Multicolored Canton home family's `fate'

DREAM HOME

Commuters: Washington workers Rex Tingle and Stacy Kramer say they fell in love with Baltimore.

September 12, 2004|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Renovation of historic, turn-of-the-century rowhouses continues at a fevered pace in East Baltimore.

Some buyers pay rock-bottom prices for little more than a shell and take on the restoration work themselves. Others negotiate on a rehabilitated home, move in and watch neighborhood prices skyrocket.

The latter's the case with Rex Tingle and his wife, Stacy Kramer, both from the Washington area.

"We only looked at one house [in Baltimore]," says Kramer, 36, who works at the American College of Cardiology. "We were almost hoping we wouldn't like it."

Tingle, 40, a manager at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Washington, says it "was our fate and destiny to be here."

Married four years, the couple had fallen in love with Baltimore on previous visits. Renting in Washington was costly, and a home in the suburbs was not an option for the city lovers.

The couple paid $281,000 for their renovated two-story, red brick rowhouse on O'Donnell Street, noting that their mortgage payment is $200 less a month than the rent they had been paying. They moved in two years ago and have spent about $20,000 on paint and furniture.

The eclectic decorating scheme for their home is based on various colors and textures, an idea inspired by a painting that hangs in their living room.

A few years ago, while visiting Key West, Fla., the couple purchased a canvas depicting Sloppy Joe's Bar, a local hangout. Splashed about the painting are bright green palm leaves and an exterior in blues, fuchsias, yellows, purples and reds.

"I told Rex that someday we would have a house with all these colors in it," Stacy Kramer remembers.

True to her word, and armed with bucket and brush, she set about a color transformation in an open-floor layout 12 feet wide by 62 feet deep. The front of the home faces west, connecting to its neighbor at the second-level front. A small arched opening between houses leads to a side walkway, or sally port, allowing for windows halfway back on both floors of the home's southern side.

Past a front door that has been painted periwinkle blue, the living room's canary-yellow walls on the west and south side contrast with the exposed brick of the home's north side. Against the bright wall, a contemporary roll-armed sofa dominates the space, its vivid red upholstery signaling like a stoplight.

"When people come to our house, their brains start to function," Tingle says.

His prized possession, on the wall opposite the sofa, is a 40-inch plasma television with Surround Sound "so no one falls asleep."

Just off the living room, a guest bath with a glass block window has pumpkin-colored walls.

Kramer says using the variety of shades was the most daring thing she has ever done, adding that "paint can always be covered up."

She also points out that the white ceiling moldings and baseboards throughout the lower level, and pine floors, offer a bit of uniformity and consistency in bringing the design scheme together.

The kitchen, in the center of the first floor, includes cherry wood cabinets, polished granite countertops and stainless-stee; appliances.

In the dining room, at the rear of the house, the north wall has white wainscoting, and the south and east walls are painted a robin's egg blue wash. A Swedish modern dining room set of light blond birch includes a double glass-topped table. A tall, rectangular cabinet, painted cadet blue, showcases crystal on glass shelves. It sits next to a double slider leading out to a wood deck.

An open staircase rises to the home's second level and descends to a finished basement. Kramer painted its wrought-iron railings and banisters silver, which coordinates with metal-framed photographs and a large framed mirror at the second-floor landing.

The second-floor hallway is painted almond. The master suite and the bedroom for 11-year-old daughter Taylor have Berber carpets.

Kramer considers this level, with wall treatments more subdued than those of the first floor, a work in progress. She has, however, given Taylor's bedroom walls a brightly stenciled border of flowers and butterflies that complements the girl's chartreuse wicker headboard, purple windowsill and banana-yellow lounge chair.

"This is the best part of the house," says Tingle, leading the way to the finished basement, "our lower-level suite."

Here, Tingle did a little design work. He wanted to break up the monotony of a 12-by-62-foot space without having to close in any areas. That, he figured, would block out the only source of natural light, one small window at the front of the house. Instead, he built a divider wall about 20 feet out from the far west end.

That wall has two windows and a door opening that he plans to glass in. A guest bedroom has been created behind the partition and furnished with a maple suite and four-poster bed that belonged to Stacy Kramer's grandmother.

A living area runs through the center of the basement and is decorated in Danish modern. A separate bath with Jacuzzi completes the guest quarters.

"I love the cheerful colors in their house," says friend Jennifer Rains. "It's a great gathering place with a lot of options to hang out in different areas of the house."

A favorite spot to gather is the couple's 12-foot-by-10-foot rooftop deck. From there, the couple and their friends look down on the busy streets of Canton or out at the harbor and skyline.

"We're at home here," says Stacy Kramer. "We don't mind commuting. We're more Baltimore than D.C."

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