Richard and Key-Key von Lange and their yellow lab, Tiller, in their Federal Hill dream home.
Richard and Key-Key von Lange and their yellow lab, Tiller, in their Federal Hill dream home. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun)

The ink on their contract was barely dry and the moving van just out of sight, when Richard and Key-Key von Lange prepared to flip the first-floor interior layout of the six-year-old home they bought in Federal Hill three years ago.

"We looked at the house and were sold," Richard von Lange recalled of the rowhouse he and his wife purchased for $395,000. "We wanted parking, we wanted a yard and we liked the location."


The only problem with the three-story, end-of-group home with a rooftop deck was the kitchen just inside the front door. The couple knew what had to be done. They moved up to the floors above for four months while Andy Todtz of Hawkeye Construction gutted the 17-by-41-foot ground floor, gave it an open layout, placed a spacious kitchen in the rear of the home, a large living room up front and a dining room between them. The transformation came with a price tag of $80,000 — well worth the cost for their dream home filled with natural light and designed with an uncluttered and sweeping feel.

Visitors are swept from the on-street entrance toward a kitchen that is dramatic in its bright simplicity. Light-gray walls feature white trim at the ceilings, floors, windows and the double doors that open out to a flagstone porch and landscaped side and back garden. White-laminate cabinets mesh with the white subway tiling of the backsplash that contrasts with the gleaming presence of stainless-steel appliances. It is the room's centerpiece, however, that commands the space — a granite slab, nearly 7 by 8 feet, resting atop the kitchen's island.

"[This] is where we … create great meals, and it is the focal point whenever we have friends over, whether it is for a fine dinner or just a cocktail party," said 62-year-old Richard von Lange, who runs an acoustics business, TechStar Industries, with his wife. "Our center island seems to be where everyone gathers, and with the open concept of the first floor, no one is left out."

He points proudly to his double Viking stove, with its six burners, center griddle and two ovens, the one appliance he calls "an absolute, drop-dead must."

"Well, in our neighborhood, we're 'social central,' " his wife quipped. "And we love it."

When not entertaining in the formal dining room with its traditional, mahogany custom-made table, the two are happy to go out of doors.

"[This] is a place that takes you away," said Key-Key von Lange. The couple's three dogs — Labrador retrievers Jackpot and Tiller and a fawn-colored pug named Benny — run in the backyard, where a two-car garage sits behind a stone and brick patio. "When the flowers and shrubs are in bloom, it can be a tranquil spot to relax and enjoy a nice glass of wine with the waterfall drowning out the sounds of the city. And having the pizza oven and grill makes it a wonderful place for entertaining our friends that stop by."

Another of Richard von Lange's prize possessions, the brick pizza oven, sits in a corner of the yard awaiting the warm-weather cookouts.

The home's lower level is completely finished and doubles as a gym, with several pieces of workout equipment, and also as a small-appliance storeroom, with blenders and mixers on chrome shelves.

Above the first floor, two bedrooms — one a master suite — and two bathrooms carry on the open, bright and airy theme of the house's decor. Key-Key von Lange has used pastel colors on the walls to coordinate with darker suites of furniture and bright bed linens.

A third-floor den with a wet bar and additional bedroom and bath accommodate guests while a rooftop deck offers stunning views of the city skyline and harbor. The beauty and functionality of their Federal Hill home is not lost on the couple.

"We love being close to so many of our friends and all the new friends we have made since moving here," Key-Key von Lange said. "Federal Hill is a … community [that] offers us the full flavor of Baltimore with the proximity to the Inner Harbor, Little Italy and both of our stadiums, not to mention walking to restaurants and parks."

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