A colorful Victorian

Dream Home

The artistic Smiths didn't restore so much as paint their 19th century Hampden home

Real Estate

February 02, 2007|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Twelve houses, all in a row, in the 3200 block of Chestnut Ave. in Hampden are testimony to the neighborhood's industrial past. Built in the mid-19th century for supervisors working at nearby Mount Vernon Mills, each is crowned with a mansard roof, causing the block to be named "French-roof row." Some remain in their original Victorian condition.

Anthea Smith and her husband purchased one of the unique 12 in 1988, calling it "the brown house" in dubious honor of the dark, chopped-up interior, dropped ceilings and tatty brown shag carpeting throughout.

"It was senseless for us to take [our] house back to its original condition," she said.

The Smiths paid $77,000 for the house and in return got 2,700 square feet of living space inside structurally sound walls. They spent another $30,000 to remove the dropped ceilings, upgrade the electricity, outfit the kitchen with new appliances, and paint - everywhere and everything.

"We've made extensive use of the paint mistake bins at Lowe's and Home Depot," laughed the 60-year-old artist and writer.

Along with her husband, Bert Smith, 63, an instructor of graphic design at the University of Baltimore, she repainted the home's interior, including the hardwood floors under the discarded shag.

"Color makes you feel so good," she said. "People are surprised when they come in and were expecting something dreary."

The couple used their artistic talents to brighten their living space while saving much that was original, such as interior doors and molding.

Pastel colors on walls and floors were chosen for a beach cottage feel reminiscent of a house they inhabited on Martha's Vineyard. Touches of American Southwest decor and color accompany many of Anthea Smith's whimsical paintings.

The dining and kitchen area is at the rear of the 17-foot-wide by 60-foot-long first level. Beyond the back door, a high wooden fence encloses a garden with a flowering crab-apple tree and two crape myrtles.

The galley kitchen features maple cabinets with colorful pieces of Fiestaware tucked neatly into shelving and atop a brick hearth. Anthea Smith's paintings, both oil and pastel, grace the walls here, as they do throughout the house.

Two in particular catch the eye - a still life in bold primary colors of a teapot and cup resting on a table and a pastel of the Martha's Vineyard cottage at sunset.

The living room floor is painted cream while the soft pastel shades on the walls include aqua and light peach.

Bert Smith put his carpentry skills to use in designing and building floor-to-ceiling bookcases on either side of the room's fireplace.

The home's second level has the master bedroom at one end and Bert Smith's office at the other. In the hall is a display of paint-by-the-numbers pictures that the couple has collected over the years. Clipper ships and lighthouses on craggy shorelines are the predominant subject matter. Framed Georgia O'Keeffe flower prints jump off the walls in the master bedroom.

A narrow staircase leads to the third level, shorter in length than the two below it, but comfortably housing a guest room, one of three full baths, and Anthea Smith's studio, with its distinctive linoleum floor. Characteristic of the first few decades of the 20th century, the linoleum was meant to mimic a rug of bright floral design.

Bert and Anthea Smith are quick to point out that while the house is not necessarily filled with precious treasures, it is a statement of their combined personalities, right down to the collection of books tucked into shelves and resting on tables, trunks and bureaus.

"This house has worked out very nicely for us," said Anthea Smith.

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 real.estate@baltsun.com.

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