Sunlit condo just a stroll from Orioles

Dream Home

Fan: A Georgetown nurse tries renting, then settles in near Camden Yards.

April 04, 2004|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In Susanne Varmer's world, there is a place for everything.

And with a compact, 1,300- square-foot condominium in the Inner Harbor neighborhood of Otterbein, she makes sure that everything -- including her Orioles memorabilia -- is in its place.

Varmer, 52 and a native of Denmark, grew up in the Washington suburbs. It was there that she married and raised a family.

Now divorced and with her children grown, Varmer followed a dream eight years ago to live in Baltimore near Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the baseball team she adores.

First, she rented an apartment to try out a new town and lifestyle.

"I have been a restless soul all my life," Varmer acknowledges. "I would always try to rent rather than buy, and that way I would never feel settled."

But as time wore on, she feared that her home and newfound contentment in Baltimore could easily be taken away. She worried that not owning a home could force her to move someday on someone else's terms.

In October, she happened upon Water Place, a 20-year-old condominium complex on Barre Street that sits neatly in the area's original smattering of restored 18th-century townhouses. She paid $175,000 for a two-story condo unit and invested an additional $10,000 in paint, carpeting and plumbing.

The entrance hall at Varmer's front door leads east to the downstairs living area. Two large windows and a double patio door face the harbor and provide bright daylight to the 15-foot-by-18-foot space.

"The first thing I had to get was paint," says the Georgetown University Hospital nurse. "The prior owner was an artist and had very dark colors on the walls."

Varmer chose a shade called Kabuki, a soft peach color, for her living/dining area. White bookcases on the northeast wall house everything from electric candlesticks to knickknacks to tropical fish bowls. Several strings of holiday twinkle lights are intertwined in a 4-foot, potted corn plant in the center of the room.

Tea light candles placed in painted glass holders fill the top of a 4-foot-square, pine coffee table. The table is placed in front of an overstuffed white denim sofa and matching loveseat.

"I go through tea lights like crazy," Varmer says with a laugh. "I love the effect of Christmas lights and candles lit at night."

The northwest wall of the living area features a windowlike opening to the kitchen. Varmer has shiny pots and pans hanging from the top sill. The 8-foot- by-8-foot kitchen boasts a stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator and freezer, stove and convection oven. There are lemon yellow walls, light birch cabinets and brick-colored, Italian stone floor tiling. The floor has been hand-stained to produce a weathered effect.

Across the hall from the kitchen, a guest bath is tucked under the staircase to the second floor. Painted a soft lime green, this tiny space is comfortable with a bright vanity-style lighted mirror over a white porcelain pedestal sink.

A large framed print of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman from Casablanca adorns the north wall.

The staircase to the condo's second level is painted a pastel apple green. At the landing, a pine credenza sits in front of a window decorated in white voile sheers over mini-blinds. It is from this window that Varmer can see the lights of Camden Yards, where the Orioles are to open their season tonight.

The top of the credenza holds an urn of her father's ashes. An elaborate frame hung on the opposite wall displays her family's immigration papers from their entry through Ellis Island.

Two bedrooms and a bath are on the second level. A guest room, painted in the same yellow as the kitchen, is accented with deep blue and green tropical print bedspreads on twin beds.

"This is my dedicated Orioles room," Varmer says as she points out numerous autographed baseballs, caps hanging from the door and autographed, framed photos of Brady Anderson and Cal Ripken Jr.

Varmer's bedroom is painted in the same peach shade of the living area below. Facing east, the room is dominated by a king-size feather bed with a variety of pastel colors splashed on sheets, coverlet and pillows. Two sets of double-hung windows on the east wall are dressed in white blinds and face onto a small park area.

"Kids and dogs are the only noises, really," Varmer says. "And they are a joyful noise."

Three framed photographs of each of her two children flank either side of an oak dresser and mirror in Varmer's bedroom.

A closet is cleverly concealed, not by doors but by damask curtains the color of celery. The intricate, beaded embroidery stitched along the hem picks up the sunlight, bouncing it onto an Adirondack chair painted white with leaf design cushions. Four white bookcases house more keepsakes and mementos.

"I love visiting Susanne," says friend and neighbor Mary Alice Moore. "Every time I come over, there is always something new [in the house] or something I didn't notice the last time."

Varmer agrees, adding, "People who know me buy me Orioles things."

And she is most comfortable at home, surrounded by her memorabilia and able to walk everywhere, including to Camden Yards.

"I'll be here forever," she says. "I'm so happy."

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