By Marie Marciano Gullard, For The Baltimore Sun
The existence of eastern Baltimore County’s waterfront neighborhoods, dotted with an ever-growing number of summer cottages and year-round homes, came as a surprise to Frank and Nancy Lanzi. Neither of them even knew about the narrow Wilson Point peninsula jutting out into the Middle River.
Now, almost 10 years after that introduction, the couple enjoys life on the river in their new custom-built bungalow, unable to imagine life anywhere else.
“We call our house an unexpected blessing because we actually were not looking for a dream house,” said Nancy Lanzi, a 56-year-old mother of three grown children and a middle school math teacher. “We were happy in the [Parkville] house where we had raised our children and enjoyed the friendship of many neighbors for 24 years.
“It was only after a longtime family friend, Ron Langis, showed Frank and his father his house in Wilson Point that living on the water was something to explore,” she said. “Living on the water was never a lifetime dream for us, yet things started to fall in place, and next thing we knew, we owned our current property.”
The couple originally purchased a small cottage on a half-acre. That was in August 2003. and the Lanzis paid $580,000 for the property.
What the younger Lanzis did next had rarely, if ever, been seen on the narrow peninsula. Deciding to build their own bungalow, they hired a company to pick up and move the lovely cottage to another spot on the property, to allow space for the new structure.
“That was just a one-story summer cottage with a basement,” said Frank Lanzi, a 56-year-old insurance agent who runs a family-owned property and casualty company, pointing to the cheerful, now fully winterized home several yards from his own that he and his family occupied for several years and that now belongs to his parents, Coni and Carol Lanzi.
“It took two days to move the cottage,” said Nancy Lanzi. “For the most part, we left everything in the house, and all of it was kept intact.”
After that, they hired architect Jonathan Rivera, to design their bungalow in 2009. One year and $500,000 later, they were living in the home they now call an “unexpected blessing.”
“Our favorite rooms are the gathering places, the eat-in kitchen and screened-in porch,” said Nancy Lanzi of their new, two-story home built of dark green Hardie plank with an interior space of 2,500 square feet and an attached screened-in porch measuring 18 by 16 feet. Beyond the screen door, a steel spiral staircase climbs to the second-story deck allowing for outside access, rather than going through the house in wet bathing suits.
“We built how we live,” she said, giving credit to designer Leslie Tunney, whom she calls a visionary. “We were ready to simplify and eliminate the unnecessary stuff in our lives.”
The most important part of the vision was to allow the river, which is quite wide at their piece of property, to be the star of the show, or as Frank Lanzi explains, “The water-facing side is really the front of the house.” And so, upon entering, the visitor is treated to a wide-screen view of Middle River.
The second part of the vision was to use a minimal amount of furniture, to keep the interior open, as it was designed, and for extra brightness, to keep the walls white, using Benjamin Moore’s Decorators White color.
Linear in design, the interior architecture is neat and sharp. Oak and slate floors contrast with the walls as well as with the white trim. Living room furniture includes a pair of simple, chocolate-colored corduroy sofas sitting on a tan sisal rug. Splashes of color are found in vases of flowers and gold draperies, while the master bedroom is a vision of white-on-white fabrics and crystal fixtures.
When asked if they had made the right decisions about their move to the waterside, Nancy Lanzi said, “In order to move onto new experiences, many times you have to leave behind even the wonderful times that had been a large part of your life. Once we moved, we recognized that we were ready for the next chapter in our lives.”