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Dream home

Baltimore condo is cure for hectic days

Surgeons put together relaxing retreat at the Ritz-Carlton Residences

By Marie Marciano Gullard, For The Baltimore Sun

3:05 PM EDT, March 14, 2014

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For two busy surgeons, the home they have created offers a serene retreat at the end of the day. Troy Pittman's and Michael Somenek's sleek condo at the Ritz-Carlton Residences provides a chance to relax and renew mind, body and spirit.

The couple achieved this level of comfort with a simple design style: a clever use of natural and artificial light along with neutral decor and a discriminating use of color.

One of their first tasks after moving in was to place every light switch on a dimmer. Beyond the soft lighting are the neutral tones of birch cabinetry and contemporary furniture, all on European oak flooring and placed within walls painted soft gray and eggshell with an accent wall of dark gray that highlights a marble fireplace.

"It looked like this two weeks after we moved in," said Pittman, a plastic surgeon with the Johns Hopkins Health System. "We closed on a Friday [last July] and moved in on Monday. We wanted it to be perfect for friends visiting the following weekend."

Additionally, the surgeons, who moved to Baltimore from Bethesda, had to report to work the day after the move. Among the many things they accomplished on that extremely busy weekend was removing wallpaper, steam-cleaning carpets, repainting three rooms and replacing all of the lighting.

"We really like clean lines and like to focus, first and foremost, on function and avoid excessive ornamentation," Somenek said. "We want our home to have a sense of serenity and non-fussy simplicity. We've used a lot of natural elements. We have tried to focus on a lot of texture in the space to avoid a flat or boring look."

Rather than a harbor view, their 2,780-square-foot condo has windows looking out on the shining glass mosaic walls of the American Visionary Art Museum just beyond the steady flow of traffic along Key Highway. The two-bedroom, two-bath space is surprisingly quiet, given the outside activity. Yet, when they choose, the couple can immerse themselves in the city scene by relaxing on their balcony, furnished with upholstered wicker and a glass-topped table.

Their collection of artwork, mostly modern, adds color, texture and interest to their home. For example, three paintings over the contemporary style sofa of beige microfiber are part of a series called "Into the Blue" by artist Lanie Loreth.

"I love color in art. It fills the space with positive energy," said Pittman. "Most pieces have been procured from Chicago art festivals, sidewalk sales and interesting artists that we've met while traveling."

One of their favorites is an Italian Fornasetti plate collection hung on their dining room wall.

"As a facial plastic surgeon, I focus on the structure and proportions of facial features," said Somenek, co-founder of the Maryland Facial Cosmetic Center in Lutherville. "What I find particularly fascinating about the collection is that despite the fact that every plate offers a distinct visual look, the consistency of the nose and eyes make the female on the plate instantly recognizable and unceasingly engaging."

Within their retreat, the duo relish their relaxing moments, while enjoying friends and all the conveniences of city living.

"[This] is truly a place for both Troy and me to come every evening and decompress," said Somenek. "It has the space of a multilevel home on one floor with a layout that is serene, open, and welcoming.

Making the dream

Dream design. "First and foremost, [this is] the first home that Michael and I have had where we've made every decision together, [by way of] design, furniture [and] art," Troy Pittman said. "No designer, just us. We've put a lot of attention to detail and have redone most of the finishes ourselves as evening and weekend projects."

The couple note that their personal style is an evolution of styles. "Contemporary style by definition means 'existing, occurring, or living at the same time; belonging to the same time,' " said Pittman. "Our interior design is mostly contemporary, meaning we have an eclectic collection that borrows pieces and styles from all different eras."

Dream location. The Ritz-Carlton amenities are a welcome plus. "The amenities in the building are nothing short of amazing," Michael Somenek said. "There are few places that you can live where you have a gym, spa, and movie theater all within steps from your front door."

Dream rooms. "My favorite is the dining room," said Pittman. "The furniture was a housewarming gift from my father days before he passed away. The set is extremely special and important to us, and his photograph overlooks the dining room [table, which] is made of a tropical wood called sheesham. The chairs are leather and oak. The table had to be brought into the room in pieces. The base of the table is wrought iron and weighs 500 pounds. The wooden top to the table weighs 300 pounds. Certainly built to last."

Somenek, the "chef in residence," said his favorite room is the kitchen. "I cook most evenings and find it a very relaxing activity. The kitchen is a culinary enthusiast's dream, as it has all the appliances and amenities to put together a gourmet meal any night of the week."