House to go, hold the fries Ex-sub shop in Canton makes an ideal home

Dream Home

February 16, 1997|By Judy Reilly | Judy Reilly,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve last year, Karen Ruchkin and a group of friends climbed to the rooftop of her Canton home, said goodbye to the old year, and watched the fireworks over the Inner Harbor usher in the new.

"That was one of the stipulations the former owners had for me when we closed the sale of this house two years ago," Ruchkin said. "I promised them that every Fourth of July and every New Year's Eve I would host a party and share the spectacular view of the fireworks with friends."

Since she moved into the house in 1995, Ruchkin has enjoyed living in the corner rowhouse with three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths that was once a sandwich shop. Renovated and redesigned by the architect-owner, Dean Morekas, who lived in the house before Ruchkin, she jumped at the chance to buy it when it went on the market for $95,000 two years ago

Ruchkin, who owns Bang Bang Hair Studio in Fells Point, said, "I had admired the house for years. I was attracted to the corner location and those big storefront windows that let in tons of light. And the rooftop deck is a whole other room of the house. I had to have this place."

Ruchkin adores the 1920s structure, with its "Hot French Fries" lettering on the front steps, a reminder of its former life as a carryout. The large front room with its picture window is where her pets Hank, a kitten, and Wanda, a boxer, often wait for their owner to return from work.

"This is the room I've done the most work on," Ruchkin says. "I put down a hardwood floor, painted the walls, and turned it into a living room."

Ruchkin has decorated this room in an eclectic style that incorporates sideshow banners from the 1940s, a bamboo bar, a sound system, easy chairs and a couch. Travel guides to Italy -- a future dream trip -- clutter the coffee table.

The owner's background in art and her preference for all that is upbeat, unusual or old shows throughout the home.

The kitchen is brightly lighted even on the dreariest days, thanks to lots of windows and skylights. A round wood table and green vinyl striped kitchen chairs from the 1950s take center stage. The kitchen was the setting for a shoot for the television series "Homicide" last fall.

When the building was still a sandwich shop, this room didn't exist. "Dean Morekas added this kitchen, the decks, and the skylights," Ruchkin said. "I didn't want a house I needed to do a lot to -- he did a spectacular job with the place."

The adjacent dining area, which Ruchkin has painted a warm shade of teal, houses her grandmother's Regency-style cherry dining room set and a bar from a mail-order catalog. All the rooms in the house, painted in lively shades of blue, rust and yellow, are filled with plants, photos, mementos and original art.

Ruchkin says that living on the quiet edge of the bustling Canton waterfront is a great location for people-watching and eating out at neighborhood restaurants -- she's one block from Canton Square.

The convenience to anything that matters to her -- her business, Interstate 95, a big city park for walks with Wanda -- is a boon. "And it's neat to be in a neighborhood that's coming up so quickly," she added.

Yet the neighborhood, with its old brick streets, wide boulevards, Formstone houses and ringing church bells remains cozy and welcoming, featuring the authentic charm of a working-class neighborhood. And the home's million-dollar view of the Inner Harbor and city skyline from the top of Ruchkin's unique house is always worth a visit.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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