Dream home

Federal Hill rowhouse is traditional on the outside, modern and minimalist within

For The Baltimore Sun
This Federal Hill rowhouse "makes you feel like you've got front-row seats to the Inner Harbor."

Surprises increasingly await visitors to Federal Hill homes. Many of these houses date to the mid-19th century, and today, furnishings complementing their traditional facades are, for the most part, the norm.

But residents are increasingly breaking from the expected historical restorations, and behind their front doors are 20th- and 21st-century interiors.

Tim and Jenny Regan are two residents who have opted for modern decor, taking a minimalist approach to design in which indoor style is secondary to the views beyond their sliding glass doors.

Transplants from Bethesda, the Regan family — which includes 17-year-old daughter, Alison, as well as two sons, 23-year-old Liam and 21-year-old Dylan, who live away from home — moved into their circa-1900 Baltimore home in July 2013 with the idea of downsizing. The market favored buyers, and the Regans paid $665,000 for a three-story, brick townhouse with a completely finished lower level. Location being paramount, they bought into one of the most desirable sites in the neighborhood — the north side of Montgomery Street. The Inner Harbor is at their back door.

"We loved the view from the beginning, but the frequent, friendly stoop-sitting on the street side of the house is a wonderful surprise that really cements the feeling of community," said Jenny Regan, 53, president and CEO of Key Tech, a product development company in Baltimore.

The home had been renovated in the 1980s, but the couple found the kitchen too closed off, especially if they wanted to capitalize on the view. In 2014, they decided to gut the first level and begin again. They hired Greenleaf Construction to do the rebuilding, with architect Martin Marren and interior designer Marci Lief to add the finishing touches.

Now "the first floor … is open and bright in a way that is unlike any other townhouse I've been in," said Tim Regan, 53, head of human resources at Structural Group Inc., a specialty contractor.

This level is Jenny Regan's favorite. "Opening the NanaWall [sliding glass walls] all the way and entertaining guests, allowing them to spill out onto the deck and back inside, makes you feel like you've got front-row seats to the Inner Harbor," she said. "Having the deck area on the same level as the kitchen [and] bar is far better than trekking a party to the roof deck."

Upon moving to a home that is 15 feet wide by 75 feet long, the scale of furniture had to be taken into consideration. Luckily, the couple were able to keep their Stickley oak dining room table, chairs and buffet. The richness of the Mission-style design complements the modern appeal of the new furniture they purchased.

The lounge at the rear of the home, just inside from the deck, features Midcentury Modern-style furniture from the store Room & Board.

A deep-blue love seat and chaise longue combination sits against a wall mirror that appears to double the size of the area. Two wooden cubes serve as a coffee table, while the opposite wall showcases two beige occasional chairs separated by a metal table. Wall art here includes a painting of the Baltimore cityscape by Gloria Mack and a framed poster from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The living room is just inside the entrance from the street. Here, a brown tufted sofa sits in front of shuttered windows and behind a walnut slatted coffee table. Both the sofa and coffee table are offset by a blue side chair. A built-in bookcase sits beside Tim Regan's favorite architectural feature on the first level: the fireplace surround of stone and glass tile.

"It transformed what was a basic hole in the wall into a feature that connects the fireplace to the seating in the front room and also complements the modern kitchen design," he said.

The entire beige color scheme flows seamlessly into the open kitchen area, which sits at the center of the first-floor layout and boasts a 27-inch-wide island that runs 10 feet long. The kitchen features high-end appliances such as a Wolf range and a Sub-Zero refrigerator.

An interior architectural showpiece is found opposite the kitchen — the semi-enclosed, cantilevered staircase along the east wall that rises to the home's second and third levels.

"The design [of the staircase] is beautiful, sweeping and clean," Jenny Regan said. "The skylight at the top really brings light through the center of the house. I also like the fact that the staircase is allowed to be commanding in design and scale in the home [in a way] that is atypical of most townhomes. It has personality, beyond just functioning as a way to get from one floor to the next."

The second floor contains a family room, and Alison Regan's bedroom and full bathroom. A conservatory-like window in the family room fills the back wall, while a mirrored wall perpendicular to the window has the same magnifying effect as in the first-floor lounge. A Weber baby grand piano that dates to the 1920s sits at the window. As on the main level, the harbor vista is the main attraction.

The view is also the main attraction of the third floor, which is a dedicated master suite with a sitting room and sliders opening to a balcony.

The lower level features bedrooms in the front and back of the home, separated by a small kitchen — perfect for the Regan boys when they have time off from school and bring friends home with them.

Like most people who choose to downsize, the Regans take pleasure and satisfaction in an ordered lifestyle.

"Moving from a 4,500-square-foot home to this townhome meant that we had to let go of a lot of belongings," Jenny Regan said. "The process of letting go of them was very difficult. Looking back on it now, it is so freeing not to have all of those things. It's liberating in a way I hadn't imagined beforehand, and we are now loath to collect anything else."

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