Last week we showed you one of the houses that is a final contender in our search for a second home. As you may have expected from our preferences and our current home, it is an older farmhouse filled with character, charm, and potential. But today we're going to share a house with you that might really surprise you. I know it surprised us.

While looking at a few different houses with a realtor in Maryland she said, "I have a listing for a house with an amazing view, great land, and tons of's just not the style and age I think you're going for, but you might still want to consider it."

I'll tell you one thing, she was 100% correct.

The house, a three bedroom, two and a half bath 1980s ranch, was situated on an inlet to the bay with sweeping and open views of the water.

Wait, what? Did I just say that? 1980s ranch? Yes, that's right, and nope, that's not a typo. You probably never thought us two old home junkies might consider buying something built after the time when home electricity became commonplace, but it's true.

When it comes to our preferred look, style and age of homes, 1980s ranches usually don't make it on the list. Alex's feeling is "the older the better," and if I had to choose, I'd say my favorite style is a 1930's tudor. But once I glimpsed the views from this home, I was intrigued. I needed to go inside to see more.

We walked up to the side door of the home, and before we could even enter, the agent pointed out the separate crab steaming room just off the kitchen.This small nook of a space was a separate room (likely to keep odors out of the main house) and was used for crab cleaning and preparation. I was totally enamored! Besides having to take a crash course in how to prepare crabs, I was game. I could see already that Alex was nervous at how excited I was becoming.

We walked into the kitchen via the side door and there we were met with a home that seemed perfectly preserved in time. The dark paneling, avocado greens and burnt orange color schemes, OSB faux paneling sheets lining the ceiling, and yards and yards of shag carpeting didn't scare me one bit. You can't tell from the photo, but those faux beams are actually spray painted styrofoam. Nope, not scared at all, in fact, I was taken with the home seeing just how we could make it work for us. 

I loved the layout of the living, dining, and kitchen areas. I saw wide open space that could be transformed into a beachy open living area with a lot of white paint, beadboard, and a little major renovation. I loved how these three rooms were seamless, and have an incredible view of the water.

Just off the living room was a large open space that many might consider for an office. What I saw immediately was the master bedroom of my dreams. By simply closing off the double doorway, this corner room could be a fantastic master suite. With just a little reworking of the first floor's layout the master bedroom could be afforded panoramic views of the surrounding waterfront. And with no concern for "original period details," this was essentially a blank canvas that could be transformed into our specific vision.

Some of the highlights of the other areas of the home included a very dark and twisty front section of the first floor with a narrow hallway that led to the main floor's bedrooms.

While not my preferred aesthetic in its current conditions, by lightening it up, laying hardwood floors, and building a window seat at the end of the long hallway I could really see it working for us. Off this hallway lies a few bedrooms (one with green shag carpeting, another with orange) including this child's bedroom...

...and a bathroom with some of the most amazing wallpaper I've ever seen in person! It was so reflective you could practically use it as a makeup mirror, and it was on the ceiling too for added effect.

If you're wondering about the kitchen, sure the refrigerator was a bit awkward in its placement, but with a utility room just behind it, it seemed to me that we could easily recess it into the utility room, which could also be reconfigured as a great pantry and laundry area. I was psyched! Just in front of the kitchen and off the family room is a really steep staircase (bordering on ladder) to get to the home's second floor. 

The space up here was challenging, no doubt. With steeply pitched ceiling lines, it would be difficult to use it the two rooms and one bath as true living space. My rebuttal to Alex when he pointed this out? "So we just use the second floor for storage! Who needs it when we can make the first floor such a great space!" Problem solved. This was unexpectedly met with resistance. Humph!

Even with the home's three large "outbuildings" -- a garage and enormous workshop complete with heating and electricity, Alex still wasn't really on board. I was having a hard time getting him to see my vision, and get excited about the workshop of his dreams that lay just outside the home's front door.

Does this home need a lot of work? Sure. But I see this home working easily in a phased approach. Phase one would be a significant effort (I'm talking hire it out significant, gasp) and would be focused on the downstairs with a reconfiguration and cosmetic renovation of the kitchen and living spaces. We would seal off the blue room turning it into a master suite with the addition of a walk in closet and complete overhaul of the existing master bathroom.

