With grown 29-year-old twins out of the house, empty nesters Noreen and Eric Victor found little need for their five-bedroom Colonial home with a pool on a half-acre in Prince William County in Northern Virginia.
"We wanted the city," Noreen Victor said, as sure of herself now as she was in 2005.
The couple read a newspaper article on the neighborhood of Fells Point and decided to check out all that Baltimore had to offer. Their exploration led them to Canton and a newly built block of four rowhouses just off of the urban hum of O'Donnell Square.
The Craftsman design of the interior, with an open, contemporary 20-foot-by-35-foot layout under 10-foot ceilings thrilled them. That is until a nasty thought occurred. What about the stuff — the oversized furniture that had filled the rooms of their home for so many years?
"We had collected 20 years of stuff," said Eric Victor, a former engineering manager for Raytheon, now a consultant for the federal government.
However, with the sale of their house in Virginia and the collected furniture that they both agreed was only "stuff," the Victors purchased the Canton row house for $525,000, deciding not to wait until Eric Victor's retirement less than a year away. Instead, he would simply commute to Reston, Va., for his remaining months of employment.
In the meanwhile, the couple turned to Steve Appel of Nouveau Contemporary Goods to take command of the interior decor.
"Steve was such a help to us when we decided to go contemporary," said Noreen Victor, a former substitute teacher and now a volunteer exhibit guide at the National Aquarium. "Everything here is brand new, except one chair on the third floor."
An earthy decor, at an additional cost of $30,000, was chosen to complement Brazilian cherrywood floors, ceramic kitchen flooring, granite countertops, ceramic tile in beige and brown tones, cherry kitchen cabinets and, finally, oak post-and-beam construction and wall paneling.
Taking a cue from the variety of woods, stone and exposed brick, Appel chose glass-topped walnut furniture for the dining room. For color splashes, he mixed geometrically designed upholstered fabric on chairs and sofa. Vibrant rugs add more color, as does the bright pottery that rests on a beautifully carved fireplace.
A climb to the home's second level by an open staircase reveals, when looking down, the brilliant way a pair of posts and beams below act as subtle room dividers without chopping up the floor plan.
Natural daylight splashes on the hallway's cream-colored walls and the master bedroom's aqua-and-chrome design scheme. A den and office, also on the second floor, have been reserved for overnight visitors including the couple's twins, Alison and Matthew.
A third-floor deck at the rear of the home overlooks urban rooftops and other decks of Canton's residents as well as the domes of St. Casimir and St. Michael's Ukrainian churches.
On the 14-by-20-foot deck off the Victors' kitchen — an additional project taken on by the couple for about $10,000 — Noreen Victor takes pleasure in naming the colorful flowers she has potted and grown all summer long while her husband gazes out into the breeze at the backyard below.
"Even when I was commuting," he said, "there was something so relaxing about walking up to this house."
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Making the dream
Dream element: The Victors' three-story, Colonial-style brick home is part of four rowhouses constructed five years ago on what used to be a block of garages in the Baltimore neighborhood of Canton. A rooftop deck provides stunning views of the iconic Natty Boh and Domino Sugar signs, along with church spires, rooftops and the Key Bridge. The north end of O'Donnell Square lies a short block away, offering myriad amenities and services.
Design inspiration: The 20-foot-wide by 35-foot-long interior is of authentic Craftsman reproduction in its use of oak post-and-beam construction, generous dentil molding and rich wood paneling. "We couldn't move any of our furniture here," said Eric Victor. "None of it was to scale." With that fact established, the couple relied on the expertise of designer Steve Appel whose insight lead them toward bold, contemporary decor with all furniture and accessories provided by his Baltimore company, Whitehead & Appel at Nouveau Contemporary Goods.
Personal touch: Two framed prints, one of Mike Schmidt and the other of Richie Ashburn, hang in Eric Victor's second-floor office. "We got them at Cooperstown the weekend the two of them were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame," he said. "They were both Philadelphia Phillies players, and I'm a dedicated Phillies fan." In the den, next door, hangs a contemporary urban landscape painted by his father, Bob Victor, from 1967.