Dream home: Restoring a tradition

Bolton Hill couple revives 1870 rowhouse using historic colors, furnishings

March 14, 2010|By Marie Gullard | Special to The Baltimore Sun

When Gene and Karen Bartell moved from St. Louis to Baltimore in the summer of 2008, it was a homecoming for the two who had lived and raised a family in Towson and Mount Washington. After spending 12 years in the Midwest, the couple returned for the Rev. Gene Bartell's new job at a church in Baltimore's Mayfield neighborhood.

The couple, who enjoy all aspects of city life, happened upon a large Classical Revival rowhome for sale in Bolton Hill, one of the city's graceful historic neighborhoods. In December 2006, they purchased the 3,300-square-foot home that, aside from a new kitchen boasting pecan cabinets and granite counters and oak flooring throughout the first level, was little more than a shell, save for classic, multi-tiered ceiling molding in all of the rooms.

"We just picked up [restoration] where the prior owners left off," said Karen Bartell, a former elementary school teacher.

And while all of the millwork and plaster ceiling medallions were intact in the circa 1870 home, the couple had to replace a great deal of the plumbing, install a new heating system and purchase 28 new windows. The couple's grown daughter, Stacey, who now lives in the third-floor apartment, supervised much of the work while the Bartells settled up in St. Louis. They officially moved into what they call "the 90 percent finished" home in the summer of 2008.

The exteriors of Bolton Hill rowhomes, which look larger at street level compared to others in the city, are exactly that. Most are wide at 22 feet and are most certainly deep; the Bartells' is 90 feet long from the front to the rear. Many have a colorful history. The Bartells discovered that artist Stanislaw Remski was a former owner of their home.

Gene and Karen Bartell also possess an artist's eye for both color and furnishings.

The walls of each room have been carefully color coordinated using the historic line of Budeke paints. In each room, pastels and bolder shades mesh artfully — even the 12-foot-high ceilings have been given subtle hues. For example, the elegantly formal living room has been painted Wedgewood blue, with a lighter value of that color on the ceiling. The same holds true in the formal dining room where two shades of peach provide the backdrop to a room furnished in reproduction Queen Anne cherry wood pieces.

Of the six fireplaces in the home, only the newer gas fireplace in the family room works, providing both heat and soft lighting to a room furnished in traditional, overstuffed pieces. Large mirrors hang above the marble mantles in the living and dining rooms.

An interesting wall treatment is found in the first floor hallway where double pocket doors hang on the northeast wall at eye level (as one would view a painting) and are treated in off-white paint to open up the area and provide reflected light. An old pine trunk belonging to Karen Bartell's great-grandfather (and used when he carried his possessions from Sweden to America), sits on the hall floor, its age about the same as the house.

A winding oak staircase, its spindles painted white, lead to the second floor, where the Bartells have converted one bedroom into a cozy den painted a dark shade of terra cotta. The other back room is a guest room complete with its own bathroom. The master suite is located in the front of the home. Furniture here is cherry wood and fabrics used are deep, rich and floral. The walls are painted a rich shade of peach. A chandelier, its lights covered in silk shades, hangs from an intricately carved ceiling medallion.

Standing at the foot of the stairway leading to the third-floor apartment, Karen Bartell shares her desire to stay in the elegant home as long as possible.

"We're saving up for an elevator," she said.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it at homes@baltsun.com.

Making a dream home

Dream element: Gene and Karen Bartell paid $510,000 for their large rowhouse in Baltimore's Bolton Hill. Their three-story brick Classic Revival home, circa 1870, is flanked on both sides and across the street by similar residences. Different shades of brick, many painted, a variety of front door styles and colors and trees add interest and elegance to the historic neighborhood.

Design inspiration: While Karen Bartell refers to her furnishings as eclectic, there is an obvious bent toward Revival-style pieces, most of them prominently placed in the large living room that includes two settees and side chairs. A black baby grand piano sits in front of a pair of tall windows. Both here and in the dining room, which is decorated in Queen Anne style, she has added her own mark in handmade draperies, the stunning swags fashioned from silk floral printed material she purchased in Uganda, where the couple's son and his family reside.

Personal touch: Framed family photos and travel pictures are prominently and separately grouped on a long, interior southwest wall between the kitchen and family room. The travel photos chronicle the couple's many European visits, highlighting their love of secular and religious architecture and include the Eiffel Tower, St. Peter's in Rome, the Tower of Pisa, monasteries in Portugal and Stonehenge.

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