A Tired 1870’s Farmhouse Comes Back to Life



This recent project had us based in horse country for about a year in Sparks, Maryland. Our clients purchased a small farmlet, tucked far off of any main road, amidst rolling pastures and woodlands, with the goal of transforming their large 1870’s farmhouse into a warm, livable family home to be enjoyed by many for years to come.


The house had not benefitted from any significant attention in almost 30 years, so when we got to the scene, the client’s “to-do” list was significant. There were places on the third floor where you could see patches of sky through compromised areas of the roof and ceiling.

In parts of the house, vines were growing through windows into the interior. The basement stairs were ready to collapse and the kitchen had at some point been taken over by something other than humans.

We cannot say enough about the building experience we had with Smithouse. If you can believe it, they made a large construction project “fun.” Their sensitivity to budget, solution- mindedness, responsiveness and “nothing is ever a crisis” attitude made for a building experience that we would do over and over again. They have been out of our home for over a year and even though we are thoroughly enjoying our newly renovated space every day, we still on occasion wish we would come home to find Smithouse trucks in our driveway!


The scope of work included replacing the entire roof, shoring up the basement and house foundation, insulating the entire house, gutting the kitchen, painting the entire exterior and interior of the house, introducing a new hvac system to the second and third floors,

renovating the ground floor powder room and third floor bathroom, siding the entire exterior, adding new doors and windows where needed, updating the porch, updates to the master bath, renovating the butler’s pantry/wet bar and adding a pantry addition to the ground floor.


When working on a historic home, it is not unusual for “interesting” things to pop up during a renovation and on this project it was no different.

To start, we were able to view photographs and paintings of the property from different time periods which helped us and the architect in making design decisions.

Horse hair, a common insulator from the turn of the century was found in the walls of the kitchen. During demolition of the third floor, newspapers from the early 1920s were found and had been used for floor insulation.

Our goal along with the client’s throughout was to maintain the original, historic integrity of the property but to introduce modern updates.

This came through in a variety of choices and details during the building process. Examples included maintaining the original moulding throughout all the spaces we touched. We carried through a similar moulding into the new kitchen ceiling to maintain some visual consistency between the original space and the new kitchen.

Exterior siding was a priority for the client to avoid costly paint maintenance into the future. When we were looking into siding options, we realized that we would lose the architectural integrity of the shape of the home if we sided everything.

Our solution? We painted the top of the home to be able to maintain an architectural phlange and sided the lower half the house to assist with long term maintenance. We are also happy to share that this property became a showcase home for Azek siding products as it was one of 4 properties on the east coast to utilize this new product.

Architect Patrick Jaronsinski in addition to designing the kitchen and addition, recommended some building tweaks throughout the house that were minor in cost but really changed the flow and floor plan so that the spacing was more relevant for today.

McCormick Paints, a Maryland based paint supplier, provided all the paint for the interiors and exterior of this project. Our client, who is in the design industry, partnered with McCormick to “support local businesses” and to showcase the breadth of product McCormick has to accomplish many different types of painting projects. We were impressed with their ability to color match flawlessly.


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