Any real estate agent will tell you the key to the sale of a good property is simply: Location, location, location.
Anne Grieves would alter the maxim somewhat to: View, view, view.
When she lived in her house on Lake Roland, she looked out her kitchen window and saw a beautiful waterfall. These days she can stand at the kitchen sink and enjoy a view of the city that only a few privileged Baltimoreans have the good fortune to experience. The southern and eastern views from the 15th floor of the St. James condominium on North Charles Street in Guilford could easily be a scene from a New York condo facing Central Park or a Paris apartment on the Champs Elysees. She can see the harbor, tree-lined streets busting with fall foliage, the high rises of downtown, even the Key Bridge on a clear day.
In fact, a female friend from New York was so impressed that she quipped, "This is the best view I've ever seen of New York City at half the price."
Mrs. Grieves, a well-known cooking teacher who gives classes here and in Nantucket, said it was her priority to have a great view from the kitchen because, "the kitchen is where I live." She not only develops recipes for her classes there, it's also her classroom for instruction on everything from bread making to party hors d'oeuvres.
But the original floor plan of the condominium had walls blocking the conversation-making view. So, she turned to her architect husband James R. Grieves. It didn't take much convincing. "An architect can't ever live in someone else's floor plan," she said, laughing.
The result is a great room concept with a living room large enough to hold Mrs. Grieves' Steinway & Sons grand piano, a family heirloom that Arthur Rubinstein once played. The open area flows into a dining area and a cozy den -- the only area that looks truly "northern," with dark paisley Clarence House fabric on the sofa, chairs and ottoman, dark red walls and a deep-toned Oriental rug. Facing all of this is a kitchen the size of an efficiency apartment that's open to an office area where she keeps the fax machine and files.
The Grieves' kitchen is any cook's dream. With additional help from interior designer Rita St. Clair and Stuart Kitchens, the kitchen satisfied nearly all her culinary needs. The look, in contrast to the country kitchen theme of the Grieves' second home in Nantucket, is pure high-tech Eurostyle. Almost everything is tucked away; even the exhaust for the stove top and grill is hidden behind Eurostyle cabinets. She merely pulls the cabinets up and a light goes on and the exhaust fan operates.
Glossy, light putty-colored cabinets with stainless steel edges and trim work well with a sleek, oversize Gaggenau wall oven complete with convection and rotisserie features. The built-in microwave/convection oven is Dimension 4 and the refrigerator is Sub Zero. Everything in the kitchen is top of the line -- from the mottled brown granite tops on the work island to the Corian counter tops. The beige tiles with rust-colored designs that look like wheat from a distance are imported from Mexico. Even the rug in front of the sink is a custom ordered, hand-painted floor cloth of bright fruits and vegetables, which seems more suitable for framing than for walking on.
The only dream the design team couldn't fulfill was a gas range; the St. James uses only electricity. But her compromise was also stellar -- a sleek black counter top combination of electric and halogen burners and a stove-top indoor grill also from Gaggenau.
The Great Room is perfect for entertaining because Mrs. Grieves can talk to her guests while she does last-minute preparation. But there is also a contingency plan for hiding the kitchen. Three panels, which are recessed in the wall, can close off the kitchen for privacy. The panels, a combination of wood and textured, painted wallpaper, match the panels on the doors of the storage area beneath.
Overall the look of the apartment is sleek, modern, airy and sunny. Typically, the off-white sectional sofa with throw pillows and pastel needlepoint, floral Chinese rug sets the scene. Antiques are used merely as accents. In the living room, recessed lighting spotlights the showpiece antique -- a George II inlaid mahogany and satinwood cabinet from the 1790-1820 period. It was descended through the Grieves family and originally was brought in a clipper ship by the Ramsey family. The dining room features a Federal period cherry tall-case clock that is signed by "Eli Bentley of Taney Town."
The floors, unlike typical dark Baltimore wooden floors, could fit just as well in a tropical climate. They are pale maple, without any touch of pink or red that you find in oak floors.
Likewise, the master bedroom is bright and sunny with large windows of northern and eastern exposures. The centerpiece of the room is an antique bed that they took to furniture maven Page Nelson to transform from full size to king size without destroying the period or style. The rug is a Stark English needlepoint design with black background and bunches of flowers. There are no cumbersome sets of drawers; the clothing storage is taken care of in the dressing room area with walk-in closet and built-in storage drawers. The final accents in the bedroom are chintz chaise and chairs that Mario Buatta would endorse and botanical prints on the wall. The Grieves can watch the sun rise from their bed.
"I wanted light and more light," Mrs. Grieves said. "I wanted light from the furniture, light from the windows and light from the floors. I wanted a cheerful apartment and I got it, even on a gray day. People's moods change as soon as they come into the door."