Narrow lines generated broad design


Rowhouse: Though Teri and Peter Bickford's home is only 13 feet wide, it boasts a sunny, free-flowing interior. Dream home

March 23, 2003|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At street level, in any neighborhood south of the Inner Harbor, old Baltimore rowhouses can be devilishly deceptive.

The narrow facades give the impression of small living spaces. Yet, initial architectural design and clever restoration can allow for more living space than many suburban dwellings hold.

The trick is working lengthwise.

And such is the case with Teri and Peter Bickford's home in the 1500 block of S. Charles St.

The exterior brick front of the Bickford home appears newly cleaned and stands in direct contrast to the Formstone treatment of a neighbor's home.

"The house is only 13 feet wide, but [it is] 76 feet long," Teri Bickford says. "The upstairs is 65 feet in length."

The house opens to a 9-foot ceiling that incorporates a clever use of white-textured vinyl covering. It offers a "tin ceiling" effect to the living room.

Teri Bickford purchased the house for $46,000 in 1998 and decided to "open it up." Having gutted it, she chose a free-flow design from front to back, instead of the original chopped-up effect of several rooms.

Outside, an arched alleyway extending from the street to the back of her property separates the house from that of her neighbor and provides plenty of natural light in the dining room and kitchen. The only common wall with another neighbor's home exists in two second-floor rooms in the front of the home.

Bickford has chosen Victorian furniture for most of the rooms; she considers its down-scaled dimensions perfect for the house. The separation of the dining room and kitchen is realized by a corner sink and adjacent dishwasher unit, and a glass cabinet suspended from the ceiling.

"We have color everywhere," she says while standing in her kitchen of exposed brick walls, white appliances and clay-red wall paint.

The home's accessories represent many trips overseas, with Turkish tapestries and rugs accessorizing the walls and original hardwood flooring. A framed, hand-painted Egyptian papyrus holds a place of honor on the living room wall.

Teri Bickford's mother, a decorator with Hale & Rexroad Interior Design, helped with the color scheme of the rooms and made the chintz draperies that adorn twin windows on the south corner of the dining room.

Original to the house are the large, claw-foot bathtubs in two of the home's three full baths. Also original are the charming radiators in every room, which Bickford saw no need to replace.

A necessary replacement, however was the winding staircase to the second floor. It was done in light oak and ends at a windowed landing with a bright southern exposure. The back of the upstairs level consists of a home office for her husband, and a door leading to the roof of her kitchen below.

"We have the opportunity for a two-story deck here," says Bickford, implying that this addition is next on the "to do" list.

Back in her sun-filled kitchen, Bickford sits at the table and talks about her love of entertaining. "I like things to be nice, but I also want casual ... [a place] where my friends can kick back and relax," she says.

She adds that it took a while to find the right place and acknowledges that the price tag on her home was a bargain. After the purchase, she secured a $30,000 federal housing loan for home restorations. That amount was added to her loan and is repaid as part of her mortgage payment. The funds sit in escrow and are used as the couple's plans for repair and reconstruction materialize.

The Bickfords, married almost three years and both in their mid-30s, have no immediate plans to move. That's in spite of expecting their first child in July and knowing they could sell at a profit.

Teri Bickford grew up in Harford County and is in love with city living and the benefits of being able to walk to restaurants and shopping. Yet, she doesn't hesitate to acknowledge some drawbacks.

"There are problems here with street noise," she says, "and parking ... especially during ballgames. Also, it can get a bit rowdy after the bars close."

Still, she is proud of her home and the work she has accomplished in it.

Friend Nicole Avery, also the owner of a partially restored downtown home, says, "I know how much blood, sweat and tears she put into it. We have great dinners there."

Bickford is very positive about her dream of investing in a house and then committing to the time required in making it a home.

"It turned out exactly as I imagined when I first walked in the door five years ago," she says.

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