Remington Nevin can stand midway into the first floor of his home, spread his arms and touch the walls on either side of him.

No, he's not a giant. He owns an alley house in Butchers Hill that measures 70 feet deep by just 10.5 feet wide.


The 40-year old doctor, a former public health physician in the military and now a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, purchased his little house in 2005 for $300,000. He knows that he overpaid, but the market was still high and the circa 1900 house was fully renovated by the former owner.

"All I did was swap out a few [kitchen] appliances, add a rooftop deck and an [outdoor] spiral staircase," he said.

Nevin also made a very smart move when he hired a designer to furnish the house with pieces that are functional and, more importantly, scaled to its narrow width.

"These alley houses are not spaces you can move into with all your apartment furniture," he said.

However, to Yale Kim, Nevin's fiancee who moved in at the end of 2012, the long home is a mansion compared to the New York City apartments she lived in before coming to Baltimore as a gastroenterology research coordinator at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Just inside the front door, the interior is open to the back. A sally port, while snatching a few feet from the kitchen width, makes up for it by providing loads of natural light through a side door and a very large window.

Beyond the back door, an enclosed 8-foot-deep brick patio provides a little urban oasis with table and chairs, a grill, a sunshade attached to the second-floor balcony, and potted perennials that stay green all year thanks to drip irrigation.

"It's important to maximize our use of outdoor space," Kim said. "What we lose in interior space, we make up for in outdoor amenities."

The truth of that statement will become abundantly clear when climbing to the second floor, and then the rooftop deck. Everything in the house has a designated place. If one thing is askew, the couple know immediately.

"If we don't need it, it's gone," Nevin said. "We do a regular purging of the house."

Amazingly, with the amount of furnishings, the interior does not look cluttered or feel cramped. Ten-foot-high ceilings and recessed lighting help provide a more spacious feel.

The kitchen, with its variegated wood-stained cabinets, granite countertops and a glass-topped table for two, evokes a charming, cafe-like feel.

Just beyond the kitchen and through the side door to the sally port, the outdoor spiral staircase rises two stories to the rooftop.

"We can have a deck party without using the house," Nevin said. "[Guests] come through the sally port and climb up."


On the wall at the foot of the staircase to the second floor, Nevin has hung 10 framed posters — all about 8 by 10 inches,— that represent in flier form the past 10 years of the Butchers Hill House Tour. As he plans to participate again in this year's event, which runs from noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 11, one wonders how he'll negotiate a place for the 11th poster.

Furnishings in the neutrally decorated house include memorabilia from Nevin's Army post in Africa. A favorite of his is an Ethiopian coffee set that sits on a ladder shelf along with other objets d'art, such as intricately woven baskets. Distinctive to the living room is a patriotic stained-glass transom over the front door. Designed in red and white strips and flanked by two white stars on a blue background, the home's address is soldered into it. Nevin had the piece installed as an homage to the Army, in which he served until returning home in 2012 to enroll at Hopkins.

Two bathrooms, a bedroom and TV room make up the second level, which is every bit as bright as the first floor. This is due to equally high ceilings and a glassblock widow in the hall bath.

The couple refers to their TV room as the Jungle Room. Its slightly coffered ceiling, deep-brown microfiber sofa, tropical plants and metal table in the shape of a rudimentary drum are the backdrop for a collection of African masks hung on the walls and other native artifacts, such as bowls placed on a display shelf.

A door at the end of the room leads to a balcony overlooking the patio below and the parking pad just outside the gate. The spiral staircase at the corner of the deck makes one last climb to the rooftop — clearly the star of the home's outdoor space. A three-level deck spans the dimensions of the house and provides all the entertainment space the couple needs.

The panoramic view from the top features miles of city buildings and the harbor, as well as the more immediate streets, decks and fire escapes of the neighborhood. Rope lights line the deck railing, making it look like a helicopter landing pad by night.

Seated at a picnic bench there, the couple said they feel protected by church steeples on all four sides of their view. They feel lucky, as well.

"This is the first house I ever owned," Nevin said. "This was my home to come back to when the Army sent me all over the world."

Kim appreciates the home for equally sentimental reasons, saying, "This place is special to me because it is where I unpacked my suitcases for good."

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