A joyful renovation of Canton rowhouse


Project: Kelly Atterbury and Gordon Barma turned a small Formstone on Hudson Street into their happy place.

Dream Home

April 27, 2003|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Hudson Street is a wide roadway in East Baltimore's Canton neighborhood.

In the long shadow of the American Can Co.'s high smokestack, its circa 1910 rowhouses are modestly constructed of brick. Many exteriors bear the 1950s emblem of then-trendy Formstone covering. These houses alternate between two and three stories. Stained-glass door transoms and hand-painted window screens lend a particular piece of individuality to an otherwise monotonous vista of urban housing.

Four marble steps in the 2900 block lead to the soft brown, Formstone home of Kelly Atterbury and her fiance, Gordon Barma. Once in the door, an open floor plan belies the 13-feet-by-43-feet dimensions. With no interior walls or partitions, the entire first floor is visible. A small marble foyer of Italian glass gives way to wide-planked wood flooring.

"We didn't have a lot of money to work with," says Atterbury, 37, a hospitality industry worker. "We bought the house for $72,000 in August 2000 and were able to get a first-time city-owner home interest loan."

Atterbury says $50,000 was paid to a contractor who tore out the interior and installed electrical and plumbing fixtures.

The furniture, mostly finds from thrift stores and yard sales, is minimal, placed and decorated with the artistic flair of Barma, 40, who works as a commissioned sculptor. An old stainless steel Navy hospital medicine cabinet with glass shelving is a standout against the west wall of the living area. Barma purchased the piece at a surplus store, and it now serves as a liquor cabinet.

Leading to the second level is a shellacked wooden staircase next to an exposed brick wall on the eastern side of the house.

Stainless steel kitchen appliances at the rear of the first level sit on the white porcelain floor here.

Barma says the commercial-grade flooring is stronger than ceramic, while providing more uniformity of color.

The kitchen counter, perpendicular to the west wall, boasts a granite countertop that has been honed for a matte finish. The granite also is present on the windowsill over the sink and in the double-dropped sink's back splash. Two modern white, maple cabinets pull from casters on either side of the refrigerator, serving as horizontal pantry racks.

Barma offers special kudos to Dennis Beech, a friend, who designed and built the staircase, and to Kurt Iglhaut, for the cabinetwork.

"We are very lucky for our skilled friends," Atterbury says.

Still, many touches in the home are the work of Atterbury and Barma. The interior back door is finished in chalkboard. Atterbury invites her guests to "create" on the board by providing chunky chalk in a variety of colors.

"This way, we have constantly changing artwork in our home," she says.

The second story includes much of Barma's handiwork. He designed and built the master bath to include a marbled Jacuzzi and glass-enclosed shower. Rectangular cutouts in the walls will one day be filled with sandblasted and frosted windowpanes etched with designs.

Atterbury also points proudly to several upstairs windowsills - as well as the banister - where Barma hand-poured concrete for a solid, rustic effect.

As is the case in most city rowhouses, there is little room to build out so many people choose to build up. The outdoor embellishments make the 1,677-square-foot home a dream for Atterbury and Barma.

Leading from the computer room in the back of the second level is a large deck, suitable for entertaining. In the corner of the deck, a bright red, steel circular staircase winds its way to the rooftop. There, another deck spans the length of the house. Cutouts allow for light on the skylights below. To the west, one can view downtown's skyline while the south offers views of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and Canton Waterfront Park.

Many neighbors have built rooftop decks, complete with outdoor furniture, flower boxes and barbecue grills.

"During the summer, we all shout to each other," Atterbury says. "I live up here all summer long with my books and snacks."

Friend Loni Brinegar loves the deck. "Even though I'm moving to St. Mary's County this May, I plan on being around as often as I can," she says.

As for Atterbury and Barma, both born and raised in Florida, they plan to be around in their Canton dream for a long time.

"This is the happiest I've been in my nine years in Baltimore," Atterbury says.

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