One man's castle is his simple rowhouse Sudden idea: Matthew Vadney came to Baltimore on a "whim" and bought a home, something he thought he never could do in expensive Northern Virginia.

Dream Home

April 14, 1996|By Jill L. Kubatko | Jill L. Kubatko,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Matthew Vadney's home looks like most Formstone-covered rowhouses in Baltimore, with one exception -- the home is his and that's all that matters.

"It's not a designer home or decorated with contemporary art and Andy Warhol prints," said 29-year-old Mr. Vadney of his rehabbed house in Washington Village, also known as "Pigtown."

He calls it "comfortably ordinary."

But it's the home he never thought he could afford, growing up in Northern Virginia where real estate prices are some of the highest in the mid-Atlantic.

When he moved to Baltimore on a "whim" last year, Mr. Vadney worked as a driver for Falls Road Animal Shelter, making $12,000 a year. Recently, he was hired as a senior case worker, working with at-risk middle school students in Baltimore County.

Through loans and closing cost help from programs offered by Maryland and Baltimore City housing agencies, he was able to buy and rehabilitate the once-abandoned home on Washington Boulevard.

Opposite his three-story rowhouse are two liquor stores and Paul's Place, a storefront where the homeless can get a bag lunch. The corner also was once a haven for drug dealers. Drug activity declined after residents of the neighborhood began calling police several times a day, he said.

Mr. Vadney is on the Public Safety Committee of the city's empowerment zone. As a block captain, he organized a block crime watch for his neighborhood.

One morning, as he swept debris from his sidewalk, his neighbors joined him.

"Other neighbors saw me and they came out to help," he said. "No one goes to meetings here; they just go out and do it. We clean up the trash ourselves. Nothing is planned, it just sort of happens."

The rowhouses built along Washington Boulevard in the mid-1800s were once the homes of workers at the Mount Clare shops of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

Mr. Vadney's 12-foot-wide by 40-foot-long home is a work in progress: Unframed museum prints are thumb-tacked to the walls, a kitchen island is almost finished, and spring should bring the blooms of flowers and trees he planted last year.

When Mr. Vadney chose his home, he picked the one with the largest back yard.

"I wanted a big green space for my dog," a terrier named Sammy. He also shares his home with California, a cat.

Mr. Vadney planted azaleas, forsythias, strawberries and juniper trees in the 12-by-50-foot yard. He filled the flower bed with gladiolas and constructed a stone path that runs down the center of the fenced-in space.

"My goal is to create a green oasis in the urban jungle. After a year of growth, the yard should get that feeling this year," he said.

Mr. Vadney's living room has an unusable brick fireplace, cream carpeting, white walls, hand-me-down furniture from his family, two Ikea tables and a Native American rug.

"My friends constantly remind me I should have never chosen whitish carpeting for my house." The color was appropriately called "sand trap," he said.

The first floor also has a bathroom/laundry room and an exercise machine in the hallway leading to the kitchen.

The stairway to the second floor narrows to about 20 inches at the top to make room for a heat duct. The walls are painted a vibrant aqua dubbed "Hawaiian Blue." The second floor has two bedrooms and a full bath. One bedroom is painted a brilliant "Jay Hawk Blue."

The bedroom at the rear of the house -- used by a boarder -- has a sloping floor. But Mr. Vadney sees past the flaws in his home.

"The house's quirky imperfections make it a loveable place to live," he said.

The third floor has another bedroom and a small computer room at the top of the stairs.

One of the house's attractions is its location.

Within a 20-minute walk or a five-minute bicycle ride are the Inner Harbor, Lexington Market, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Washington Village branch library and a grocery store.

Or, as he joked, "30 minutes on a sunny day."

"I wouldn't live anywhere else," said Mr. Vadney. "I have no regrets of moving here."

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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