Seeking, finding oldtime charm

Canton rowhouse is work in progress

Dream Home

August 23, 2008|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to the Sun

North of Boston Street in the Baltimore neighborhood of Canton, two-story rowhouses line the streets like cereal boxes on a shelf. The alleys behind each neat row are whistle-clean testaments to pride of ownership. Marble front steps and painted window screens set against Formstone siding define the area with the flavor of a bygone Baltimore.

It was here in the long shadows of the iconic "Natty Boh" sign and the modern 1st Mariner Bank building that Jennie Taylor wanted to be.

Having lived for a time in Charleston, S.C., and most recently in a Federal Hill townhouse, Taylor, a 25-year-old medical sales representative for Covidien Health Care, didn't see herself living in the suburbs. And while she looked at contemporary homes, it was the aged hardwood flooring, solid molding and tin ceilings of the older Baltimore rowhouses that appealed to her.

After a six-month search, Taylor found her place - a 1909 Canton rowhouse, restored to its original brick facade. It had many updates, including casement windows and a finished basement, but it still retained the old Baltimore charm. It even had a tin ceiling in the kitchen.

In July 2006, Taylor paid $306,000 for the property, which features almost 2,300 square feet of living space on three levels and interior dimensions measuring 12 feet wide by 63 feet deep.

She recalls initially making only minimal repairs to the well-maintained house. But the interior paint dismayed her. "I walked into a house that had the worst colors I have ever seen," she remembers. "The walls [were] olive-green and red; a bedroom was painted chocolate-brown."

Taylor got to work with primer and paint - a velvety cream color labeled "Oriental Silk" - and proceeded to soften the hard look of the interior walls. Soon after completing the project, she began renovating a master bathroom on the second level. She estimates she spent $4,000-$5,000 on cosmetic updates.

The cozy brick home, situated in the middle of the block, faces north. While the first-floor interior is relatively open, a pair of arches, one between the living room and dining room and the other separating dining and kitchen area, define the space.

Taylor has an affinity for neutral tones and textural variety. In her living room, Oriental silk curtains in beige and brown stripes rustle in the breeze coming from the open front windows. A beige, tuxedo-style sofa, covered in a microfiber fabric, rests against the west wall, which has been decorated with tin art.

The entire east wall, from front door to back door, has been stripped of its plaster down to the brick.

Taylor points to an Indian teakwood cabinet in the dining room that she bought at an antiques market. "I'm picky when it comes to furniture," she says. "I buy piece by piece because I do not want [the house] to look like a showroom."

Taylor's large kitchen opens onto a 12-foot-by-15-foot raised deck. The view from here is of the majestic brick-and-glass First Mariner Bank building against the harbor backdrop.

The kitchen is large and sunlit and boasts oak cabinets, an oak center island and a white tin ceiling in a floral block pattern with center medallion.

"I love to cook, and my next big project will be to update [the kitchen] with granite countertops," Taylor says.

The finished basement is used for storage and contains a utility room and bathroom.

A carved, spindled oak staircase leads from the living room to the second floor, which is open and breezy, in part because of a bathroom skylight, but also owing to Taylor's keen use of light shades of wall paint and light-colored bed linens and curtains.

The small back bedroom, for example, has been painted a soft cream. Taylor uses it as a home office, and the wrought-iron day bed in it also serves as a sofa. The front bedroom showcases another wrought-iron bed and has white cotton curtains that billow from the open windows all the way to the textured white bed linens.

Taylor's new marble bath is still in the construction process.

"I love that this house is an ongoing work in progress," she says. "I have a lot of patience."

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