Serene beauty in heart of city Bolton Hill 'project' lovingly transformed into a charming home

Dream Home

March 23, 1997|By Janice D'Arcy | Janice D'Arcy,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Lois Schenck and Tod Myers crave tranquillity. As real estate agents, they lead frantic computer, phone, fax-filled lives; and they live in downtown Baltimore, where there isn't much peace and quiet. But tucked in the corner of Bolton Hill, they have created a home that is nothing if not serene.

For Myers, it has been 20 years in the making, a slow, sometimes torturous renovation project. He moved into the 110-year old Edwardian townhouse in 1976. It originally had been built as a private dwelling, but during World War II it was divided into six tiny apartments to house shipyard workers.

By the 1970s, the wooden floors were rotting and the walls had become flimsy. City officials declared one apartment unfit to rent,

Moving from Roanoke, Va., Myers wanted a combination of city life and quaint living. He had partially renovated homes before, but it wasn't the challenge that drew him to this townhouse; it was the location. The home stands on a tiny brick street with a gazebo in the center. There is no through traffic.

Myers envisioned an oasis there. He bought the dilapidated townhouse, without stepping inside, for $18,500. Friends mocked him for getting swindled.

He moved in immediately and spent the first few months moving tenants out and throwing debris into trash bins in his back yard. Then, room by room, he restored the entire house. He scrounged through local shops, antique sales, sometimes even the garbage, to find pieces that were faithful to the building's Edwardian architecture.

He spent weekends and evenings cleaning tin roofs, scrubbing hardwood floors, replacing transoms and tearing down walls.

"I restored it faithfully, but I wanted modern conveniences," Myers said. "Everything is new, the walls, the electric wiring, the plumbing."

Once the 3,400-square-foot house was architecturally and structurally sound, he set out to decorate. And when he met and married Schenck two years ago, they made the house their project.

She brought what they call "her dowry" into the home: a baby grand piano, antique photographs, ornate furniture and family paintings. Together, they shopped for antiques on weekends and worked with a decorator on color schemes. They also restored furniture, such as their cherished dining room table.

Years earlier, Myers had discovered a mahogany, hand-carved door in New York City. It was strewn with paint and showed years of neglect, but he picked it up anyway. With the help of a local architect, Vince Green, Schenck and Myers designed it to be their dining room table. Now, at the center of a blue room, is the glass-covered door resting on a 700-pound steel base.

Schenck says the table is her favorite single object because it stands as a metaphor for the house. "Ted has such vision. Other people look at things and only see what's in front of them. Ted sees what can be. He saw the table and knew it could be beautiful. He saw this house -- it was worse than a shell -- but he had vision."

The dining room is also Schenck's favorite because of the noise, or lack thereof. With fabric on the ceiling, and without traffic outside, the room is silent. "To sit at this table is total peace" Schenck says. "When we entertain, we can sit at this table for hours and forget about everything but our conversation. To do that in the middle of the city is incredible."

The couple love their music room for the same reason. There is a touch of defiance to the room. With its salmon-colored walls, shelves of books and modern artwork in muted colors it could be the entrance to a spa, although it is the closest room to the street.

Just off the front entrance, the room in any other home might echo the shouts, sirens and horns of city life. But not here. Myers says the occasional passer-by might be heard, and if he and Schenck decide to play the piano and sing, the decibel level rises, but otherwise, "It's my favorite place to read."

The second-floor living room, the area that had been deemed unrentable when Myers bought the property, is now the type of room to which guests are drawn. The back bay window overlooks a brick patio and herb garden. The television is tucked into an exposed brick wall and the table in the center of the room is a soldier's goatskin trunk covered with a thick plate of glass.

Both Schenck and Myers needed home offices, but wanted to maintain the serenity of their dwelling. They chose a room on the second floor where the sun streams through two large windows in the afternoon. Chagall prints hang on walls with a light yellow finish. "It feels just like the south of France in here," Schenck said.

Room after room has the feel that one has been transported to a different place, sometimes a different time. And each place seems to be more relaxing than the next. Schenck hopes to live in the house for a long time, but she fears trouble on the horizon.

"I can see it in his eyes. He's getting the itch to do it again," she says of her husband.

Myers smiles and agrees, "Yes, I'm ready for my next project. But we'll see, I do love it here."

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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