] a new generation moving in and picking up the torch."
Ready to begin work, the couple upgraded plumbing with new copper pipes, brought electrical outlets up to code, replaced a gas line into the kitchen and repaired plaster work. The biggest expenses were renovating two full baths and a powder room, as well as gutting the original kitchen and replacing it with cherry wood cabinets, ceramic floor tile, quartz countertops and state-of-the-art, stainless-steel appliances. Erney estimates they spent $130,000 on renovations and upgrades.
To help with interior decor, the couple hired designer Dan Proctor of Kirk Designs in Baltimore. Working with Elliker's impressive and copious collection of modern art, Proctor created a design in which some rooms boast colorfully bold accents and others are dramatic in black and white.
Furnishings are eclectic. Much of it is stylized, as in the living room's pastel blue upholstered chaise lounge and snow-white tuxedo sofa placed on white shag carpet atop chocolate stained wood flooring. The overall effect is, as it was intended to be, reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour.
Wrought-iron side chairs with curly-cue backs bask in the sunshine pouring through multipaned windows. Bright rays enliven a pair of white ceramic sculptures perched on white pedestals and then reflect in the prismatic beauty of a crystal chandelier. An elegant, framed lithograph of Greta Garbo leans against a wall painted in a satin-like shade of oyster.
Drama oozes from the second-floor guest room, where painted black walls are a backdrop for traditional furniture painted white, white draperies and white bed linens.
Plans for the unfinished third level, with its charming dormers, will include an office, bathroom and possibly a steam bath.
The renovation has gone remarkably well and quickly. Elliker, who waited for those "good vibes" to hit her, now treasures a letter sent to her by the former owner saying in part, "The house was my mother's pride and joy, and she was known by all her friends for her wonderful laughter that filled a room. It's great to have another woman's wonderful laugh in it again."
Dream element: : The neighborhood. The couple enjoys the manicured appearance of the Homeland neighborhood, which was designed by the Olmsted Brothers, sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed Central Park.
Design inspiration: : "Hollywood Regency" designed rooms showcase glamour and color with a nod to the traditional.
Surprise feature: : Contemporary decor is stunning and in dramatic contrast to exterior Georgian charm.
Personal touch: : Shari Elliker has an affinity for Buddha; sculptures and statues are placed throughout the house, offering calm and inspiration.
A lesson learned: : In retrospect, the couple feels the renovation of the kitchen was a struggle without a master plan. Treavor Erney advises first having an architect or designer help map out a conceptualized plan.