Solace In The City


Couple Takes On The Challenge Of Renovating A Baltimore Rowhouse And Finds A Calm Oasis In The Midst Of Urban Bustle

July 05, 2009|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Peering into the front window of their future home, all that AMY Grace and Karen Blood could see was a center spiral staircase. They were hooked.

The couple's friends thought they were crazy to leave their lush, suburban environs north of the city for a building that was broken up into office space and needed a total rehab. But the two women wanted both the Federal Hill neighborhood and the challenge of renovation.

They purchased the 16-foot-wide by 70-foot-deep two-story rowhouse on a 120-foot deep lot for $72,000. The year was 1996 and since then, their dream has been what they call a "progression."

The need for natural light filtering into the house was paramount for the women. Luckily, the dwelling was constructed with an adjoining, narrow walkway spanning the depth of the structure, from the street to the backyard. This allowed for abundant interior light via widows along its south side.

After tearing down the interior walls that once made up individual offices, the couple decided to make the dining room and kitchen one large, open area. Walls here are a painted bright yellow with sage colored trim work around the windows.

Beyond the dining room and completely renovated kitchen, a family room features upholstered wicker furniture placed against deep aqua colored walls with cream colored trim. Sliders open to the reincarnation of a once concrete yard that now bears the hallmark of an urban garden sanctuary.

Grace explains the transformation.

"The concrete slab now has two levels -- one for dining and one with room for parking or big parties," she said. "There are two [fountains] with quiet, tinkling water sounds that keep away distracting city sounds. There are three cherry trees, a large pear tree and a magnolia tree that is pruned to an espalier over a brick wall. A local artist has painted flower decorations at several sites to decorate the stucco walls. At night, the entire garden is lit with accent lights and lots of candles."

Back indoors, the living room exudes its own calm in walls painted a light gray, an ideal backdrop for colorful pieces of artwork and splashes of freshly cut flowers.

The home's relatively open second level includes a large office with a partner's desk (Grace and Blood run a consulting practice at home) and a second level deck with Jacuzzi off of the master bedroom.

As the current president of Federal Hill Main Street, Grace believes strongly in community activism to improve the neighborhood she so enjoys being part of. Of her home, she registers a more contemplative pride.

"This [is] truly my dream home because Karen and I created it together just for us [and] from all the experiences of our lives," she said. "It reflects us and nourishes us and brings us happiness every day."

Making a dream home

Dream element:: AMY Grace and Karen Blood's Federal-style, brick row house is located on busy South Charles Street, in the midst of city activity. From their home, they can walk to restaurants, boutiques, specialty shops and the historic Cross Street Market.

Design inspiration:: The house dates to the 1890s, but the couple has chosen an eclectic style decor, punctuated by rich cherry wood furniture and an abundance of bright artwork collected locally and brought back from trips. Other strong interior appointments include black Mexican pillow tile used as a kitchen counter backsplash and slate tiles arranged in a diamond pattern on the sides of the open kitchen's island.

Surprise feature:: With very little space wasted in the home, as evidenced by built-in closet areas and bookcase, the couple has fashioned the space under the basement staircase into a wine cellar accessed by a wooden and glass door.

Personal touch:: The women have turned their basement into a bright and cheerful playroom for visits from their four grandchildren and eleven nieces and nephews. The walls are painted yellow with a colorful geometric rug atop cork board flooring. Multiple shelving units store toys, games and stuffed animals. A 52-inch screen TV with surround sound also entertains the whole family.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.