When only a member of the Stude family has lived in a home built in 1904, it should not be a surprise that some updating may be needed. But just how much would come as a shock.
Dave Carney had lived in Catonsville for 25 years and owned two homes previously—one a gracious 1920s home on Park Drive, just several blocks away. But it was the Stude home that had been his dream house, ever since he and his wife, Joanne, first saw it when they were dating. Caroling in the North Beaumont Avenue neighborhood at Christmas with their church, Carney said they would remark: “Can you imagine living in such a grand house?”
In 2009, Carney learned the owner had died and that his home had been purchased directly from the estate by next-door neighbor, Jim Himel, who planned to sell the house and half of the one-acre property. Carney jumped at the chance to buy it, even though he had never stepped foot in the house.
The couple and their young daughter, Sophia, moved in three years ago this fall. Dave Carney had just celebrated a first year in a fledgling business—T—in Ellicott City. Having spent a career in restaurant sales and the florist industry, Carney embarked on a new venture, at his wife’s urging. Now, the house was just one more challenge.
Catonsville Patch: What was the condition of the house when you bought it?
Dave Carney: Otto Stude had lived in the house for 99 years and there had been no update. The Realtor handling the sale told me that there is no way you want that house as you have a beautiful home.
This house was absolutely disgusting. It was wired in fluorescent tube lighting throughout. Fortunately, the electrician did not cut one piece of molding in this house. He went around every single piece; so everything was intact.
You couldn’t see walls; it was so piled high with newspapers and boxes. It was dark and dingy. Plaster was peeling; every wall had the original wallpaper or paint on it, which was peeling off the walls.
My wife and daughter were out of town on vacation. I called and told her that our house had sold and I was ready to buy the house on Beaumont but she had to come back and see it. Joanne walked in and said there is no way I am buying this house. I had architects and contractors in; everyone said the bones of this house are great. She finally agreed to it.
Patch: Did you use local contractors for the renovation?
Carney: I did. I used Bluejay Electric—best electric company in entire world. The contractor was Craig Dawsey, who owns a little company called Dawsey Does It.
All the walls had to be replastered and we had to update some electrical and plumbing. We put in a new HVAC system. We have a four-ton unit in the attic and a two-ton unit in the basement. We were able to use the old register vents as the house never had radiators; it had forced air.
The furnace was this monstrosity in the basement. It’s good we never turned it on because we would have killed ourselves with carbon monoxide. The former owner had lived on the first floor but all the exhaust was going to the upstairs.
Patch: Have you changed the footprint of the house?
Carney: The footprint did not change. I had an architect, Kitty Daly, who was our neighbor. She had come into The Wine Bin and I told her about the place. She walked in; took one look and said you need an architectural drawing. And, for free, she did an architectural drawing, to scale, that is amazing.
We were trying to figure out what to do with the kitchen, which is 5 ft. by 5 ft. She suggested flipping the floor plan and making the dining room the kitchen.
We took one of the living rooms and turned it into a dining room, temporarily. The kitchen is temporary; we put it together very fast with the cheapest cabinets and countertops we could buy because we are planning to remove the back wall and add 14 feet onto the house.
We didn’t want a perfect kitchen because then we would never remodel. It’s functional but it makes us want to get the kitchen finished.
Patch: Do you have future renovation plans for your home?
Carney: We have a three-phase plan, basically. We are in Phase 1. This spring we focused on finishing the front yard. This summer, we plan to put a new stone driveway down. Then the yard is pretty much finished.
We are heading into Phase 2. We currently live in a house with one bathroom. Phase 2 is another bathroom on the third floor, which is where Sophia has her bedroom. We call it “Sophia’s Suite.” Then we go into rebuilding the front porch corner of the house and bringing a bathroom into our bedroom. So that’s a very expensive remodel.
Phase 3 is to actually taking off the back of the house and putting on the addition. If the wine store starts making money I anticipate finishing in the next two to three years.
Patch: What is your favorite feature of the home?
Carney: Walking into a foyer with a fireplace. Sitting here in this chair in the wintertime and reading a book, that’s my favorite. Joanne won’t let me paint that fireplace. All the wood in the house was that color. We painted everything white. I don’t like brown wood; it darkens the house.
Patch: Is there anything you would do differently?
Carney: Now that we have lived in the house, we know that we want two dishwashers. We must have a wine fridge. When we bought this house my wife looked at me and said there is no way that you are ever going to have a wine cellar, just so you know.
In our Park Drive house, we had a wine cellar in our basement but we never remodeled the kitchen and we never repainted our bedroom. So Joanne has put down the law and said I have no wine cellar until she has the perfect kitchen.
We are going to make some adjustments to the architectural plans for the addition. In some respects it is good to get into a house before you doing anything major because we see now that we use the house differently than we thought we would.
Patch: What advice do you have for someone considering renovating an older home?
Carney: It costs a lot more than what you ever thought it would. You have to love your home to go through the work of an old house.
A house is maintenance, new or old. Quite frankly, I think older homes are less maintenance once you get it to where you want it because they are built better. Say, you bought an old house that hasn’t been updated in 50 years so you have to do all of that updating. But once it is done, old homes are good and solid and have much more character.