Like many of us, Susan Clayton wished for a home near enough to her job so that she could walk to work every day. A co-owner of the Clark Morley Salon in downtown Baltimore, she had been driving from her home several miles north of the Inner Harbor.
Federal Hill and Canton were too pricey, but she kept searching. "One day while looking around, I got lost and found this neighborhood," said Clayton, a 46-year-old stylist.
The neighborhood she found was Ridgely's Delight, just blocks from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In February 2000, she purchased an early-19th-century rowhouse situated among other renovated properties, newer houses and condos.
The 2 1/2 -story dwelling features stucco over brick and, from the street, it looks deceptively small. However, inside the front door that bears the original wavy-glass transom, an open layout (15 feet wide by 60 feet deep) under 9 1/2 -foot ceilings presents a sense of spaciousness. An open staircase to the second floor and third-level garret features railings and spindles that are painted white. Daylight splashes from the roof's large skylight, illuminating the garret and second-level hall.
Clayton paid $104,000 for the property and estimates that she spent an additional $70,000 on improvements that include installing laminate flooring on the first level, refinishing a basement, completely overhauling the house's two bathrooms and opening two fireplaces that had been walled over in the initial renovation.
Light yellow wall paint in the dining room and kitchen contrast with a living room painted a deep shade of terra cotta. Furnishings are scaled to the space and are eclectic in style.
"I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I [first] walked in here," Clayton said. "A clean look with accent pieces."
Her vision is evident in the simple styling of an 8-foot-long-by-3-foot-wide oak dining room table complemented with open-backed wooden chairs, as well as a sleek, brown leather living room sofa. Framed lithographs and photographic art are strategically placed on walls alongside hanging musical instruments.
Clayton, who has a long wish list of future projects (redoing the kitchen is at the top), refers to her house as a work in progress.
"The only way I'd leave is for a waterfront property someplace where it's warm," she said, laughing.
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making the house her own
* Susan Clayton turned a backyard space 15 feet wide by 40 feet deep into a dual functional area. Just outside the back door, she poured concrete over half the area, dyed it dark brown and enclosed the space with wood fencing to create an urban courtyard retreat, complete with hot tub, furniture and plants. Beyond the fence, in the additional half of the property, she created a stone-paved parking pad for two cars.
* When finishing the basement, in lieu of paneling, she opted to have the original brick re-pointed and cleaned up. She also poured a concrete floor and dyed it dark brown. In the room, she created a contemporary sitting area and indoor gym.
* When her friends travel - especially overseas - Clayton requests simple, little objets d'art. She places them on end tables and fireplace mantels or hangs them on walls to give her home a museumlike feeling.