We'd also reconfigure the hallway on the first floor to open it up a bit and make it a bit less dark. We'd recess the fridge into the utility room, and rework that space so it functions as a great first floor laundry and pantry area. And we'd have to get up to speed on catching and preparing crabs.

Phase two would address the second floor. Maybe we consider moving the staircase closer to the front door? Maybe we raise the roofline to transform the second floor into more usable space? Perhaps we add shutters and make changes to the exterior of the home to make it look more like a cottage home than a ranch? That's the thing about a house like this, there's nothing set in stone other than the fact it has an amazing view, some great land, and tons of potential to be exactly what we want it to be.

Wendy's Take: This home has amazing potential! While some of the finishes might not appeal to today's buyer, I see a great open space perfect for lounging with friends and family, a seamless transition to the deck outside, and views that are incredible. Yes, the home needs a lot of work, but it's not something that intimidates me, especially when broken down into a couple stages. This house surprised me the most. I didn't expect to like it at all, but am so glad we took a look outside of my normal comfort zone. As a Realtor myself I take this approach with clients frequently by showing them homes that they may never have considered, and are glad we spent the time looking at this one.

On an unrelated note, one of the biggest concerns that I haven't publicly voiced yet though is my intense fear of snakes. That long grass along the water looks like the perfect hiding spot for my serpentine nemeses, the thought of which sends me running back to our urban oasis in the city. Not sure how I'm going to get over this...issue...of mine when looking at homes along the water with a fair amount of grass and land. 

Alex's Take: At first I thought, "Are you kidding me? Why are we even going to this house? Don't you understand my egregiously pretentious love of all things old house? Built in the 1980s, that's a time when I was alive, that's when my parents were building their house, that's so weird." But after I got over myself and started to actually look at what the house, land, and outbuildings had to offer, I could begin to see Wendy's vision. I also understand how important it is to take a moment to understand your partner's preferences when you're undergoing something as significant as a home search. 

I made a mental pro and con list having to do with this house, and one of the biggest cons was simply that the amount of work we'll need to do to the house will largely need to be hired out, and that makes me a sad panda. I want a project house, one where we can slowly tackle projects, but ultimately it's not just about what I want. This would require we hire a contractor to at least move things along and get it to a point where we can do the finish work, making it just how we want it to be. But that might not be the worst plan in the world. This would allow us to focus on the aesthetic aspects of the house that we can enjoy, and spend more time on the deck, enjoying the view, and learning about how to crab. I'd have to reconcile how I could possible deal with living in a house that's less than 100 years old, but maybe one of my biggest DIYs could be, as I said earlier, getting over myself? Not sure I have that capability.

So what do you think? Are you shocked by our possible selection? Can you see us taking this project on, or do you think there's simply no way we'd end up in something built in the late 20th century? 

Comments 20


Ryan Dlugosz
10/22/2014 at 12:55 PM
That wallpaper needs to be sent to a museum or something for preservation!
10/22/2014 at 1:19 PM

Is that a bisque toilet seat on a white toilet? This is what I see when I'm averting my eyes from the walls. Anyhoo..... I can't properly rate this house without seeing all the views from within. Because YES, if that blue room is really the only bedroom with a view, it would have to become the master. I love this series!


Why yes, yes it is. Crab bisque anyone? ;)

The blue bedroom is the only bedroom with a view. And it could be magnificent to wake up to!

Laura C
10/22/2014 at 1:30 PM

I, too, love old houses, but I do appreciate a good ranch and this could be a fantastic one. I definitely see Wendy's vision - all the open space, high ceilings, water views. Could be amaing...


Thanks for the vote of confidence, Laura!Alt smile

10/22/2014 at 3:34 PM

If it were my search, this one would be a big contender. Its a blank canvas with one heck of a location. You cant change location, but you can change the house. For a weekend project (and not your main home) something that doesn't require detailed restoration, and allows you to be a bit more creative, could be a whole lot of fun. Not to mention its fun to decorate a different type of home. You have the historical home in the city, but you could also have the beachy cottage in the country. Cant wait to see the third option, and which one you chose.

