Dream Home: Malt House condo showcases couple's art collection

John Bingle and Bob Thompson's home has the feel of an art gallery, thanks to their many artworks

  • This is the stairway leading to the loft in the dream home of John Bingle and Bob Thompson, located in the Canal Street Malt House.
This is the stairway leading to the loft in the dream home of John… (Barbara Haddock Taylor,…)
May 17, 2011|By Marie Marciano Gullard, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Like so many skeletons of Baltimore's industrial past, the brick and steel bones of sturdy buildings — devoid of innards — are found all along the harbor. Or maybe it should be said they were found along the harbor, since more and more of these previous eyesores have been redeveloped into unique opportunities for city living.

Such is the case at the eastern end of the Inner Harbor, in Little Italy. The Canal Street Malt House, a large condominium complex, is so named as a nod to its previous existence, when, in 1866, it was filled with malt, a vital ingredient to the city's burgeoning brewing industry.

John Bingle, a 56-year old federal government retiree, and his partner, Bob Thompson, 64, employed at Constellation Energy, purchased one of the loft condos in the original 1866 building in December 2005. Moving from their row home in Canton — one that has been featured on the Canton Home & Garden Tour — the two paid $814,000 for their condo with loft, a 180-degree change from the narrow Colonial-style rowhouse they formerly occupied.

"You can call this [home] industrial modern with outside walls 2 feet thick and exposed interior walls of concrete," Bingle said of the 54-foot-by-54-foot-by-20-foot-high concrete box. "We have steel-reinforced beams, metal baseboards and a floor of polished concrete."

Tubular ductwork of exposed galvanized aluminum runs along the ceiling together with eight tracks of three lights each and a low-hanging steel fan. Narrow multi-paned windows, based on the original Malt House, climb from floor to ceiling. A state-of-the-art galley kitchen, its appliances standard with the unit, is tucked under a loft, along with laundry and pantry rooms and a guest powder room off of the foyer. Behind the kitchen, a hall leads to an enclosed guest bedroom and master bath suite with walk-in closet, as well as a large storage room, which the two use as a room for their multiple Chihuahuas. The loft, accessible by an open metal staircase, contains a large sitting room, master bedroom with bath and an office, in what Bingle calls "true New York style."

While the pair admit that this industrial-looking condo is hardly the ideal choice for many, they are completely at home and comfortable.

"We knew before we moved in where our art pieces would go," Bingle noted. "And we knew the direction we wanted to go in terms of furniture."

Most of the furnishings for the 3,278-square foot condo were bought for the space. The first level consists of two separate living areas separated by red leather sectional sofas and easy chairs and wenge-wood pieces, such as a Richard Judd-designed side chair and a coffee table designed by William Krieder using recycled bleacher seats from a baseball stadium in Scranton, Penn.

While its decor is delightful, and a fenced-in patio with a gurgling fountain enchanting, it's the showcasing of the many pieces of art that sets the house apart. Woodcut lithographs and oil paintings fill an entire east wall, while sculptures in bronze, steel and stone rest on tables and counters, giving the home the feel of a modern art gallery.

It is, in fact, the artwork, that completes the dream for Bingle.

"I have the best of everything," he said. "I have the visual space, and I'm always discovering new things in the art."

Right at home

Dream element: Given its Little Italy location, the home is within blocks of area restaurants (Amicci's is a favorite of the owners) and Inner Harbor attractions. Slightly farther, but certainly doable, are walks to Fells Point and Federal Hill. "I love the neighborhood," John Bingle said. "And gardening in the [building's] common area."

Exterior design: The building features red brick walls and monolithic windows of multi-paned glass, which in 21st-century Baltimore are a reflection of its industrial past. The original building comprises 13 residences, with 25 more in the adjoining addition. An interior courtyard connects the two buildings with a network of walkways, bridges and a glass-enclosed elevator.

Interior design: In keeping with the Malt House building's historic flavor, interior architectural aspects include exposed concrete columns in a predominantly open space, concrete flooring and narrow multi-paned windows that splash daylight into the unit, clear up to its 20-foot ceilings. The only wood is the lumber used in the construction of these windows. Decorating options are limited only by the owner's creativity. "The [space] is adaptable for all styles, but you have to be open to it," said Bingle. "You have to think outside the box when furnishing it."

Personal touches: Bingle and Thompson have been collecting original modern and pop art, paintings and sculpture, as well as tribal African pieces, for more than 30 years. These treasures hang, gallery-style, throughout their home

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