In living color


dream home

Artist Robert McClintock and his wife turned their rowhouse into one of the 'painted ladies' of Charles Village

November 29, 2008|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Baltimore Sun

In the city neighborhood of Charles Village, dark-brick Victorian rowhouses are embellished with leaded- and stained-glass windows and fancy wood pediments. Wrought-iron fences enclose some front gardens, while others are defined by flowers and hedges. Many of these houses feature second-story turrets; many more welcome guests on front porches with rails, columns and trim of multicolored and intricately painted details.

The houses are inhabited by a diverse group of people, all keen on displaying creativity and pride of ownership.

Among these is Vermont native-turned-local artist Robert McClintock and his wife, Sue, who were drawn to urban living and an irresistible 2,700-square-foot home that sits at the end of a row.

In 1999, a few years after McClintock sold his commercial photography business up north and moved to Baltimore, he bought the house, which was built in the 1890s. The McClintocks paid $65,000 for the home, which was in fairly good condition and included three second-floor bedrooms and a full basement, where McClintock now stores his canvases.

"This house is the plain Jane in our neighborhood," said Sue McClintock, a therapist in private practice. "The houses across the street have much more detail."

Still, they both conceded the house was well built. Not overly fancy, the house had strong appointments that included an oak staircase in the center of the first floor, original tin ceilings in the living and dining rooms, and durable heart of pine flooring and molding.

While money was tight in the beginning, the couple did make changes to the interior, such as opening the dining room to the kitchen, taking care not to compromise the architectural elements of the period.

Robert McClintock did most of the work himself, repairing the roof and installing cabinetry; they also spent about $1,000 to have the floors sanded. His wife took charge of the painting, selecting warm colors of beige, soft terra cotta and rich yellow for the interior. For the columns, rails and trim on the decorated front porch, the names of her colors are as interesting as their shades - summer squash yellow, pumpkin orange, radicchio purple and celery green.

The colorful porches of the neighborhood reflect a group project several years ago to emulate the large, Victorian "Painted Ladies" on the hilly streets of downtown San Francisco, Sue McClintock says.

City living has agreed with the couple.

"I realized at some point that the locals loved Baltimore," Robert McClintock said. "So I began doing pictures of the familiar scenes."

His pieces combine photography and digital painting by hand, the canvas print bearing acrylic embellishment. Today they can be found gracing the walls of houses all over town. Many of these works have been reproduced on holiday and greeting cards and have become a favorite of locals with a real love of (and fierce bond with) landscapes of Baltimore's neighborhoods and its iconic landmarks.

With the help of his wife, he runs the Robert McClintock Gallery in Fells Point. But surprisingly, the McClintock house showcases very little of his work.

"Our house is full of things belonging to people that we love," Sue McClintock said, pointing out a handmade wrought-iron and glass dining table that once belonged to her aunt and a grand piano given to her husband by his father.

"Our furniture is very eclectic and most of the art is from people we know," she continued.

Indeed, their love of sculpture busts, Buddhas, cats and angels is evident in the many works placed on furniture pieces in a variety of styles. Above the glow of warm, tabletop lamps, hung pieces include a large Picasso print called The Joy of Life, Salvador Dali's bronze death mask and self-portrait, and a pastel called Vermont Cornfield.

The living room's plushy club furniture is an invitation to relax in front of a custom Craftsman cabinet housing a 42-inch Sony TV.

"We were really lucky to get this house," Robert McClintock said.

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making the house their own

* Careful renovating. Before knocking out the wall enclosing the dining room from a staircase, Robert McClintock considered the height of the ceilings, plaster walls and the placement of a staircase landing window that, once the wall was down, would throw natural daylight into the newly opened area.

* Reusing scrap items. The couple used a mahogany door as a headboard for their king bed and a metal grill unit, once a store display rack, for hanging pots and pans.

* Adding warmth and contrast through color. Sue McClintock used warm tone colors in each room to minimize the height of the ceiling without closing in the spaces. All of the trim work, including the fireplace mantel, is painted white for interest and contrast.

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