The casual observer, out for a stroll around Patterson Park, might not notice Buddy Hash's house at first. His block, which fronts on the park, is a well-kept strip of turn-of-the-century row houses, as tasteful as a well-cut business suit. Discreet touches of Victoriana -- bays, a few stained glass windows -- add richness to the classic Baltimore scene of red brick and white marble steps. But at first glance, there's not much to distinguish one house from another.
At second glance, the observer will notice the cream and Wedgwood blue paint job, which emphasizes the garland moldings on the bay, and the window box, overflowing with pink and purple bloom.
Not until walking in the door, though, will our observer see just howunusual Buddy Hash's house is. In a
neighborhood that emphasizes tradition, and where renovators pride themselves on their scrupulously restored woodwork and Victorian light fixtures, Mr. Hash has turned his home into a convincing copy of a modern Manhattan condo.
Actually, Mr. Hash, who owns Le Triolet hair salon, used to be one of those preservation-minded renovators. When he bought his house in the mid-'70s he emphasized its period elegance and filled it with antiques.
Then, three years ago, it quite literally all went up in smoke. An electrical fire gutted the house, and the furniture and artwork that wasn't burned was damaged by the water used to put out the fire.
"It was a beautiful house," he remembers. "I had the most gorgeous antiques. I lost a fortune in the fire, really. I spent years, since I was an early teen-ager, collecting those antiques. After you collect things for 30 years, you cannot replace them. Who wants to spend another 30 years looking for antiques?"
The fire was devastating, but, psychologically speaking, came at a good time; Mr. Hash was ready for a change, and the fire forced him to rethink his living space. He overcame depression by building a different sort of dream house from what remained of his antique original. This house would not have dark woodwork and small rooms, but would be airy and contemporary, with white walls and lots of light.
With the help of a contractor, he reworked the space, enlarging the rooms and the windows.
"When I knew the roof had to go, I really wanted to replace it with a glass roof, like you see in apartments in New York," Mr. Hash says. "But I couldn't get that together, because of the insurance companies. They were worried about rain damage. But I did manage to get these skylights."
He also moved the kitchen from the third floor to the second ("Carrying those groceries to the third floor was a pain," he says), and expanded the space further by having decks built on both the second and third floors. The top deck, which overlooks a very urban rooftop scene, is used for sunbathing, while the lower deck, which opens off the kitchen, is a shady spot for brunches and crab feasts.
Mr. Hash rents the first floor, which was also renovated and redecorated, to his aunt, and shares the rest of his home with a close friend. There are others in residence, too: two finches, close to 100 canaries and a cockatiel named Trouble, who can whistle "Pop Goes the Weasel."
"I like birds, and I used to have a big macaw, who was killed in the fire," Mr. Hash says. "When I was traveling in Europe on vacation I noticed that in these small shops and boutiques they would have a little cage with canaries. I thought, 'I like hearing those canaries sing. When I get back to the States I'm going to get myself a canary.' "
He started with just a pair, but when they mated, he found himself a canary breeder. He has since discovered a flourishing Baltimore canary "subculture," including a neighbor who has turned his basement into an aviary.
The birds are lodged on the third floor, but their song, which begins at sunup, fills the downstairs areas as well, a melodic (and dramatically junglelike) backdrop to the plant-filled Oriental-deco living room.
"I had a few Oriental and deco pieces before the fire, and they seemed to blend really well," Mr. Hash says. "Since I had decided not to do antiques again, I thought I would like to have some Oriental flair. I think you design what you're in the mood for."
The living room is strikingly furnished with a couch, love seat and chaise upholstered in black satin, and with black lacquered pieces touched with jewel tones and gold. Lacquered pillars hold an assortment of flourishing tropical plants, and a lacquered cabinet displays a fan-shaped clock and a Japanese doll performing "the dance of the seven hats."
"I couldn't resist getting a few things from the antique stores," he admits, including a carved soapstone vase and a Chinese coffee table with an inset scene of peonies and birds, carved from semiprecious stones.
"This coffee table completely folds up," he explains. "I found that a lot of Oriental furniture folds up. They had so many wars that the people never knew when they would have to pack up and carry their furniture on their backs."