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What's Up Magazine

Simplifying in Easton

Jan 07, 2014 09:59AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By CAROL SORGEN // Photography by STEVE BUCHANAN

Cathie Liebl is not exactly a newbie to Easton, having lived on the Miles River for 17 years. But as much as she loved the European contemporary-styled home she shared with her husband and mother, she knew that at some point she wanted to move into town so she wouldn’t be dependent on her car. “I still drive,” Liebl says, “but I’m looking to the future when I might not want or be able to.”

Liebl’s former 4,000-square-foot home, complete with a dock, pool, and shoreline, was getting to be too much to maintain, especially after her husband passed away. Several years ago, she began looking in Easton for an authentic Arts and Crafts bungalow, and as luck would have it, she saw one and “fell in love as soon as I walked in,” she recalls.

The 1920s-era home was a traditional two-bedroom, one-bath bungalow, with all the coziness that Liebl associates with the Arts and Crafts style, including the abundance of natural wood throughout. The 2,000-square-foot home was technically move-in ready, but a far cry from meeting her needs, so Liebl started by adding a new heating system, insulation, plumbing, and replacing some of the original cedar shingles. “That was the utilitarian stuff,” says Liebl, who worked with architect Alan Meyers, builder Lee Willis, and interior designer Jean McHale to turn her “vision” into reality, which included taking the back bedroom and making it the stair well and powder room, and adding a bathroom en suite to the remaining bedroom.

“By moving the stairs, we were able to open up the dining room to the kitchen with a pass-through and glass-doored cabinets above,” says the retired Mobil Oil executive. A small one-story addition on the back provides a screened-in porch, laundry room, and three additional feet to the kitchen. The roof had been raised about 30 years ago by the previous owner, but he had left the upstairs unfinished. It is now the master suite.

When it came to decorating the bungalow, Liebl and McHale tried to carry the Arts and Crafts flavor of the house throughout the furnishings, using pieces from Liebl’s former home when appropriate, but also paying attention to such details as simple oak cabinetry with no ornamentation and “plain” handles. William Morris-style wallpaper borders in the dining room and an upstairs powder room don’t clutter up the space, McHale says, but add an element of the style of the period.

“This isn’t a formal house,” McHale says. “It’s utilitarian, but it’s also warm and cozy.”

Liebl moved into the home this past spring. Sadly, her mother—who was to have moved with her—passed away, but Liebl is enjoying the home and the small-town life she envisioned.

Every morning, for example, she heads to Rise Up Coffee; the caffeine and the half-hour round-trip walk get her going, she says. On Saturdays, in season, she takes her pull cart to the weekly farmers’ market, stopping to chat with most of the neighbors she now knows. And when she’s in the mood, there are live performances at the Avalon Theatre, movies, restaurants, exhibits and lectures at the Academy Art Museum, and a well-rounded variety of shops and boutiques to visit.

“I like that the town caters to residents, not just to tourists,” says Liebl, who—after being a big-city person most of her life—is adapting quite well to small-town life. “I like the city, and I go into Washington and Baltimore,” she says, “but I don’t feel at all like I’m cut off from civilization.

“I just love it here.”

The Lure of In-Town Living: