A perfect fit in Federal Hill


Destiny: A Realtor finds the solution to a slow-moving property: He buys it and moves in.

April 24, 2005|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

To Will Runnebaum, real estate is more than bricks and mortar. It's his life.

Employed by Coldwell Banker, this 41-year-old Realtor has shown and sold countless houses over the years.

When a renovated William Street rowhouse in Federal Hill languished on the market for more than a year, Runnebaum concluded that, despite his best efforts to promote its myriad features and harbor view, a greater force was at work - destiny.

"I realized I've always been the guy who was the most passionate about the house," he said. "So when a client pulled out of a two-week clause I had written into his contract, I stepped in."

Living at the time in a restored Victorian he owns on Warren Avenue, Runnebaum was ready for a change. The end-of-group on Williams Street was just steps from Key Highway, across from the Maryland Science Center. The 1825 red-brick house fit right into the historic area, while its interior offered a contemporary openness - the product of an early-1980s renovation. It had no structural defects. Add the 12-by-30-foot rooftop deck with its panoramic view of the harbor and beyond and Runnebaum was hooked. So was his partner, Bill Mangham, 42, also a Coldwell Banker agent.

The two purchased the home for $425,000 in December 2003, agreeing that the view alone was worth the price. They spent an additional $75,000 to refurbish the pine floors, replace kitchen appliances, upgrade the heating and air conditioning and buy furnishings and 35 gallons of paint.

Though just 12 feet wide, the house, at 2,400 square feet, is larger than many in the area. Four stories high, it dominates the row. A front entrance offers access to an office/family room, laundry and full bath. But, the 4-foot-wide side entrance is more often used. A flight up from street level, it opens onto a living room, dining area and kitchen. The predominantly modern decor, with a smattering of antique pieces, presents a striking blend of old and new.

At their round mahogany dining room table, Runnebaum and Mangham showed a 4-inch-square swatch of a silk and cotton blend in shades of gray, olive, gold, beige and ivory. Their interior designer, Michele Sanchez of Alexander Baer Associates, worked from this one piece to create the entire palette of the formerly all-white house.

A warm taupe covers the walls of the living and dining rooms, unifying the space. Watermarked Italian silk in a gold shade with raised geometric patterns covers the four dining chairs. A mahogany sideboard serves as a gallery for framed photographs of family, friends and the couple's recently deceased black Labrador retriever. Hanging next to this homey display, a 7-foot-tall painting of Baltimore's Bromo Seltzer Tower by local artist Robert McClintock rises up the wall into the atrium opening at the third level.

The front room serves as a parlor, or informal sitting area. A working fireplace of floor-to-ceiling red brick dominates the north wall. The house has two other identical hearths, on the first and third floors. Four large leather lounge chairs in a soft shade of greenish-black are grouped in the room's center. Armless, they have wood bases that blend with a wooden, conga-shaped table painted black. Two framed vertical mirrors between the two front windows make the room appear longer.

Runnebaum designed the new 8-by-10-foot kitchen to make it easy to move around because both he and Manghan love to cook and entertain. The cobalt-blue walls contrast coolly with birch cabinets and stainless steel appliances. The slick appeal of Venetian gold granite countertops veined with crushed garnet is magnified in a glass hood over the stove. Counter space on each side of the refrigerator allows them to work comfortably without getting in each other's way.

The front of the home's third level serves as a den and TV room. Here, chic informality is showcased with brown leather club chairs and a club sofa upholstered in heavy, celery green cotton. A fireplace is flanked by built-in shelves. A guest room in the rear is whimsically decorated with 1960s posters. Overnight visitors can enjoy a side deck that faces south.

The staircase to the fourth level boasts open risers to an airy master suite. The stairwell features a skylight and glass windows line the walls. Light floods into the bedroom, painted a soft blue-gray.

A 12-by-15-foot deck at the rear of the fourth level offers space for a bar and grill. Wooden steps lead to the large rooftop deck, where patio furniture is surrounded by plants and ornamental grasses.

Joy McPeters loves the deck, as well as relaxing with her good friends over cocktails and a superb view. "These two are the ultimate entertainers," she said.

The house is geared to entertaining, Runnebaum concedes, especially the dual decks and a view he couldn't get out of his mind the entire time he was showing it to prospective buyers.

"Over the years, we've found a lot of dream houses for clients, but this house found us," he said with a laugh.

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