Dream home: Rising from the ashes

Couple renovates Bolton Hill townhouse after devastating fire

May 23, 2010|By Marie Marciano Gullard, Special to The Baltimore Sun

In the spring of 2007, a tremendous fire roared through the Bolton Hill property of Greg and Darma Kamenetz. Divided into apartments at the time, their stately, three-story townhouse was home to students of the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art, who were able to escape without injury.

Rushing back to Baltimore from their home in Park City, Utah, the couple assessed the damage and then placed the property on the market. Then, realizing how much they loved Baltimore — Greg Kamenetz, founder and owner of American Management Company, was born and raised nearby — they withdrew the house from the market, opting to fix it up for themselves.

The interior would need to be completely gutted, and a house that cost $300,000 in 2004 would now require an additional $400,000 and more than 18 months to restore. This time, though, the focus would be a single- family dream home for the couple.

Working from the bottom up, Greg Kamenetz and his wife, a retired attorney, designed the home to their tastes, finishing the renovation in November 2009. They chose walnut for the floors and staircase, and installed several bay windows: in the kitchen at the rear of the home, on the second floor in the master bathroom (where a detached porcelain tub sits) and in the beautifully elegant first-floor dining room.

All of the interior walls are constructed with rounded-off corners for a soft look. Travertine tiles have been used in the kitchen area and ceramic oyster-shell tiles are in the floors of the powder room and the front entrance.

A formal living room on the first floor showcases a pair of sofas upholstered in shades of gold and facing each other as they sit perpendicular to a carved white marble fireplace and mantel. A large, floral still-life oil painting — a family heirloom — hangs above the mantel. Walls painted a deep shade of mauve provide striking contrast to the furniture and to the molding, as well as to pocket doors that open onto the formal dining room.

The dining room's traditional suite of furniture, a family heirloom made in Germany, holds particular meaning for Darma Kamenetz and is in remarkably fine condition. A made-to-order suite, with the wood in sleek, deco design pieces fashioned of pecan and inlaid walnut, gleams against an interior wall of brick.

A gallery of family photographs lines one side of the second-floor hallway; the other side boasts floor-to-ceiling bookcases. A master suite forms the rear of the second level, while a family room, with leather furniture and a flat screen-TV mounted over a brick fireplace, fills the front.

The home's third floor opens to Greg Kamenetz's home office, dominated by a neon pharmacist's sign that hung in his father's store window for years. His wife's office is at the rear, and an additional bedroom and bath at the front complete the level.

In their new dream home, the couple have found comfort and contentment, not only in their renovated property but also in the home's placement within the larger scheme of city life.

"The nooks and crannies in our house are a great analogy for the quirky nooks all over the city," Greg Kamenetz said.

Making the dream

Dream element: The townhouse is located in Bolton Hill in Baltimore. The tranquil, tree-lined neighborhood is filled with restored three- and four-story homes from the middle to late 19th century, as well as churches, buildings and fountains from the period. Lovely views of the city's art district and downtown skyline can be had from the second and third floors of the couple's end-of-group home.

Design inspiration: An eclectic mix of furniture, many pieces of which have been inherited, fills the home. "These houses are structurally sound, possibly [made] to last for a thousand years," Greg Kamenetz said. "So we wanted strong [appointments], stone and marble and wrought iron." There is a distinct contrast in materials, including shelves of sterling silver heirlooms set against a brick wall. Kitchen countertops of Brazilian granite rest on cabinets of alder for a look that's "very Western," according to Darma Kamenetz.

Personal touch: The Kamenetzs have filled their home with memorabilia from their combined families' colorful history. Still-life oils belonging to Darma Kamenetz's parents, who fled Nazi Germany for a life in the U.S., hang throughout the home in their original carved wooden frames. Additional oil paintings by Greg Kamenetz's father, who worked as a pharmacist in Baltimore, also adorn the walls.

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