When Maureen Neunan's only child headed off to college halfway across the country, the four-bedroom, four-bathroom Ellicott City house where the two lived suddenly seemed enormous to the 56-year-old divorcee.
"I decided this was not where I wanted to be," she said. "I didn't need big or grand anymore."
And so she and her friend, real estate agentr Carol Walters of Long & Foster's Columbia office, paid a visit to the Ritz-Carlton Residences at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
Neunan recalled visiting the unit she bought at first sight.
"It's all about the view. I realized that the very same day," she said. "Even on a bad day, it's cheerful and beckoning."
Minutes after leaving the complex, the two women turned the car around on Key Highway and headed back to the sales office, where Neunan purchased the empty two-bedroom, two-bath unit for $710,000.
"I'm not sure I could have committed to the Ritz-Carlton in one day without that trust factor on the realty front," Neunan said.
While the unit was almost ready for occupancy, she was able to choose the hardwood flooring (Brazilian cherry,) the kitchen tile (light ceramic) and the backsplash of half-inch glass tiles in shades of brown, tan and beige.
The move in 2011 was her third in five years, and Neunan had more furniture than she could ever use. Taking a cue from the view she calls "gloriously everywhere" throughout her unit, she knew instantly that her blond wood and upholstered French provincial furniture would perfectly frame the manicured gardens, fountain and harbor skyline outside her windows.
A floor-to-ceiling mirror covering one wall of her living room makes the size of the main living area, which includes the kitchen and dining space, seem larger. The wall color is millet, which allows the white trim at the windows, doors, floors and ceiling to pop.
"I like it because it doesn't fight with any other colors," said Neunan, a senior sales and marketing manager with Verizon.
The interior decor is delicate and continental in style. Integrated with a sofa and side chairs of tone-on-tone damask upholstery are several glass vases of soft blush colored roses, crystal lamp bases with beige shades trimmed in tassels and select pieces of Irish Belleek china.
Among her most precious treasures throughout the home, she said, are two things, both gifts. "My mother gave me a Waterford decanter that sits on the cocktail table in the living room. It was my first piece of Waterford crystal, and I think of her whenever I see it. My daughter gave me a teapot decorated with shamrocks that I've always loved. We're proud of our Irish heritage."
A master bedroom sits at one side of the condo while Neunan's daughter, Megan, has a room on the opposite side. The family dog, a miniature dachshund named Gigi, follows Neunan into the master suite, where the walls are painted a soft Wedgwood shade and bed coverings are a blue toile.
Her daughter's room has the same outstanding views and is decorated simply yet dramatically with a white furniture suite, pink-and-white print bed linens and four framed Vogue prints above the headboard.
"Moving to the Ritz-Carlton in Baltimore is one of the best decisions I've ever made," said Neunan. "I enjoy the beautifully maintained gardens, vast views of the harbor and marinas, the five-star amenities and, probably most of all, the thoughtfulness of the concierge and staff. Even the dog is happy here."
Above a glass-topped dining table hangs a framed, softly rendered print. The subject is a woman standing at an open window and gazing out into the distance. She is wearing an early-20th-century country frock, and her straw hat, decorated with colorful wildflowers, is perched on a wisp of an up-do. Falling green ivy and a delicate vase with still more wildflowers grace her windowsill.
"I call her 'My Lady,'" Neunan said. "That picture captures who I aspire to be; she's clearly taking advantage of her amenities. My goal in life is to live each day as elegantly as I can."
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