Greg Alexander

Growing with Grace: Blending the Old with the New in Roland Park

Mason-Dixon Arrive, February 2007

When homeowners Jeanne Paynter and Jim Farley decided to spruce up the kitchen in their 1920s Roland Park house, they had no idea where the project would lead them. Little did they know that a planned one-room renovation would lead to a nine-month project that would include a substantial addition to their home, doubling its size. As with any renovation, there were obstacles along the way, but when you’re dealing with a historic home set in a tony neighborhood, the list of challenges grows. Luckily, the energetic couple, interior designer and contractor were up to the task.

“It all started with the kitchen,” says Paynter. “It was a horrible 1980s small, white kitchen that was OK, but not what we ultimately wanted. The original plan was to renovate the kitchen and add a powder room on the first floor. We got the quote for the project and decided to just keep on going,” she laughs.

Renovating a historic home while retaining the character and integrity of the house is always challenging, and Paynter says that the shape of the lot presented additional obstacles. “Most people build back when they do an addition, but because of the shape of our lot, we needed to build to the side at an angle. The design had to be dependent on the property line, which lies three inches from the new addition. Due to the site plan and the limited access to the property, we had a tough time finding a contractor who willing to take this on.” Luckily, the couple was referred to Hayes Construction of Phoenix, Md., ( “Where most contractors viewed ours as a difficult and time-consuming project, Jim Tabeling (Kitchen and Bath Manager at Hayes Construction) looked at it as a creative opportunity. “The site plan forced us do something that we would not have done otherwise, but in the end, we liked the design even better than if we would have been able to build back,” adds Paynter, who lauds Hayes’ ability to provide the least amount of disruption for the couple. “We were able to stay in the home except when the floors had to be done, and they staged the process where the kitchen was done last, allowing us to live in the house comfortably during the renovation.”

Paynter says that while she and her husband have enjoyed living in the house as it was originally built for years, she knew that a renovation was inevitable. “I wanted to stay in Roland Park, and I had a passion for this house. I wanted to preserve it for the next generation and make it a more livable house and improve it for today’s lifestyle.” Anyone who has even driven through Roland Park knows why the couple was determined to stay there. As the first planned residential community in the United States, Roland Park was built by the Roland Park Company, which would later develop two other Baltimore City upscale neighborhoods – Guilford and Homeland. The Roland Park Company was formed to purchase the Woodlawn and Oakland estates in 1891 and hired the nationally recognized landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, who was responsible for designing New York’s Central Park. Originally part of Baltimore County until its incorporation into Baltimore City in 1918, Roland Park features grand historic homes set in a lush, wooded environment.

Paynter and Farley’s circa 1920 Dutch Colonial home now has a seamless addition that – looking from the outside – one would be challenged to identify where the addition begins. Shutters were painted to match, Pella Architect Series windows were utilized and siding was installed – all which had to be approved by the historic building covenants set forth by the neighborhood association. The front stoop was rebuilt and the original front railing was removed, stripped and reinstalled. The original front door was stripped and painted, while a synthetic EcoStar rubber roof that mimics slate was used for the addition to match the original slate roof. A new craftsman-style mailbox from Rejuvenation welcomes guests.

The home formerly housed the before-mentioned small kitchen, den, sunroom and dining room on the first floor. To accommodate the addition, the window in the dining room had to be enclosed. What was once a single door leading to the kitchen in the back of the house is now a sweeping doorway that is in line with the 1920s design of the house. The space that was once the kitchen is now a large closet and new powder room, which features bold hardware that Paynter says she chose to make a statement.

“We had to create a hallway to lead to the kitchen, and Hayes was wonderful at creating molding and other details to match the old part of the house perfectly. As for the kitchen, I wanted it to be in scale with the rest of the house and to have a dining area. Most of all, I wanted an island so that I can come in with a handful of groceries and have somewhere to drop them off,” Paynter laughs. She notes that the couple had their first dinner party last fall, and the layout of the kitchen made entertaining much easier.

“It was my husband’s idea to mix and match the wood choices in the kitchen,” she says of the cherry island paired with the white cabinets – Bertch cabinets acquired through Hayes that feature recessed panels that Paynter chose to reflect the 1920s era of the home. Period-style lighting from Restoration Hardware, glass knobs, fruit-themed light fixtures and a large kitchen sink add character and style. “I looked at so many magazines that I got dizzy and confused. So, I decided to just buy what I liked.”

Adjacent to the kitchen lies an unplanned space that has become one of the couple’s favorite rooms. Paynter says that the comfortable sitting room was not originally planned; however, to accommodate the upstairs master bathroom, a first-floor space was necessary for support. “On a trip to Cape May, I saw a house that had a sitting room below an upstairs bathroom, so I kinda stole the idea,” she says. The highlight of the sitting room is the large flat-screen television, which required that a pop-out space be added. “My husband should get something out of this, right?” Paynter quips.

Outside, an arbor was added in the back, as well as a new deck and patio. The deck is made of a gray composite material that looks like wood but is easier to maintain. The railings, meanwhile, are composed of wood wrapped in composite, providing a natural – yet sturdy – look and feel.

The upstairs of the home used to feature three small bedrooms and one bathroom. No more. Now, the upper level showcases a large master bedroom suite, the perfect place to relax and unwind. Paynter points out that the original plan was to have the bathroom in the back portion of the bedroom, which would have eliminated the need for the westernmost portion of the addition but would have made the bedroom significantly smaller. Instead, the couple opted for a large bedroom with an adjacent bathroom, which sits atop the downstairs sitting room.

Like many couples, Paynter and Farley yearned for a king-size bed in the master bedroom; however, as homeowners of historic properties have discovered, getting a king-size bed to make its way upstairs via a narrow staircase is quite the challenge. “We had to special order a king-size bed and chest that comes apart in pieces so that they could make it upstairs,” says Paynter of the striking bedroom set from Jarrettsville Furniture that complements the soft blue hue of the room. “I did all the colors myself. I wanted to use colors that reflected my personal taste instead of a ‘decorator look.’ ”

The master bathroom is equally gorgeous with bathroom cabinets that look more like furniture, double sinks, plantation shutters and ample storage space. “Originally, I bought a 450-pound cast iron tub, but the plumber wouldn’t deal with it, so we had to go with an acrylic tub that looks like an old tub. You have to make compromises with an old house.”

The process of renovating an old house should be embraced as a series of challenges, building upon each decision to get the right look and feel in the end … that the new and old are connected, almost seamless.

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