It sits back off a country road in Moorestown, and to all outward appearances, it is a quintessentially charming colonial farmhouse. That impression continues in many areas of the home of Dr. David and Lyn Steinberg - but definitely not in all.
To the Steinbergs, their home is truly a castle, a medieval European one.
"I drove into the driveway and fell in love," says Lyn, who brought David to visit the 1831 farmhouse immediately after seeing it a few years ago.
Her husband, too, was smitten. "It was just what we were looking for - an old house with character and lots of space," David says. "We wanted it badly."
They moved in during the summer of 1998 with their five children - perfect timing, since they were outgrowing their former home in Mullica Hill.
From the start, the Steinbergs planned to maintain the integrity of the home, known locally as the Long Farm after early owners. It was in excellent condition - the owners just before the Steinbergs had painstakingly restored it - but the couple were still determined to make it their own.
And the home's den was high on the "to do" list. It's also the room where the colonial farmhouse totally yields to the castle.
Seems the Steinbergs have eclectic interests in both their lives and their home decor. Along with a nod to rural Americana, their old farmhouse salutes the period of knights with shining armor, swords, and daggers.
"This began for me when I was a little kid and my grandmother took me to a flea market," says David, a doctor who specializes in hand surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. "Somebody was selling a sword, and I was at the stage when King Arthur and medieval things just fascinated me."
David's grandmother got him the sword - it wasn't a bit lethal - and it still hangs on a wall of his den along with all sorts of other weaponry and artifacts that suggest things Arthurian, fantastical, and just plain quirky. There's even a medieval chess set with a stained-glass board that the couple created together.
David also can lay claim to an authentic plaster cast of Abraham Lincoln's right hand, just a few days post-inauguration - and swollen, from shaking hands, to prove it. Because of his surgical specialty, his family, always on the alert for such items, presented it to him on Father's Day 2008. The various replicas of hands in his collection may startle unsuspecting guests who suddenly see a motorized hand peeking out from under a bookcase, dripping fake blood.
The den is anchored by a massive antique desk with complex interlocking drawers, where David does his paperwork. And much of the room's considerable impact comes from the handiwork of Lyn, who shares her husband's passion for the Middle Ages and also happens to be a gifted faux and decorative artist and muralist with her own company, Brush in Hand, Trompe L'oeil Murals.
One day, Lyn started sketching faux stone on the den walls. David had left that morning saying that sure, it was a good idea to sketch a few. He returned home that night to find a faux stone-walled room, complete with a remarkable portrait of a medieval monk dominating one wall. His wife had put in a busy day.
The Steinbergs' home is full of other remarkable areas, many created by Lyn and her paintbrush. There is hand-drawn stenciling, there is her freehand sketch of a three-dimensional clothesline with a country scene behind it on a laundry-room wall, and stairways wear borders of flowers.
This is a home, its owners agree, that can accept almost any style of decor because of its solid and sturdy "bones."
The living room, which is gracefully joined with the dining room, has a French countryside look, complete with a blue and yellow color scheme played out in a wonderful print sofa. A huge landscape above the sofa was inherited with the home, and seems to belong exactly where it is. The dining room's 1920s table and chairs were once in the home of David's paternal grandparents and can welcome 12 sit-down guests with ease.
There is one more room that harks back to the medieval style Lyn and David love. Step into the master bedroom, and there's an instant "wow!" factor.
Their huge, regal bed rests on a raised platform against a royal scarlet wall, and furniture that might be in a castle actually came from a secondhand store in West Philadelphia. The total effect is of a bedchamber fit for a medieval king and queen, although it's occupied by a down-to-earth, fun-loving, unpretentious couple.
When she isn't painting for herself and her clients, Lyn is a sexual-assault nurse examiner working with rape victims; she admittedly welcomes a place to decompress.
Their passion for things medieval, also a welcome respite from their hectic 21st-century lives, surfaces when the Steinbergs head for periodic medieval fairs in full costume. He cuts a dashing figure in a waistcoat, and she is his damsel in full Middle Ages regalia, complete with gown of flowing sleeves and vested bodice.
"I guess it's a little strange to live in a 19th-century farmhouse and also have a foot in the Middle Ages," says Lyn. "But then, that's what makes life interesting. And around here, it's never dull for long." I