Built in English way

Dream Home

Hamilton Street house's second-floor salons, furnishings kept up in 19th-century style

February 09, 2007|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Hamilton Street is a narrow lane wedged between Charles and Cathedral streets in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood. Unless there is a specific reason for visiting, the casual visitor or hurried commuter would, most likely, pass it by. The houses along the street date to 1815, and a lucky few call them "home."

Richard Taylor, a 67-year-old interior designer, is one of them.

"I came to [Baltimore] in 1963," he said. "I remember thinking `I love these little homes.'"

In 1977, he snapped one up for $89,000.

Unlike many of the restored, Federal period homes in Mount Vernon, Taylor's house had never been broken into apartments. Built by Robert Long, a contemporary of Benjamin Latrobe (who designed the Basilica of the Assumption just a few blocks away), the house is a contemporary of the Washington Monument, the crown jewel of the neighborhood.

"This is a Federal house," Taylor pointed out, "with Roman windows on the second and third floors."

Like the Palladian windows so popular in Georgian architecture, Roman windows have three sections - a larger center section flanked by two smaller sections, all multipaned - but no arch. Shutters contribute to the 19th-century look.

In true English fashion, the first story - at street level - does not boast the high ceilings of the second and third floors. In part, the design reflected the customs of the times, when visitors would be announced and asked to wait in a reception room before climbing the winding staircase to the second-floor salons.

The entrance hall is spectacular in its width of almost 8 feet. The original wood flooring has been painted in a diamond pattern with colors of light and dark beige and black, all faux marbleized for a stunning effect.

Taylor hired a painter who specializes in fancy faux looks. That, he said, represents just a small part of the approximately $300,000 he has put into the house over his 30 years in residence. Other upgrades include two completely renovated bathrooms, new lighting, refinished floors, new kitchen appliances, new windows and backyard landscaping.

With all the improvements, Taylor has respected the period architectural touches throughout the home and has embellished the rooms with authentic period pieces.

The dining room, just off the hallway, is furnished with a Hepplewhite mahogany dining table and matching chairs. An Early American cherry armoire stores linens, while across the room a Georgian mahogany sideboard serves as a buffet. The beige walls, trimmed in burgundy, are adorned with a collection of emerald green Majolica plates; several are displayed on the room's fireplace mantel, as well.

Taylor's open kitchen and sitting room make up the rear of the 46-foot-deep home. Here a large hearth flanked by built-in cupboards, original to the home, set a period tone.

Wicker baskets hang from a beamed wood ceiling and overstuffed furniture rests on a bright Turkish rug. While the galley kitchen area features state-of-the-art, stainless appliances, the room's soft lighting glows onto copper pots hanging over a tiled counter.

The two salons, or formal living rooms, on the second level are a gracious testament to 19th-century, upper-class decor. Attention to detail is found in every corner of the rooms by way of fabric choices and accessories. Separated by a center hall, each room has a distinct personality.

The walls of the east room have been faux textured in soft red. The furniture is opulent in its upholstery, especially a pair of Louis XV-style Venetian occasional chairs, covered in a cotton fabric displaying parrots and monkeys.

The room's marble fireplace is topped with a mirror framed in abalone, horn and mother of pearl mosaic. Purchased in Marrakesh, the "Red City" of Morocco, the mirror's placement over the mantel offers a reflection of the room's treasures. These include several framed vintage posters by Jules Cheret and Alphonse Mucha.

The west sitting room is more English in feel and flavor, furnished with a large oak armoire, cherry writing desk and furniture covered in a red toile fabric.

The third level consists of two large bedrooms currently being redecorated.

In a location convenient to the activities he enjoys, Taylor has no intention of leaving the street he fell in love with in 1963.

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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