New home, new life

Dream Home

After buying the rowhouse, he lost job, but it was blessing

Real Estate

November 24, 2006|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Richard Pelletier always wanted to be a professional writer. The dream eluded him until he and his wife, Linda Massey, bought an Italianate house on Hollins Street in Southwest Baltimore.

Right after the purchase in July 2001 - and at the beginning of extensive renovation - Pelletier lost his job as his employer, Eastman Kodak Co., downsized.

"I was plenty scared," he recalled, "but walking the neighborhood and enjoying its history and architecture, I realized if ever there was a story handed to you, here it was. And I began to write."

This little shove prompted him to learn about the world of commercial freelance writing, and today he does just that, as a marketing writer. Now he works primarily from the bright, second-floor office of his dream home while pursuing his dream career.

The three-story red brick rowhouse cost the couple $57,000, a price they say was worth it just for the view of Union Square outside their front door.

"It sat empty for two years," said Massey, an account representative for a corrugated box company. "But it spoke to me as soon as we walked in the front door."

They bought the 1886 house from a 96-year-old woman who had lived there for more than 45 years and had taken good care of it. Structurally, there were no problems.

"It was livable, but frozen in time," Pelletier said. "Like '50s, '60s and '70s. There was blue shag carpeting, wallpaper over texture painted ceilings and fake walnut paneling throughout."

The couple removed a great deal of the interior while saving the four plaster walls. Over the past five years, they've spent about $100,000 redoing the kitchen, replacing heating and plumbing, adding air conditioning, a second-floor laundry room and all new windows on the third floor.

Six marble steps lead from the sidewalk to the entrance. Once through the vestibule and interior door, the eye travels 85 feet to the rear kitchen door. The backyard extends another 80 feet to a back alley.

Eleven-foot ceilings with plaster medallions and brass chandeliers add a feeling of spaciousness. With a southern exposure, light pours into the living room through two windows that stretch almost floor to ceiling. A large overstuffed sofa of white duck cloth sits in front of the windows, which have white cotton curtains.

The house narrows from 17 to 13 feet to accommodate an outside walkway, permitting the dining room's side window. The soft tangerine walls contrast with a large sideboard painted a muted green, presenting a distressed look. The 6-foot mahogany table is placed sideways. An oriental carpet in shades of deep blue, green, and red sits atop the original wide-planked, variegated pine flooring.

The kitchen, with an exposed brick wall, conveys warmth. A large two-piece cabinet, which the couple found in a nearby house and painted white, holds pottery and cookbooks.

The Italianate style of the home is most evident in the carved spindles of the front staircase and the rounded corners of the second- and third-floor walls. Here, on both floors, doors are crowned with glass transoms. Two large bathrooms contain claw-foot tubs.

Office, family room, and full bath make up the second story, while master bedroom and bath are on the third level.

Pelletier and Massey are thrilled with city living, finding the neighborhood closeness a far cry from their previous life in a Rockville condominium, where they spoke to their neighbors for the first time on the day they moved out. "It's soulful here," she said. "And welcoming."

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Write to Dream Home, Real Estate Editor, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or e-mail us at

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