Canton update takes 7 months


Rehab: A 29-year-old sales manager transforms a shell of a rowhouse into a sleek bachelor pad.

September 05, 2004|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Aaron Warren enjoys it when visitors gasp in delight at the renovation of his Canton home.

"You should have seen it a year ago," he says.

In August last year, he began rehabilitating a property he had bought a few months earlier on Potomac Street. He paid $85,000 for his two-story, red-brick rowhouse. The exterior was quaint, right down to the stained-glass transom over his wide front window. The interior, however, was little more than a shell.

Warren, a 29-year-old sales manager with MCI, rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

He hired a local contractor, and, during the course of seven months, the two men worked on a contemporary design for the interior. Warren estimates the cost of the 1,300-square-foot renovation at $125,000. New heating, central air conditioning and plumbing figured prominently in that cost, along with hardwood floors, new wiring and a kitchen.

"Everything in here is new, except for the bricks," he says.

The bricks to which he refers are the exposed walls on the north and south sides of the house, which is 11 feet wide and 65 feet long on the first level.

A three-piece, lounge-style suite of furniture, along with two hassocks that double as a coffee table, define the living room. Warren selected the sleek pieces scaled to room size, he says, noting that it is "difficult to find masculine fabric." He chose a commercial grade of covering in microfiber.

The navy sofa is flanked by two barrel chairs in a beige and navy plaid. The contrasting fabrics against exposed brick walls produce Warren's intended "bachelor pad" effect.

Hanging above a flat-screen television on the south wall are black-and-white photographs on canvas that depict schooners sailing the bay. An area rug in muted shades of green, rose, purple and beige, and bearing a geometric design of circles within squares, complements the hardwood floors.

"I made 10 shopping trips before I found the rug," Warren says, "but it was worth it to me because it makes the room work."

Beyond the living room, near the center of the first floor, Warren's dining area offers a simple presentation -- a triangular, laminate-topped table resting on a sleek pedestal of black steel. Three high-backed chairs cozy up to the triangle.

"If I have more than three guests, we sit on the rooftop deck," he says with a laugh.

The pride of Warren's restoration is his kitchen at the rear of the house. An addition to the original home built during the late 1930s, this room measures 8 1/2 feet by 20 feet.

Windows covered in white plantation blinds on one wall provide bright light to the room. (The house is not attached to its neighbor on the ground level, allowing for a narrow walkway, or sally port, from the street to the back patio area.)

The kitchen cabinets and appliances are laid out in an L shape. The stainless-steel stove, refrigerator and dishwasher are complemented by contemporary maple cabinets. Countertops of embossed Formica flecked in tan, brown and gray produce a pebblelike effect.

Sand-colored, porcelain tile has been laid on a diagonal on the floor, further distinguishing the room from the living and dining rooms, where pine planks run vertically. A window over the sink looks out on a small patio, just big enough for a grill and shaded by the second-floor deck above.

An open, iron staircase with white oak treads stretches upward from the ground floor along the south wall. A handmade, black iron banister composed of horizontal bars turns at the second floor, continuing as a railing.

Warren put his office in the front of the second level and his bedroom in the rear "because I don't hear the street noise in the back of the house," he says.

Walls painted a bleached almond color and light beige carpeting provide a feeling of openness in the bedroom, where pocket doors lead to the master bath. There, the beige marble tile work in the shower stall coordinates with shades of brown and tan flecking the granite sink. A brown and tan tattersall shower curtain completes the monochromatic color scheme.

In a rowhouse, it is nearly impossible to make home additions lengthwise or widthwise. Instead, homeowners look upward. And those lucky enough to live near the harbor usually waste no time in constructing a rooftop deck. Warren built two.

One of the decks -- a 12-by-7-foot structure off his second-floor bedroom -- was designed to handle the hot tub that soon will be purchased. At one corner of that deck, a circular, wrought-iron staircase rises to a second wood structure, a 12-by-16-foot rooftop deck.

"This is a priceless, outdoor space for me," Warren says. "There's always a breeze from the water, and a view of the harbor. I spend a lot of time here."

"Aaron's double decks are awesome," says his friend and co-worker John Leibler. "In fact, his house is one of the nicest restoration projects I have seen. Every time friends come to Baltimore, we visit his house so [they] see what can be done with a 12-foot rowhouse."

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