Bob Kean has been restoring old houses his entire adult life. So when he moved from a large home in Baltimore's Roland Park to a two-story rowhouse on Eastern Avenue in Canton, the change was far more than downsizing his space.

In January 2011, he paid a whopping price of $73,500 for what was, by his own admission, "a dump."


"I knew I could bring it back from the dead," Kean said, especially considering the house's enviable location across the street from Patterson Park.

But his would be no contemporary renovation — no open layout from the front door to the back; no exposed brick walls, iron staircase railings or rooftop deck. Kean's intention was firm — he wanted to keep the architectural integrity of the circa 1911 home intact.

Knowing the original design of these homes, the 65-year-old former head of credit administration for construction at the Arundel Corporation knew the house's potential to be turned back into "a modest scale of elegance."

He also acted as contractor, hiring people he knew and/or worked with over the years.

"The floor plan was recreated along the same lines as [the] original, but altered to accommodate modern expectations of function and comfort," Kean said. "Trim and finishes were crucial to the outcome."

This is especially noticeable in his kitchen, where tin ceiling tiles were taken from the originals in the basement. He also used glass knobs as hardware on doors, which are compatible to the early-20th-century period. Kean saved original windows where he could as well as the transoms, notably the stained glass one over the front door. He also insisted on hot water heat instead of forced air, thus keeping the radiators.

The house retains its original 9-foot ceilings. Large openings, trimmed in molding with bull's-eye corners between the rooms, provide a spacious feel without a completely open layout. A chunky, mahogany craftsman staircase leads to the second level.

Kean is pleased with the restoration he approximates costing around $210,000.

"These houses are what they are and should not be festooned with incompatible or inappropriate materials, especially on the facades," he said.

And while the interior architecture is emblematic of a 1911 East Baltimore rowhouse, the furnishings are mainly traditional with a Federal period look. Much of it he purchased over the years from estate sales, while a lot of his artwork was found in antique shops.

A Potthast Brothers camel-back sofa upholstered in blue satin and a hand-carved mahogany settee sit on a Persian rug in the living room, which has been painted a colonial-style vivid yellow.

The dining room, located in the central portion of the first floor adjacent to the staircase, is a study in fine furniture and art. A Potthast Brothers dining table shares space with two Potthast corner cabinets, with Waterford crystal peeping from the glass and tracery doors. Between the cabinets sits a Henkel Harris inlaid wood buffet, on top of which are two Oriental porcelain vases on either side of a detailed porcelain bowl. One of Kean's prized works of art hangs over the buffet — an oil painting of an English village in an antique gilt frame. Another Persian rug graces the oak floor of maple and walnut inlay.

Kean's favorite room in his 1,300-square-foot home is his kitchen

"It's larger than [in] any other home I have owned, despite the overall square footage of the house being the least I have lived in since my first home," he said.


Here, he went for stained birch cabinetry, granite countertops and stainless appliances — "sufficient amenities that make it pleasant and functional," he said.

His backyard is pleasant and functional, too. A white wood pergola held up by six Doric columns rises above a red-tinted concrete patio. Urns and carved iron benches give the space a Tuscan feel. The patio, when the gates are open, doubles as a parking pad. When closed, the gates are covered for privacy.

"I got the thought for privacy panels on the gates when I was sailing," Kean said. "I was putting the cover on the sail and realized that same material could be used as a covering attached to the gates."

A den, hall bathroom and master bedroom suite are found on the second level of the house. This is where Kean modified the existing floor plan. While he saved a portion of the heart pine flooring and kept the original bathroom true to the period (complete with small black and white tiles on the floor), he converted what was the house's third bedroom into a new master bathroom of polished marble and dual sinks. He also enlarged his closet.

A Henkel Harris bedroom suite includes a four-poster bed and an attractive high boy with brass fixtures. Looking back on it, Kean said he should have sacrificed a portion of the master bathroom and linen closet to accommodate laundry facilities.

Still, when asked if he has anymore projects in the offing, he replied honestly:

"I think I have done enough."

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