June 20, 2013, is a date Sara Costello is not likely to forget. On that day, a fire started in the basement of her Butchers Hill rowhouse. The flames traveled quickly up two more stories, cutting a path through the center part of the 15-by-40-foot home.

Happily, no one was injured, and with insurance coverage contributing toward a rehabilitation, Costello was determined her dream home-turned-nightmare would become a dream once again.


While the fire destroyed a large portion of the home's interior, the memories of good times spent there with family and friends would remain unscathed. She would rebuild, saving as many of the home's original features as possible.

Costello, a 48-year-old marketing director for Laureate Education, bought the two-bedroom, 21/2-bathroom home in May 2003 for $230,000.

One Source Contracting in Baltimore took on the large project in January 2014. Many of the architectural details that defined the home's character were saved, such as the staircase and newel post, heart pine floors of varied width on the first and second levels, the main-level slate fireplace, and much of the beautiful and detailed trim. The stunning pair of double doors, one at the front porch and the other opening from the vestibule to the first floor, survived the flames, as did transom doors

and a plaster party wall. which divides her home from an adjoining rowhouse.

Costello was pleased with the number of interior embellishments recovered, adding that "a lovely curved wall upstairs was expertly replicated."

For help with the interior design, she chose Kendall Ansell Interiors. "She loves Baltimore rowhomes because of their unique character and stories," Costello said of Ansell, whose company is now based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Together, they worked on an overall theme that satisfied Costello's vision of her reincarnated home.

"I was going for livable, elegant [and] contemporary urban chic with classic elements," Costello said, as well as "pearl, white, grays and other neutral tones with pops of purple."

All of these components meld artfully and purposefully throughout the entire interior.

On the first level, under 12-foot ceilings, an open floor plan includes the living room and kitchen — the largest area on this floor — along with a powder room and door to the backyard Trex decking. The deck overlooks a parking pad accessed from the walkout basement.

The living room features walls painted pearl gray with accent walls of gray paper with white medallions, against which Costello has placed a pair of vintage occasional chairs from the now-closed David's on the Avenue in Hampden. They sit in front of two long, narrow front windows covered with white sheers by HunterDouglas, which close for a soft look. A dark gray microfiber sofa sits perpendicular to the chairs and faces the slate fireplace — converted to gas during the renovation — over which hangs a flat-screen TV.

"One of my goals in redesigning was to use all the space available," Costello said, which is demonstrated by the easy transition from the living area to the kitchen. This area is dominated by a centrally placed 14-foot-long island covered in gray granite, with swirling veins of white and light brown giving it a marble appearance.

Ahead of the island, as if to form a galley kitchen, white shelving and cabinets with glass doors hang above counters of the same variegated gray granite. A backsplash of glass, medallion-shaped tiles complement stainless appliances, while a long purple rug running between the wall and the island adds warmth and a pop of color.

Costello describes her finished lower level as both rustic and modern. An L-shaped microfiber sofa, which she calls "super cozy," sits on dark gray ceramic tiling. A plush rug of yellow, flower-like swirls on a gray background is placed in front of the sofa, along with a metal and wood coffee table.


Costello and her designer envisioned a suite effect for the second level, where the two main rooms are an office and the master bedroom. The office and sitting room are modern, furnished with metal and wood shelves and desk unit. A particular treasure is a pair of brass lamps with pineapple bases that belonged to Costello's grandmother. Costello has placed one on her desk and the other on a table flanked by two modern occasional chairs.

A lively shade of peach is painted as an accent wall in the master bedroom, with a neutral shade of light cinnamon adorning the rest the room's walls. Costello is especially pleased with the mirrored bedside tables. But a capiz shell chandelier by Horchow is the outstanding feature of the room.

"I feel like it's approachably glamorous with the capiz shells from nature and their mother-of-pearl color adding the glam," she said. "Because the bedroom has the high, vaulted ceilings, adding a completely different texture from the shells makes the room come closer and create a cozy feel."

Costello refers to her redesigned and reconstructed home as "the small house that lives big." Her joy lies in using every space available to particular purpose.

"I think the best part about this project was the attention given to save the original features and qualities of the home" after the fire, said Ansell.

"People think they need to have everything new, but if they spent some time restoring what they have, they would be much happier. A house full of all new items will never feel like home. Sara's house feels like home the minute you walk in the door."

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