Lance Tiso relaxes in front of his open living room window on an unusually warm November afternoon. Birds are singing loudly, the only sound on his wide, tree-lined street until two children pass on tricycles.
"I call this the country of the city," he says. "No hustle, no bustle here."
Tiso, 33, works at Nick's Fish House, a five-minute drive from his Locust Point house. Wanting a quiet place to live, away from the daily excitement of the restaurant business, he looked for almost a year on this peninsula that is home to Fort McHenry. Many of the properties in the neighborhood, he remembers, were too small, too long and narrow, or needed too much cosmetic surgery. Then, two years ago, he found what he was looking for.
He quickly put in a bid on a two-story brick rowhouse on Andre Street and was eligible for first-time-buyer incentives.
Tiso paid $189,000 for a renovated property and spent $5,000 more to install basement carpeting and a drainage system, and to improve an upstairs master bathroom.
His minimalist decorating style and open floor plan give the appearance of a larger space than the home's 14 1/2 -foot width and 55-foot length.
White paint on the north, west and south walls contrast with exposed red brick on the east wall and up the staircase to the second level. Maple floors and a black leather pub-style sofa and chair provide contrast.
A pole lamp with white paper shades sits in one corner of the living room, next to the long, narrow front window that is dressed in dark miniblinds. A kidney-shaped, glass-topped coffee table has been a part of Tiso's surroundings for many years. A pot of rust-colored mums sits on the glass.
Tiso's west wall serves as exhibit space for his two large black-and-white prints of photographs by Ansel Adams. The masterpieces "Winter Tree" and "Yosemite" provide the tranquil feeling of nature. Two more framed black-and-white photographs rest on the floor against the staircase. One is of Al Capone being taken to sentencing, and the other is a portrait of Frank and Jesse James.
"I love the eras of the Old West and Prohibition," Tiso says.
The empty dining room in the center of the home is opposite the maple staircase. Unsure of how to decorate the space, Tiso satisfies himself temporarily with the notion that the less clutter, the better.
The kitchen, which makes up the rear 15 feet of the home, was a later addition. Here, in an abrupt break from the wood floors of the front rooms, ceramic tile covers the floor in coordinated soft shades of terra cotta and light gray.
Intricately carved maple cabinets with dentil molding line the south and west walls. A wine rack matching the cabinets hangs above the refrigerator. White appliances sit under and between uncluttered Corian countertops in gray.
Tiso loves to cook, finding it therapeutic.
Meals often are shared at the large maple table with matching Windsor-back chairs on the opposite side of the room. Beside the table, Tiso's 3 1/2 -foot-high wine cabinet chills his favorite bottles.
From the rear deck of the house, the silos of a former grain elevator a block away loom large at the water's edge. The site of the old elevator has been proposed for the residential and commercial Silo Point development.
"I love the plans for this neighborhood," he says, adding that he hopes the Locust Point revitalization will add to the home's value. Committed to his neighborhood, Tiso is active in its community association.
The second floor of Tiso's home consists of two bedrooms and two full bathrooms. His boarder, Jared Avery, occupies the front room, and Tiso has the back room. White walls dominate the hallway and bedrooms, broken up by the maple railing. Both bachelors opt for simple maple furniture with few decorating frills on this level.
"I really appreciate the kitchen and the hardwood floors," says Avery, a manager at Nordstrom in Annapolis.
The living arrangement also works well for him. He plans to settle down and start a family one day but says that for the time being, he has a great setup here. "Working opposite schedules, we rarely get in each other's way," he says.
Tiso has no plans to leave his dream home, appreciating the clean, well-kept neighborhood. Even J. Patrick's on the corner is a welcome gathering spot for food and drinks for locals, he says.
"Can you believe," he says, "that they have a sign there prohibiting vulgar language."