Kristin Saveland Buchanan
10/22/2014 at 4:35 PM
I think this is the winner unless house #3 has a better view. This is still an obscene amount of work to do (which will make you happy) but has huge potential and fab location.
10/22/2014 at 4:56 PM

Boy, does this one bring back childhood memories! Wood paneling, tile ceilings, shaggy carpeting, slab doors, loud wallpaper - the works! A museum of the residential fads of 1975-1985. I can almost see myself sitting on that thick carpeting in front of a big wooden console television playing my Atari 2600. Are there Harvest Gold appliances in the kitchen, too?

If you all ended up picking this one, I'd be tempted to recommend keeping it as-is. Pretty soon all interiors of this era will exist in memories and pictures only!

10/22/2014 at 8:01 PM

I'm having so much trouble believing this that I keep wanting to check if it's April Fool's already.

Little Red
10/22/2014 at 8:41 PM

Snakes???? ARGHHHHH!!! If not for that view, I'd say that was grounds enough to reject this one immediately.

It's a perfectly preserved example of late 70s/early 80s interior design. The one good thing here is that you can blast away everything since none of it is worth preserving and you can put your own stamp on the house.

10/22/2014 at 9:33 PM

Interesting that this one doesn't surprise me.

What I like about it is it's casual enough to be a vacation home, with enough room for you and guests, without being so huge. That said, it may still be a bit more house with the outbuildings as I'd rather they be at my main residence for projects there if it were me.

That being said, this has a nice compromise as it's new enough, assuming the house's structural elements are really sound will just need periodic repairs, but general preventative maintenance, stuff that mostly should not require too much once you have the house redone.

As for that interior, even if left as is, a little reconfiguring here and there, some paint, and carpeting replaced with fresh flooring, it can function largely as is for the time being - a boon for some of us.

That much I like in a house, and then it's a project here, a project there, and one can just focus on the aesthetics of the place, rather than dealing with structural issues of a very old house.

It'll be interesting to see what your third choice is - and I have a suspicion that it may be on the smaller side with not as large a land, but most of what you are looking for otherwise.

This has been interesting so far.

Jean-Christian Pitre
10/22/2014 at 9:45 PM
Oh boy. Let me just say that I'm now very curious to see what's coming in part 3.
10/23/2014 at 10:41 AM

Color me shocked. But I can totally see this as a beach house! (The stairway terrifies me, btw. I'm a chicken girl when it comes to ladders and steep open staircases.)

PS, think twice about closing off the master, my son's house has huge double french style doors into the master and it's beautiful.

10/23/2014 at 10:44 AM

Are you sure the listing said 1980s? Everything about this screamed cheap 1960s. I can see the vision. What's the bill? All those subcontractors will add up.

10/23/2014 at 2:35 PM

If you buy this house and tear out everything, please send me those hanging lights in the living room! (The ones above/by the stairs). They look so cool! (At least in pictures they do)

Franki Parde
10/25/2014 at 11:14 AM

Location, Location, Location (and sweat equity!) franki

10/25/2014 at 6:53 PM

This house could be utterly fabulous!

10/27/2014 at 2:39 PM

We've recently moved in to a mid century built raised bungalow, all of our wood is real red cedar though. If you went with this one, I am going to have to demand that you send me those 2 light fixtures from the living room ceiling! I am desperately looking for some for our (real) wooden beamed living room and front hall and those would be spectacular!!! If you're not using them of course...

I love this one, all I see is potential - you'd be buying location, location, location.

11/6/2014 at 12:54 PM

Having now seen all 4 choices, this is my favorite. It may not have the charm of some of the other choices, but it is probably solidly built. One main floor would be really pratical for any more elderly visitors. Maybe turn the whole second floor into a big bunk room if you have kids visit.
I love the high sloped ceilings. You could install some skylights and the inside would be dazzeling! I love the open floor plan, too. Of course, every finish needs to be changed, but that should be easy for you two!

11/6/2014 at 6:00 PM

I can see the potential with this one!

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