It was not until Tom and Cheryl Atkins steamed off 25 layers of wallpaper in their Butchers Hill home that they discovered, on one of those walls, the exact age of the property they were renovating.
"There was a hand-drawn vase and a date [of] 1862," said Cheryl Atkins, who, along with her husband, Tom, own Tomcat Enterprises Inc., a real estate investment firm.
The couple bought the house in 1996. Since it had been divided into three apartments, it took two full years to renovate. At 20 feet wide and 70 feet long on each of four floors, the two had their work cut out for them.
Improvements and upgrades included wood flooring, which was taken from the kitchen to patch the rest of the house's original heart of pine. Two systems of central air conditioning and all new plumbing were installed. The couple opted for heated floors which, they said, was the green way to go. The basement was finished for use as an office with the inclusion of a sauna for after-work relaxing.
In a home where very few luxuries have been overlooked in its rehabilitation, one of the most impressive and stunning updates has been the kitchen in the rear of the main level. Here, double cherry cabinets from floor to ceiling contrast with stainless-steel appliances. An additional workstation of cherry has been built under three tall bay windows. Leather and chrome bar stools sidle up to a 10-foot-long island topped with a slab of light-green granite. Glass backsplashes have been fashioned from recycled bottles. Recessed lighting shines warmly down on light-colored laminate flooring and against soft yellow walls.
The home's second level has been outfitted with a billiards room and library in the rear area and a guest bedroom at the front of the house. A full bath off the bedroom features a whirlpool bath.
The Atkins chose to place the master suite on the home's third level. On that level at the rear of the house, glass doors open to a balcony just steps from their bed. With curtains open wide, they can look out over hundreds of rooftops to the water at the Canton harbor front. On the balcony, a look to the west presents a downtown vista.
The Atkinses' renovation has been sensitive to the home's integrity and original architectural design. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the little details, such as pieces of sculpture they placed in the wall niches at the turns of the staircases and the attention given to the restoration of ceiling and window molding as well as pocket doors.
When the couple isn't busy enjoying what Cheryl Atkins calls "the rooftop world" from their second- and third-floor balconies or cooking for friends in their large kitchen, they can be found relaxing beside the basement's ventilated fire pit enjoying the gracious beauty of their urban garden.
"We're very happy here," Cheryl Atkins said.
Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making a dream home
Dream element:: The Atkinses' home is a brick, three-story with English basement, end of group rowhome in the Butchers Hill neighborhood of East Baltimore. From its position on one of the highest points in the city, it overlooks the harbor at Canton with vistas of the city skyline from the rear, third-level porch. Patterson Park is visible from the front porch and windows of the home.
Design inspiration:: Cheryl Atkins has implemented an eclectic decor throughout the home's 5,600 square feet of living space. The modern kitchen and the contemporary design of a mahogany dining suite flows seamlessly into a living room filled with comfortable leather furniture. Responsive to the home's grand scale (large rooms and 12-foot ceilings), she has hung significant pieces of artwork on walls painted rich shades of red, olive green, yellow and blue-gray. Window, door and ceiling molding throughout the home are painted a cream color, not only contrasting with the walls but also defining the intricate woodwork, especially on an arch over the front vestibule and between the bays of the kitchen window.
Personal touch:: In a home filled with personal and innovative comforts, Cheryl and Tom Atkins have created what they refer to as their "urban oasis" out of the backyard. Here, accessible from the rear deck of the home via a spiral staircase or by an iron gate off a side alley, a flagstone patio surrounds a pond filled with koi and a waterfall providing a soft but steady swishing sound. From their indoor fire pit room at the rear of the basement, two leather lounge chairs straddle the gas fire, affording a cozy space to relax while taking in the view of the garden beyond the room's large glass double doors.
Surprise element:: A large door is in the same spot on every level of the home. Inside the door, a 4-foot- deep by 3-foot-wide elevator, its interior constructed of alder wood and equipped with a built-in telephone, quietly travels from floor to floor.