Open-space rowhouse


The narrow but long Loubert townhouse is broadened by African and Peruvian art

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

When Linda Loubert stood at the threshold of her new Southwest Baltimore house, she was overwhelmed by the long, open layout.

Just 11 feet wide, it stretched 70 feet - longer than a bowling alley.

"It boggled my mind how I would ever live here and decorate in an entirely open space," she said.

A Ph.D. and employee of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, she and her retired husband, Charles Loubert, moved into the three-story brick townhouse in July. Three adjacent structures were built from the ground up on lots purchased from the city by developers Peter and Karin Krchnak. Linda Loubert calls the neighborhood Pigtown, though the official appellation given the specific area is New Southwest Mount Clare.

"I found the Krchnaks online and saw a sketch of these houses," Linda Loubert remembered. "Within three weeks we had bought one."

The couple, who still own a home they rent out in Ann Arbor, Mich., moved to Baltimore four years ago when she began working at the institute. Until July, they rented in the city's northwest section.

The Louberts bought the house for $194,000. The three-story townhouse contains 2 1/2 baths and four bedrooms, two of which have been converted into offices. There is no basement, but plenty of storage in numerous closets. (The water heater is tucked behind an angled door under the staircase to the second level.)

Clear, unobstructed sight lines from the slate-tiled entrance to the multipaned French doors at the rear of the home initially posed a daunting decorating challenge. But after some careful thought, Linda Loubert cleverly arranged her furniture to define four distinct areas in the trailer-like first floor.

Walls of the first floor are painted a soft yellow and serve as a warm backdrop for furniture predominantly of oak, cherry and mahogany. A collection of African and Peruvian textiles, along with framed artwork and dark wood masks from Kenya and Ghana, add a museum flavor to each area.

The kitchen features cabinets of walnut veneer and light brown granite counters. Designed in an L-shape, the sink portion juts out from the wall to separate the kitchen from the dining area.

A 3-foot-high teak spoon and matching fork from the Philippines hang on the walls flanking the French doors. These utensils, purchased long ago at an international crafts fair in Ohio, have followed Linda Loubert to several homes.

Taking her cue from the directional placement of the kitchen counter, she defined the dining area by positioning her carved, cherry china closet perpendicular to the wall. There's a 5-foot-square oak dining room table with six matching, high-backed chairs. A framed pen-and-ink drawing of a Peruvian Indian, with hand over smiling mouth, hangs on the wall beside the table.

The back side of the china closet is draped in a magnificent African fabric called "mud cloth" on which chalice-like designs have been painted in brown and gold. This now forms a fabric-lined wall, or partition for the family room, which includes a carved mahogany rocking chair from North Carolina.

A tuxedo-style sofa in a tweedy tan fabric that faces the front window signals the living room area. Tables are covered in bright African printed fabric.

Oak stained stairs with wrought iron railings lead to the second and third floors of the home. The second level houses the master bedroom in the rear with a deck beyond French doors. Multiple doors along the hall open to a laundry room, linen closet and second bathroom. Charles Loubert's office is in the front of the second floor.

The third story features a guest room, a second full bath and Linda Loubert's office, which has a walk-out balcony overlooking rooftops and the Key Bridge in the distance.

The Louberts are aware that the neighborhood has a long way to go in terms of redevelopment, but they are confident their purchase is a good investment.

"Even though I call this the `blue-light special' district, it's very comfortable here," she said. "We like our neighbors, and it's a warm environment."

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