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1820 rowhouse in Otterbein

The Baltimore Sun

In South Baltimore's Otterbein neighborhood, quiet side streets sit cloaked in the turning leaves of tall trees. The autumn tranquillity, punctuated by an occasional dog barking or church bells chiming, belies the hustle and bustle of nearby downtown activity.

It is on one such street, cozily ensconced in her three-story brick rowhouse, that Sharon Michaels counts her blessings every day.

As a member of the Austin Group, Interior Designs and Custom Builders, Michaels said she's used to "buying homes, fixing them up and selling to other people."

"I took one look at [this house] for clients and decided I wanted it for myself," she said.

For a long time she had thought about a move into the city, but as a single woman she found the offerings were either too small or too expensive.

Until last March - when she took possession of her renovated rowhouse built in 1820. Fitting nicely into the street's ambience of herringbone-laid brick walkways and iron lampposts, the interior was contemporary in design.

Michaels paid $405,000 for the 65-foot-long by 14-foot-wide home and then proceeded to gut the first floor to restore a more traditional look. Acting as her own general contractor, she used her company's stable of subcontractors.

Michaels estimates she spent $200,000 on the restoration, which included a new kitchen, new plumbing, the addition of a powder room, laundry room, closets, and moldings and paint.

Surprises awaited around (and underneath) some corners.

"I ripped up Mexican-style floor tiling to find original pine [floors] and brick [flooring] in the back of the house," she said.

What Michaels left intact was the loft-like second story, which is open in the front and back of the home, allowing light from upper windows to flood into the two ends of the house.

The living room and dining room are painted a soft shade of olive with cream ceiling molding. Two fireplaces, one in the living room, the other a few yards away in the dining room, have also been trimmed in cream molding, a fitting backdrop to the mostly traditional setting.

The dining room's double-pedestal, mahogany table sits atop a cream-colored woven rug with blue floral border. Built-in shelves display a large collection of Majolica dishware.

On the back side of the home's center wall and staircase, the new kitchen sports cranberry walls and new maple cabinets with stainless-steel pulls. Countertops and a center island are of light granite.

A family room at the rear of the home was once a kitchen outbuilding and has a fireplace on the back wall. Here, double doors lead to a small, fenced-in patio. Inside, a woven Irish rug complements the brick flooring.

On the second-story loft, a traditionally furnished bedroom overlooks the downstairs living room.

Beyond the bedroom, a modern bath has been left untouched. Here, natural stone forms a raised tub; three steps lead to a separate, glass-enclosed shower. A dressing room beyond the bathroom overlooks the family room.

The home's third story contains Michaels' office and a guest room.

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