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Butchers Hill home tour opens door to couple's renovation

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Brockett Horne and her husband, Chris Tesluk, say they chose their city home with the flip of a coin.

"Chris works in College Park and I teach at MICA; we ended up choosing Baltimore over D.C.," says Horne, a 40-year-old graphic artist. "We wanted an old house and close to a park. The city suits us … there is so much going on."

The couple purchased a three-story Butchers Hill rowhouse near Patterson Park in 2008 for $182,000. A former barbershop, it hadn't been occupied in 20 years. The barber chairs and old mirrors were still affixed to the floor and walls, a reminder of its commercial past.

The circa 1860 house, 14 feet wide by 55 feet deep, with abundant light filtering through side windows, would need a major renovation.

Tesluk, a 42-year-old research and development engineer at Ballard Fuel Cell Systems, did not shrink from the task. In the past six years, some of the projects he has taken on include restoring a collapsed roof, building a new kitchen, and installing new pine flooring and central air conditioning. Tesluk also replaced doors and windows on the first floor and converted the third floor to a master bedroom. The couple gave the house a new facade and created a garden and patio in the backyard.

The first floor consists of a living room, dining room, powder room and kitchen. The walls, some of which are bead-board design, are all painted a neutral shade of eggshell to complement the artwork the couple has amassed.

"We designed the house with many chair rails [and] ledges along the walls, created to swap the art on view as we like and to ultimately change the feeling of the spaces through color, texture, or scale," Horne says. "Our taste is eclectic, so it's sometimes hard to create a cohesive collection from among our woodblock prints, political posters, my own drawings ... or watercolor landscapes created by Chris' uncle."

A current display along the living room ledges is a series of letterpress posters done by Horne's students, which are a source of pride for the MICA professor.

The living room furniture is a mix of design and styles, including inherited family rugs, a glass-top table and a contemporary sofa upholstered in gray fabric. Under the home's original staircase is what Horne calls, "the world's smallest half-bath." It once housed a small barber's sink and now includes a small commode and one of the shop's original mirrors.

The living and dining room windows feature sheer white voile curtains on which Horne screen-printed the numbers of the home's address, which is not affixed or painted on the brick exterior. Daylight enhances the white-on-white effect.

"Good light is a key ingredient to this house, and it helps to keep the spaces open," says Tesluk.

The couple's kitchen juxtaposes white bead-board cabinets and stainless-steel appliances with gray concrete countertops, a clean look that draws the eye to the garden outside. A cafe table and chairs sit between hydrangeas in full bloom. Strings of lights provide a twinkling effect after dark.

Quasi, the couple's 6-year-old Lab mix, and Milo, their 8-year-old schnauzer, follow the couple through the house and up to the second-level library and guest room.

"Our small library has survived our many moves," says Tesluk. "In particular, I love that we have about 20 years of Brockett's sketchbooks."

"We collect books, of course, including those of my faculty colleagues at MICA," his wife says. "I have a small collection of bookplates from all over the world."

A blue-gray upholstered chaise longue that opens to a double bed is also located in the library and is a favorite resting spot for Quasi.

"My favorite room would have to be the third floor, [with] the water view and … great light at any time of day," Tesluk says.

From their bed with a cast-iron frame, the two can look out onto the side streets and beyond, to a cityscape filled with industrial smokestacks and church steeples, and finally, the busy waterfront.

"My favorite room is the one we completed last," Horne says. "Chris ups his game with each space: the hand-crafted stained-glass transom, custom trim details with salvaged pieces throughout, hand-screen printed wall papers, the herringbone floor pattern and concrete counters. As the renovations are completed … the house feels more and more like an expression of who we are and how we live."

If you go

The Horne-Tesluk home will be featured on the Butchers Hill House Tour taking place Sept. 28 from noon to 5 p.m. For details, lgo to butchershill.org

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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