Brothers' Separate Visions Make Twin Houses Different

October 13, 1991|By Lynn Williams

An incorrect date was given in last Sunday's Maryland Living section for "A Day in the Park," an open-house tour spotlighting 30 homes in Patterson Place, Butcher's Hill and Baltimore/Linwood. The tour, sponsored by the Banner Neighborhoods Community Corp., is to take place Sunday. For information, call the Banner offices at 327-2022.

The Meadowcroft brothers aren't twins. Their houses are, though. At least architecturally speaking. But like twin siblings, twin houses can reveal startlingly different personalities.

The houses, which sit side by side on a quiet street in Baltimore/Linwood, used to look pretty much like hundreds of other row houses in this part of southeast Baltimore. Built in the first decade of the 20th century, the two-story buildings are clad in the ubiquitous Formstone, with standard-issue front "stoops."


When Mike and Tim Meadowcroft moved in, though, the sleepy old houses began to stir to life. Color bloomed inside and out, as did plenty of greenery, in window boxes and planters. And the "twins" began to show their individuality. Mike's house is still a subdued gray, but is trimmed in plum, with a plum and navy door. Tim, however, shocked the neighbors by actually painting his Formstone; it is now an unusual shade of blue-green, with yellow trim and a jaunty yellow awning.

Their stylishness has turned heads, and won the houses a place in this year's "Day in the Park," an annual house tour sponsored by Banner Neighborhoods, an organization representing residents of Patterson Place, Butcher's Hill, and Baltimore/Linwood (see accompanying box).

While they share some common elements in addition to external architecture -- notably a confident sense of style and a brave profusion of strong color -- the houses are otherwise as different as the brothers who renovated and live in them.

Mike Meadowcroft was a business major in college. He likes old things, and has a fondness for Victoriana. His second floor is not finished yet, but this is not a big problem; the process can take a while, as long as the results are just right.

Tim Meadowcroft, on the other hand, has a degree in fine arts. His tastes are modern and eclectic, his colors "wild." His house, started well after his brother's, is completely finished and furnished. He has no patience with things that take a lot of time.

Mike, at 33 the elder brother, bought his house in 1986 and set about stripping it down to the basics: stucco walls and ceilings were torn out, blue and gray shag carpeting removed, a summer porch ripped off. Even a couple of elements that most renovators would adore -- mantels of slate and of white marble -- were removed and given away.

"It stayed that way for a year," admits Mike, who lived on the second floor while his downstairs rooms were being transformed by several sets of carpenters and woodworkers.

The finished first floor (the only part of the house that will be featured on the tour) has the kind of richness and detail that are usually found only in much larger houses.

The house is trimmed throughout in new, custom-made golden oak, with "bulls-eye" corners, and a fancy new Victorian-style railing outlines the staircase.

The walls of each of the first floor rooms were divided into three bands of color lengthwise, each band separated by more oak trim.

The living room's central band is a deep claret, bordered by black and gold. A plush Oriental rug, which includes a similar claret and gold among its many colors, is placed asymmetrically on freshly sanded floors. The furniture and decorative accents, including a pink "Gone With the Wind" lamp, paddle fans and a gleaming brass chandelier, have a 19th century feel, but are tastefully understated.

The dining room also has elegant touches of the past, but its color scheme, with glossy black walls bordered by white and gray, is contemporary and sophisticated. The color in the kitchen, whose walls are lavender, teal and white, also adds an element of the avant-garde to a rather formal decorating style.

Despite this formality, there's a strong element of personality in the decorating, thanks to Mike's choice of accessories. He collects art pottery, although few pieces are on display at any one time.

"I like a lot of small things," he says. "In fact, this is pretty uncluttered for me. I pick and choose, and often change things around."

His sense of humor is also on display, in such objets d'art as the big wooden frog, made in the Philippines, that watches over the kitchen, and the etched glass window in the living room door, which illustrates a scene from a favorite book, "Charlotte's Web."

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