When Stanford Kimmel and Chris Franzoni were searching for a new home five years ago, they wanted three things: a place accessible to the interstate — Franzoni was working in Washington, D.C., at the time — lots of windows and parking.
The four-story South Baltimore rowhouse only met one of the requirements — it was close to the highway — but, as Franzoni says, its “possibilities were endless. We could pick every detail and create a brand new home that would fit our lifestyles — which is what we did.”
The couple embarked upon an obstacle-ridden two-year renovation project that gutted the house to the floor joists and brick walls.
“There was a lot of cursing,” Franzoni says with a laugh, recalling the many projects, including building a stairwell to connect the basement of the home, built in 1900, to the rooftop deck. “We were basically mad every day throughout the renovation. But once we made it through, we figured we could make it through anything.”
After all the choice words and frustrations, the two have what they consider their dream home — a space that from the outside looks like the countless rowhouses that line the streets of South Baltimore — but inside it is peppered with eclectic artwork, cool decor and mementos from their travels.
It took an extreme makeover. Nearly everything from the original home was replaced, including a Murphy bed in what is now the dining room.
“It was a mess,” Kimmel says. “We had quite a project ahead of us.”
Among the challenges: They discovered that there was no foundation under the kitchen and they had to replace the rear addition; the basement was a dirt floor; and the tree in the backyard had to be removed because it was infested with rodents.
Only a few pieces of the original home remain: the fireplace, the vestibule door (now on the first-floor powder room) and a stained glass transom above the front door.
“We wanted to marry the old with the new,” Kimmel says as he sits at the living room’s baby grand piano. A framed dollar designed by Andy Warhol in 1968 hints at the scope of their art collection, as does a framed Pablo Picasso sketch a few feet away.
“We worked hard to create a ‘wow’ factor,” Franzoni says.
Although they lived in a cramped condo during the lengthy renovation, it was worth it, says the couple, who both practice law and are 37 years old. Kimmel is a partner at Cowie & Mott, while Franzoni is the assistant attorney general for the Maryland State Labor Relations Boards.
“We wanted a traditional foundation — that way, we could accessorize with other colors,” Franzoni says as he walks through the rowhouse’s white hallways illuminated by recessed lighting.
The home is ever-evolving in large part because the two often return from their travels with a new piece of art or decor to commemorate the adventure. The living room mantel showcases an iridescent purple skate that Franzoni purchased two years ago in West Hollywood.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” he says.
The dining room is anchored by a large, multicolored piece composed of scraps of words and phrases from various media. The piece was purchased from a gallery during a trip to Rehoboth Beach.
“Everyone who looks at it sees something different,” Kimmel says.
The second floor could be a wing of an art gallery.
Two gigantic stenographs by famed artist LeRoy Neiman decorate the walls of a hallway and office.
A flashy, and slightly mysterious, painting of the iconic ruby slipper from “The Wizard of Oz” painted by Nelson De La Nuez, a Los Angeles pop artist who is believed to have created the last piece of art purchased by the late Michael Jackson, is hung at the beginning of a long narrow hallway leading to the master bedroom.
A square, black-and-beige abstract painting by Maryland’s First Lady Yumi Hogan hangs in a guest bedroom. The two won the piece a few years ago at a Maryland Federation of Art fundraiser.
Other decor pieces are just as eclectic.
Take the two electric teal domed chairs in the living room from POLaRT Designs, a Houston-based home furnishing company known for its contemporary silhouettes and flashy colors. Or the sleek shark-shaped wine holder in the kitchen that now serves as a planter.
The walls of the grey-and-white kitchen are peppered with framed photographs of food from an Instagram account Franzoni follows, @whatimholding. (His own food-focused account, @eatmorebaltimore, has more than 33,900 followers.)
Various colorful kitchen accessories — a fire engine red KitchenAid mixer, a lime-green Dutch oven and a navy pot, both Le Creuset, rest on the white marble countertop and stainless steel cooking range.
The powder room just off the kitchen is Franzoni’s favorite.
“We worked on it the most,” he says.
He had the red and white Baltimore-themed wallpaper custom-made by New York-based Flavor Paper.
“I learned about it after reading a story about Mike Diamond [of the Beastie Boys],” Franzoni explains as he points to the various landmarks that make up the print — Fort McHenry, the National Aquarium, Domino Sugar. Franzoni found Cambridge-based artist Michael Rosato to design the images. “He had a Brooklyn Toile wallpaper. I contacted the company and got a Baltimore Toile made.”
Another cool feature of the room is its door, originally on the home’s vestibule, which contains smart glass panels that turn from clear to opaque, providing instant privacy with the flip of a switch. The couple got the idea after observing a similar concept at one of Emeril Legasse’s restaurants in New Orleans.
The master bedroom — one of three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms in the home — has a subtle nautical theme. Deep navy walls, rich wood accent furniture and an oversized circular mirror create the feel of a captain’s quarters on a ship. La Fleur Bouquets’ roses in a brilliant shade of red-orange add the refined sophistication of a French chateau or English country home. (The genetically engineered flowers last two years.)
Even the home’s smell has been carefully curated. The two fell in love with the scent of white tea magnolia at Westin Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and bought a system that sprays the scent through their air vents.
“I would say this is our dream home for this point in our lives since we oversaw the entire renovation and we were able to design every detail,” Franzoni says. “Who knows what’s next?”