Fourteen months, ago Suzan Garabedian moved into her home on Montgomery Street, south of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. It is her fourth Federal Hill house, after one rental and two previous purchases. But for her, this two-story, circa 1825 brick semidetached is distinctive - and it's the keeper.
Garabedian, 58, is employed as a senior human resources manager for Sun Trust Bank. Several years ago the company transferred her from Richmond, Va. - her hometown - to Baltimore.
"I knew I wanted to live in the city," she said.
Still, feeling the need to be absolutely sure, she rented a place by Riverside Park.
Over the years, Sun Trust Bank would send her back to Richmond, followed by a promotion and a relocation to Baltimore. Rather than renting again, she jumped at the opportunity to own a home in Federal Hill.
"My first two houses were very small," Garabedian remembered. "When this one came on the market, I grabbed it."
The house came with a $450,000 price tag on what many consider to be one of the widest streets in Federal Hill. Structurally sound and filled with embellishments such as dentil ceiling molding and three carved fireplace mantels, Garabedian noted that the house needed only "a bit of care." To date, she has spent $50,000 on replacement windows, paint and landscaping in a narrow front garden and on a large brick backyard patio.
Like the majority of Baltimore rowhouses, the depth of Garabedian's home is four times its width, measuring 15 feet wide by 60 feet long. Eleven-foot ceilings and an unobstructed layout from the front to the rear open up the home, while seven windows and two doors on the east wall provide abundant light.
The home's double-door entrance faces north and opens to a hall whose west wall displays a museum-size painting on two wood panels. Executed by artist Bill Fisher, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, the piece features a neutral, oil-painted background to which carvings of scribbles and squiggles produce a graffiti-like effect. The hallway ends at a carved and winding staircase to the second level.
East of the entrance, Garabedian's living room, like the rest of the house, reflects her love of art, color and eclectic furniture groupings. This room is painted a warm butter yellow and contrasts with white painted floor and ceiling molding, deep window sills and white shutters. The room includes contemporary furniture and a woven zebra-striped carpet. There also is a deep red satin striped, tone-on-tone ottoman with colored ceramic legs and a glass top that serves as a coffee or reception table.
To the south of the living room is the dining room. Here, a base paint called blueberry has been treated to a rub of black oil for a navy suede look. The room includes white dentil ceiling molding and chair rails, as well as a white carved fireplace mantel on the west wall. In the center of the room, an oak dining table is bathed in a polyurethane finish. A carved oak buffet table with a marble top rests against the south wall. Garabedian, who often buys flowers at the nearby Cross Street Market, has placed a dozen yellow roses in a vase atop the buffet.
Garabedian's kitchen and lounge area at the rear of the house are splashed with the bright pastel shade of melon. The kitchen features light, marble flooring, porcelain-tiled countertops and backsplashes, along with light walnut cabinetry. An island sink boasts walnut wainscoting.
"Every time a house turns over, the new owners seem to bring it to another level," Garabedian said of the kitchen and its European look. Other than painting, she did little to this area. White appliances enhance the dM-icor, while framed silkscreen pieces add splashes of color.
A brick floor defines a lounge area that leads to the all-brick patio beyond three floor-to-ceiling glass panels, two of which are doors. The lounge features furniture designed by David Edward. A chair and love seat boast bent cherry wood frames and club-like cushions of beige microfiber. Atop the cushions, an assortment of hand-made pillows adds another layer of color and texture. The pillows have been fashioned from theatrical costume pieces worn in Center Stage productions. Garabedian, a member of Center Stage's board of trustees, notes that the pillows are sold at fundraising events.
The home's second level is just as colorful as the first floor. A front guestroom is painted in the same textured effect as the dining room, this time with black oil rubbed onto a rich grape tone. An iron sleigh bed is adorned with satin bed coverings of lime green.
Garabedian's bedroom suite in the rear of the home includes copper-colored walls and a coordinating headboard of genuine copper pieces, which are woven in a basket weave design. She has covered the bed with an iridescent spread of periwinkle and copper stripes. A tall oak hall mirror rests against the north wall, catching the light from the windows' southern exposure.
While there are projects to be tackled, Garabedian has not given herself a time schedule for their completion, preferring instead to enjoy the neighborhood, newfound friendships and especially her home.
"I fit into this house," she said. "I like making my contribution to the next stage of its life."