Just a perfect fit

World traveler, his collectibles find a home on Tyson Street

April 11, 2008|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Taylor Hubbard's interesting background called for an equally interesting and unique place to call home.

The son of American diplomats, he grew up in several parts of the world and spent a long time in the Philippines, where his father served as ambassador. Hubbard's collection of Asian furniture, arts and artifacts would travel with him from a Washington rental property to his first home in Baltimore.

In February 2007, Hubbard, a freelance writer and editor, purchased a quaint, circa 1790 two-story brick rowhouse with a third-floor garret on Tyson Street in the city's Mount Vernon neighborhood. He paid $222,500 for the property that he says was in fairly good condition. He spent an additional $5,000 on paint and landscaping for his 10-foot-deep, enclosed backyard.

His little house - "don't call it cute," he says - is 13 feet wide by 55 feet long and sits among other, similar structures that appear to be out of a scene from a Dickens novel. A whitewashed brick exterior, flower boxes and worn wooden steps lead to a bright red front door.

Many of the home's interior details have remained intact over the years. The wood ceiling beams are exposed in the living room, with two exposed brick walls juxtaposed with two painted a warm yellow. A fireplace serves as a television cabinet. Pine floorboards of random widths shine with the patina of age.

Hubbard has decorated the room in eclectic fashion. A traditional sofa, with slipcovers in a Ralph Lauren floral design, share space with a pair of Danish modern side chairs placed in front of the lone window. In place of curtains, Hubbard has hung two framed Japanese glass paintings, reminiscent, he says, of Baltimore's painted screens. A wooden shelf unit in the room serves as a display case for wooden sculptures and figurines collected in the Philippines.

An open, plain staircase - minus banister - separates the living room from the back of the house, where the dining room and kitchen are adjoining.

In the dining room, a magnificent, contemporary walnut table takes center stage in a room whose walls are treated to several landscapes painted on cardboard by Hubbard's great-grandmother. Wooden masks from Nepal are interspersed among the artwork.

"Everything I own seems to fit nicely in the house," Hubbard said, pointing out an oak hope chest from the Philippines on which the country's native wicker baskets are showcased.

A plastic lamp, petal shaped and creamy white, is affixed to the ceiling over the table.

Hubbard's kitchen is sleek and functional. White laminate cupboards and gray laminate countertops cradling a stainless sink coordinate flawlessly with the room's slate flooring. Hubbard said that he is forever in the debt of the previous owners, both architects, for the renovation job they did in the 1990s. Large sliders on the rear exterior wall open onto a tiny walled garden, where Hubbard has cultivated crocuses, daffodils, lavender, monkey grass and herbs.

"In the 1940s, there were no fences between the gardens," he said. "It was really a communal place."

The home's second story features a master bedroom filled with colorful, framed posters from the West Indies and several framed Ansel Adams photographs. A table lamp with a Chinese abacus base sits on a walnut end table.

The room is painted a deep forest green, a delightful contrast to the blond, birch wood of the furniture suite. The rear portion of the second level serves as Hubbard's office.

"This is absolutely one of my very favorite rooms up here," Hubbard said, climbing a narrow staircase to the third-floor garret over the home's original lone front room on each level.

Here, under a sloping ceiling, the walls are painted white. A dormer window with a deep sill faces the street; plants on the sill enjoy the southern exposure. A colorful marionette from Burma hangs on the wall, delightfully visible from a small bed placed in an opposite corner. The garret's back window overlooks a large magnolia tree beginning to bloom in the garden below.

"I'm like a monkey in this house," Hubbard said of what he sees as a perfect fit for him and his treasures. "It's been a horrible year trying to find work, but this house has grounded me."

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