"Have I ever got a house for you!" The call came a few months ago from Matt Knoepfle, co-owner with his brother, Mike Knoepfle, of the construction company Building Character LLC. That remark is always an invitation to be amazed at a challenging project that has come to fruition. The brothers are in the business of buying up Baltimore's old and crumbling properties (often in the most sought-after downtown neighborhoods) and adaptively reusing them.
This particular property, the subject of Matt Knoepfle's call, was the conversion of a late 19th-century carriage repair shop in Federal Hill into a single-family home on two levels, with over 3,000 square feet of living space. The owners, having relocated from Washington, took possession of their garage-turned-home with private court yard and two outdoor decks in March.
The brick building is at the corner of two narrow streets just blocks off Federal Hill's twin main drags, South Charles and Light streets. Owners Angie and Greg Wasylak welcome guests through a side entrance opening directly into their open layout, where 12-foot ceilings loom over flooring of Brazilian cherry. No detail has been overlooked, as evidenced by floor and ceiling moldings, wood-paneled walls below chair rails, recessed lighting and exposed brick randomly placed on several walls. Natural light pours through four sides of the home because of the enclosed courtyard. The Knoepfle brothers dressed every window in the home with wide, wood-slatted blinds.
Seated at the dining room table on the first floor, Greg Wasylak, a 36-year-old attorney with the Baltimore firm Venable LLP, recalls his long commute from Washington and back every workday. The couple spent eight years in a condominium in D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood. With one young son and a baby on the way, they knew it was time to look for a bigger home. They were one day shy of signing a contract for a property in Washington when Greg Wasylak suggested they look at one house for sale in Baltimore.
"The house was completed in mid-February and it had been listed for just five days," he said. "I asked Angie to come up and see it before signing on the other one."
The two would never complete the contract for the Washington home. Rather, they purchased the Knoepfle brothers' creation and moved a few weeks later, with Greg Wasylak remarking that "compared to the D.C. market, [the contractors] went the extra mile."
A chef's kitchen is central to the first-floor plan. Stainless-steel appliances, including a Wolf range and a Sub-Zero refrigerator, accent white wood cabinetry, black granite countertops and black, white and gray glass tiles for a backsplash.
The second story of the home features an open family room, around which are a master bedroom with marble bathroom and two more bedrooms — a nursery for the impending July arrival and the cheerfully decorated bedroom of 31/2-year-old son Tyler. Each bedroom has a full bathroom attached.
A deck off the second-story family room looks out over the courtyard below, where there is a raised, pie-shaped grassy knoll. There is also a large table fashioned of heavy steel and glass, once a very large gear in the repair shop. Its presence is symbolic — "old industrial charm, but with a new, modern feel," is how Greg Wasylak describes it. One more trek up exterior stairs on the second-story deck to a 24-foot-square rooftop deck rewards the climber with a 360-degree view of the immediate neighborhood, the skyline beyond and suburbs beyond that.
"Our house fits ... our personalities because it has both an historic and unique charm and a modern and contemporary feel", said 37-year-old Angie Wasylak. "Additionally, it provides us an opportunity to be a part of a vibrant neighborhood in Baltimore, while also having the convenience of a short work commute.
"Building Character's vision for this home and attention to detail delivered us our dream home."
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