Through a stroke of good luck and perfect timing, Polly and Terry Smith became residents of Federal Hill six years ago.
"We were wandering around town one day and saw the 'For Sale' sign on this house," Polly Smith remembered of the spacious, end-of-group home she now shares with her husband, Terry. "I lived in other cities before, and I have always loved city life."
Just as the couple thought there was no way they could afford the three-story brick home, they were approached by an interested party prepared to buy their Dulaney Valley Colonial home on Loch Raven Reservoir should they ever wish to sell. The deal was negotiated in one day. The Smiths received their asking price — an amount higher than the asking price for the Federal Hill property — and the couple and their youngest two girls, both students at the time, happily took up city living.
While the previously renovated home was in fairly good condition, there were some interior structural and design problems. Polly Smith — who owns Meadow Mill Draperies, a company that sells wholesale to the trade and also decorates movie sets filmed in Baltimore — was thrilled to take on the challenges.
"I added shutters to the windows and changed all of the lighting," she noted. "And I extended the kitchen island."
She also created a neutral and warm ambience to each of the home's many rooms through use of wall colors and custom draperies. Lovely and interesting artwork and memorabilia fill each room, creating a home that reflects its owners' taste and lifestyle.
The three-story structure boasts a total of 5,670 square feet of living space. Each room is spacious, with high ceilings typically found in the larger homes of the late 1800s. Three fireplaces provide heat and cheer.
The side entrance, which features an ornately carved pediment over the front door, opens onto a slate-floored foyer and a traditional staircase with spindle balusters. A formal living room is three steps down from the foyer.
Here, Polly Smith has created cozy warmth with faux-painted burnt-orange "suede" walls, sisal carpeting and traditional furniture. A chenille sofa and love seat in light beige contrast with the walls as does the marble fireplace with a white carved wood mantel and surround.
Two large antique samplers in their original wood and gilt frames bear the dates of 1824 and 1826 along with the names of the young women who stitched them almost two centuries ago. These family heirlooms, as well as a full-length portrait of a young woman in a fantasy-like, bucolic setting painted by local artist Nancy Scheinman, are standouts in the room. So too are a pair of recessed openings — once a storefront — that have been treated to silk draperies in shades of orange, brown and beige that frame arches where the windows nestle, and are covered in woven grass shades.
Woven grass wallpaper in a muted shade of gray cover the walls of the dining room on the other side of the foyer. An Amish-made, 4-by-8-foot cherry dining table takes center stage.
A muted shade of pea green covers the walls of the family room on which colorful Mexican masks hang along with framed portraits of Polly Smith's great-grandparents. The neutral decor includes a beige corduroy-covered sofa and a second fireplace of brick with a rugged chunk of wood for its mantel.
The adjacent kitchen features pine cabinets and marble countertops with a marble farmhouse sink. Two large Viking stoves and stainless-steel appliances are tucked into the walls. A wrought-iron light fixture with shaded candles hangs above the island below.
Framed movie posters hang in the hall on the second floor, paying tribute to the sets Polly Smith and her staff decorated when films such as "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Home for the Holidays" were shot in Baltimore.
Off the hall, the family library has pecan paneling on the walls and wooden blinds with raised Roman shades in toile fabrics that match the upholstery of one of the easy chairs. The home's third fireplace of green marble with a carved pecan mantel sits between built-in bookshelves that also display family pictures and a collection of Madame Alexander dolls.
"One of my favorite things about this house is the view from the windows of my office," said Terry Smith, a self-employed accountant broker. "I look out at [Federal] Hill and see all the activity, [such as] people walking their dogs and children playing."
His is an office most people only dream of, with a desk facing two walls of windows.
He credits his wife with the transformation of their home through her decorative touches, adding, "She said straight out, 'This is the house I'm going to live in, and this is how it's going to look.' "
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