Alice amd Mike Gosse in their rehabbed end-of-group row home.
Alice amd Mike Gosse in their rehabbed end-of-group row home. (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun)

Often when an old home is in the final stages of an interior renovation, the grandeur of new molding, flooring and light fixtures stands out like a masterfully worked canvas awaiting the addition of the primary subject. Such is the story unfolding behind the new windows of the Alice and Mike Gosse's circa 1920 East Baltimore rowhouse, where the scarcity of furniture draws full attention to the quality of the detailed work completed.

Just inside the front door, off a narrow hall, the entire first floor is open, extending little more than 15 feet wide and 65 feet long to the back wall of the home. The layout transverses living room (or front parlor), dining room, kitchen and a raised family room.

But rather than rooms that merely spill one after the other in art gallery fashion, clever and creative touches have been implemented to add interest. Three different ceiling treatments on this first level are standouts, not only for their beauty but also in defining each space with a variety of textures and designs.

Here on the first floor, 10-foot ceilings progress from a flat one in the living room, to a tray ceiling in the dining room and, finally, a coffered ceiling treatment in the kitchen and through the family room to the end of the house. Layers of molding, all painted white, at the convergence of wall and ceiling unify the four spaces, as does the bull's-eye trim at the window and the soft mauve paint on the walls. Both living room and dining room are graced with carved marble fireplaces and a polished mahogany pocket door that, when closed, offers privacy in the front room.

Still, the openness of this level, along with natural light tumbling through the windows on the east wall of the house, is its best feature.

"We bought this house in January 2005," said Alice Gosse, a 51-year-old real estate agent for Long & Foster in Canton. "We hired an architect and drew up plans for [the] renovation. Work began in fall of 2006."

Before the purchase, the end-of-group, two-story brick structure had been a neighborhood Community Development Corp. rental property and was, she noted, a product of "an interior fix-up on a shoestring." But the housing market was very good at the time; the $295,000 price suited the couple and the location could not be better, directly across the street from the north side of Patterson Park.

"Our construction loan brought the total amount borrowed to $535,000," said Mike Gosse, a 47-year-old computer engineer with the National Federation for the Blind. "We [installed] 38 new windows in here. I never sat with the numbers, though. It would make us sick."

The entire first floor interior was gutted, with the basement dug out a full 8 feet in height. The ceiling on the second floor was lowered to 9 feet so that a third floor, 50 feet deep, could be constructed on top of what was then the roof. A new kitchen was designed and built in the center portion of the home; it features light ceramic flooring, rich cherry wood cabinets, and a cherry wood island with an unusual concrete countertop dyed blue.

A simple but elegant Shaker-style dining room set and sleek leather furniture in the family room are the floor's only keepers.

Alice Gosse notes, "I want the living room to be [decorated in] 1920s or 1940s style, and the rest of the house contemporary. And I'm going to be picky about the furniture I put into this house; it deserves good furniture."

The Gosse daughters, 11-year-old Caroline and 9-year-old Meghan, share a large bedroom and bathroom on the second floor. The furniture is from IKEA and the walls are painted purple, their favorite color. The bathroom and tiny alcove beyond is painted a candy apple green. A guest room and bath at the front of the second level, is painted a soft yellow, with three large windows that overlook Patterson Park.

The newly completed third level serves as an enclosed master suite with a front room walk-out to a rooftop porch that the Gosses are eager to turn into a combination flower garden and entertainment patio.

With their dream home well on its way to completion and the hardest work behind them, both plan on relaxing, entertaining and enjoying the fruits of a job well done.

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Making the dream

Dream location: In addition to the multiple benefits of its end-of group placement (side windows offering more interior light, for example), the residence sits directly across from Baltimore's Patterson Park with a view of the park's pagoda. Walkers stroll, joggers jog, parents push baby carriages and dog walkers are in seventh heaven. "My favorite part of living here is the park across the street," said 9-year-old Meghan Gosse.

Dream design: During the restoration, when the Gosses replaced the floor joists for the first floor, they reversed the joists' direction from side-to-side to front-to-back. Doing that allowed them to extend the joists beyond the back wall of the house, providing cantilevers for the deck. Having the deck cantilevered is not only architecturally impressive, but it also affords enough space to park beneath.