Brandi and Jeff Tomhave moved into a rehabilitated three-story townhouse in Southwest Baltimore five years ago and it quickly became their dream home.
The narrow, red-brick house, circa 1850, sits on McHenry Street in a neighborhood historically known as Pigtown. That name dates to the 1800s when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad would release pigs from livestock cars and herd them through neighborhood streets en route to area slaughterhouses. City officials have renamed the area Washington Village.
TV, 2 lawn chairs
The Tomhaves purchased their home for $89,000. Both lawyers from California, they were surprised that a 150-year- old house carried such an inexpensive price. They estimate an additional $50,000 was spent on a front door, a new sewer line, a new kitchen roof, and paint and furniture.
"We literally started from scratch," remembers Brandi Tomhave, 40. "Our old furniture was too big [for the space] and for awhile, we had only a TV and two lawn chairs."
She was also faced with a decorating challenge in a house that reminded her of one long shoebox, 13 feet wide by 60 feet long.
Wishing for a light and airy feel, she remembered the hydrangea bushes that grew outside her grandmother's house. Using a silk hydrangea bouquet as her inspiration, she included shades of blue, lavender, pink, cream, and light green in the home's first level.
Wide-plank flooring original to the house had little luster. Brandi Tomhave began by painting a base of fuchsia, then rubbing in a periwinkle blue.
In the living room, one of the home's five fireplaces has been a renovation project for the couple, who considered the cracked marble facade an eyesore as soon as they unpacked. At a local Goodwill store, Brandi Tomhave bought mismatched pieces of china, earthenware, colored glass and mirrors. She smashed them into uneven pieces and then cemented them onto the fireplace marble.
She added a large beveled mirror over the mantel to create the perception of a larger living area.
"The use of color has made their space seem so much larger," says friend Susan Marino. "I really like the mosaic effect of the fireplace."
White, open-shelved bookcases from IKEA sit next to the east wall beyond a fireplace and define the dining room. A red-brick fireplace rises to the ceiling. Above its hearth, Brandi Tomhave has displayed her wedding dress. The white theme continues with a wooden round table and four wooden chairs.
A little area in the room has been turned into what the couple calls "a meditation nook." Here, a window seat has been treated with pillows while silver stars with mirrored centers have been painted on a dark blue base. A disco ball hangs from the ceiling.
"I'm used to walls having texture," Brandi Tomhave says of her galley kitchen. Wanting the colors of food represented here, she swirled joint compound heavily on the walls for a Spanish-style, stucco effect. She then washed the walls with blue, maroon and apple-green paint for a finished appearance similar to the shade of wine bottles.
Cherry cabinets, white-tiled countertops and terra cotta ceramic flooring complete a Southwestern look.
The basement is a work in progress, eventually to become a home office. The couple owns a company, The Tomhave Group, a consulting firm to Native American businesses, tribes and organizations. Jeff and Brandi Tomhave are Native Americans, and the basement, with its walls painted terra cotta and a display cabinet of clothing, pottery and artifacts, reflects this heritage.
Similar colors are showcased in the couple's bedroom on the second level. Here, the top portion of the walls is painted terra cotta while the bottom is a dark burgundy. White chair rails separate the two colors.
The third-floor loft, with its exposed ceiling beams and skylight, sold the couple on the house. Here, they have fashioned a bedroom and play area for Jeff Tomhave's 8-year-old son, Ben, when he visits during the summer.
"This is the first house we ever bought," Brandi Tomhave says. "And the last house we're ever going to buy."