It's Baltimore's answer to Green Acres. Eight years ago, Ilene and Phil Spector were living in a wood-and-stone contemporary in suburban Pikesville when they did a complete about-face and moved to a pastoral 33-acre horse farm in northern Baltimore County. The move to their farm, with its A-frame log cabin home, was prompted by Phil's desire to have a place for their horses and his love of the rustic, rolling countryside. Ilene, on the other hand, admits she was not exactly prepared for country life.
"I didn't even know the difference between straw and hay when we first moved in!" she laughs. "This is something my husband wanted. We have a whole different lifestyle here that I never could have imagined. Moving here changed the way we live. I never dreamed our lives would revolve around farm chores, big tractors, and weather forecasts and generators. I have developed a whole new appreciation for farmers and nature."
Subscribing to the "when in Rome" theory, Ilene, a freelance food and travel writer, decided that a French Country interior would be the perfect décor for their new space.
"When we moved in, this home was very masculine," she says. "There were animal heads mounted on the walls everywhere, and there was a stuffed bear."
Nowadays, the Spectors' three-bedroom, three-bath home is decorated in red, yellow, and blue French Country fabrics, accented with vintage pieces, such as an old Philadelphia newspaper stand standing in as a kitchen armoire, and furnished with comfortable, roomy, overstuffed sofas and chairs. "I love the warmth of French Country," says Ilene.
The renovated French Country kitchen is truly the heart of the home. That's where Spector gives cooking classes (she and her partner Sandy Spanos are known around town as "The Yum Yum Sisters") and pursues her culinary passion. "I probably spend 90 percent of my time standing over my farmhouse kitchen sink," says Spector, while enjoying a bowl of homemade gazpacho with vegetables plucked straight from her garden and a crisp homemade salad with bok choy. Two focal points in the kitchen: a hand-painted Shabbat scene, which incorporates her mother's brass candlesticks, and a series of sayings painted on the wooden beams of the kitchen. (Sample saying: "Never eat more than you can lift"-Miss Piggy.)
Spector's home decor also pays homage to her past—a Jackie Robinson photograph in the powder room is a nod to her Brooklyn childhood; a poster of the World's Fair from 1939 in the dining room serves as a memory of her father, Karl; there's even a framed copy of her first published recipe for Coke and Ketchup Chicken in the now defunct Baltimore News American.
"To me, my home is a living scrapbook of my life and family—a buffet of sorts from my childhood in Brooklyn to food and horses," says Spector. "A psychiatrist could tell everything about me by walking through it all without even talking to me. Old things help me keep the memories alive. And, fortunately, I have a lot of good memories."