Storefront restored

The Currey family sit in the great room of their dream home that was once a store in Locust Point. Left to right: Chris, Neila, 5, and Isabel.
The Currey family sit in the great room of their dream home that was once a store in Locust Point. Left to right: Chris, Neila, 5, and Isabel. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

Chris Currey and his wife, Isabel, have lived in South Baltimore since 1992. Five years ago, the couple moved into their second Locust Point house, in a neighborhood they call "the Mayberry of Baltimore City."

"I had my eye on this place for 15 years," says Chris Currey of the double-wide storefront property with living space adjacent to a commercial space. It has housed many small shops since its construction in 1888.

According to Chris Currey's research, the living area had been empty for three years, and the commercial portion of the building had been vacant for well over 20 years.

"I asked Isabel to write the owner, who didn't want to sell because it was her mother's store," says the 41-year-old real estate agent.

Eventually the owner did sell, and the Curreys paid $360,000 for the double lot with two apartments above it.

For six months, the Curreys worked on minimalist design concepts for the home with local architect Justin Seto. What followed was 18 months of construction that added significantly to the home's cost.

Today, the 4,000-square-foot home retains the original store and second floor, along with a large, three-story stucco addition behind that has been designed around a courtyard.

The home has three bedrooms, four full bathrooms plus a half-bath, an office on the first floor, a new kitchen and a third-floor family room. The modified U-shaped construction includes floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the interior rooms overlooking the courtyard.

Green features in the home include a fresh-air recovery system and a whole-house fan on the third floor ceiling over the open staircases. When the temperature at the fan reaches a pre-set level, it kicks on, drawing the cooler air from the first floor and circulating the warmer air from the top down to the bottom of the house.

Isabel Currey, 42, says the kitchen — in the open layout of the store area-turned-great room — is her favorite place to be. Her request for "a big work space" was satisfied with the installation of an island topped with a single piece of stone measuring 9 feet by 5 feet. A Sub-Zero refrigerator, Wolf cooking appliances, countertops that won't stain, a glass tile backsplash and three schoolhouse-style hanging lamps over the island are additional enhancements.

Most unusual is the dyed concrete floor in the great room, as well as a wood stove that spins 360 degrees under the store's original 10-foot-high tin ceiling. The room's west wall retains the original brick while the two storefront windows have been cut for privacy. In one of the windows, a burgundy-upholstered, Empire–style day bed sits, almost in defiant contrast to the contemporary, minimalistic look of the great room, which also includes a steel and glass-topped dining table with sleek, cherry wood chairs.

An open staircase at the far end of the great room separates the renovated original house from the large addition. Rising to the third level, the open treads are made of heart pine taken from old Federal Hill houses, and the railings are made of steel.

At the second-floor landing in the back of the property, a hall of windows looks down on the courtyard of stamped concrete. The hall ends at the master suite, which features contemporary decor and bamboo flooring. The bathroom boasts a floor of marble, a Japanese soaking tub and a cedar sauna room equipped with a sound system.

West at the second floor landing leads to the original part of the 1880 structure, renovated to contain two bathrooms, two bedrooms and a playroom for the couple's 5½-year old daughter, Neila. Recycled rubber flooring covers her suite, which, in addition to the playroom, includes the bathroom and bedroom.

The third-floor family room is also a new addition with cork flooring and double sliding doors that lead to a rooftop deck over the original house. The views of the city and the sun setting over the harbor's iconic Domino Sugars sign are breathtaking.

"This deck area was constructed to support a living roof," says Chris Currey, giving just a hint of a possible near-future project for the couple.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Send an e-mail to homes@baltsun.com.

Making the dream

Dream element The Currey's two-story, storefront property was built in the 1880's as a double-wide structure. It served as both business (variously a sail shop, hardware store, confectionery and grocery) and home to its owners. Because of its width, it is easily one of the largest homes on the street.

Dream design A standout in Locust Point, the house's renovation remains true to the original double storefront blueprint and brick front. A three-story addition with stucco exterior, however, was designed around a central courtyard behind the primary structure.

Dream interior The store itself, now a large open living area just inside the front doors, features TV area, dining area and large kitchen. The Curreys insisted on keeping the original tin ceiling. This, in addition to exposed ductwork and a wall of brick, lends a commercial feel to the large room. "The whole idea of this great room is to transition from history to newly contemporary," Chris Currey says.

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