September 11, 2017

Carriage House Conversion

One of my best friends is a Realtor, and she sometimes grabs me to come look at houses that she is listing. So when she texted me that she was taking some pictures of a carriage house conversion, I jumped at the chance to see it, since I know the architect who did the re-design. image

This picture, taken from the Baltimore School for the Arts, right across the street, gives you an idea of what a little treasure this place is. It’s in the elegant Mount Vernon neighbourhood of Baltimore which is filled with beautiful townhouses, museums and other cultural attractions. This house is lucky enough to have enough off-street parking for three cars, and we even managed to get my Volvo wagon in behind the gate, with room to spare.

It’s also got a wonderful outside space for entertaining or just sitting and having coffee early in the morning. image

The house has a new kitchen which opens to a laundry room and imageto the living room where the architect has creatively solved the problem of having lots of light combined with complete privacy. imageHe’s added an opaque window, and used a set of old carved doors to shut out the light when needed. The western light is diffused and provides a great solution to an eternal problem.

Much of the original brickwork has been left intact, but is broken up with huge windows and glass doors. image

Upstairs, there are two bedrooms, one with another fun set of windows with another pair of old doors. These details, along with the original beams and bricks, really make this house special. image

The shady patio was one of my favourite things about the house, along with its great location in the middle of the city. image

If you’re interested in this house with two bedrooms, one full- and one half-bath, and two or three off-street parking places in the heart of Baltimore, or would like to see additional details, contact Tracey here.

September 5, 2017

Another Old House and a Monastery

Last fall, I was doing some research on the early 1900’s Baltimore architects, Palmer & Lamdin, and came across a listing of all of their works. Most of their work was done in several Baltimore neighbourhoods, but one address stood out – it was about 20 miles west of the city, in what would have been a very rural area of the state. I looked up the address and found that it was actually a monastery! IMG_4746

For months, I’ve been meaning to drive out and check it out, but it was only this past weekend that I had the time. Luckily, after a day of heavy rain, Sunday was gorgeous and cool, with tons of great clouds.

The old house, and by old, it dates from 1732, was a bit of a surprise, since I was only expecting a monastery! It’s called Carrollton Manor, and you can read its history here. It was given by Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, to his grand-daughter, Emily MacTavish. Interestingly, I was on the Board of Directors of Carroll’s house in Baltimore City.IMG_4727It was originally intended as a five-part Georgian manor house, but the wings were never built, resulting in a rather plain edifice. In this image, you can see the cupola on top of the house – a great way to provide ventilation. IMG_4737The view from the house is lovely – overlooking fields which are now farmed by the University of Maryland’s agriculture program, and provide income for the property. IMG_4726I was able to take my “signature peek” into the house, by flattening my camera lens onto a window. I combined two images taken from either side of the front door, so you can get an idea of the grandeur of the main hall. My understanding is that this house is being renovated and will be in use once again, instead of lying fallow. IMG_4731xThere was some beautiful ironwork on the house and I had fun taking pictures of it. IMG_4720

After I left the house, I wandered up to the monastery, which is actually the Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua. He’s one of my personal favourite saints, as he is, among other things, the finder of lost objects. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve summoned his help, and he’s promptly found the object. IMG_4744Honestly, this place was so unexpected! The shrine is based on the Sacro Convento of Assisi, the friary in Italy where St. Francis for whom the Franciscn Order of monks is named, is buried. It’s a little piece of Italy in the Maryland countryside.

Four arcades surround a formerly cloistered courtyard with a fountain in the center. Luckily, when I was there, it was very quiet and I could walk through the space and contemplate… things. IMG_4748IMG_4750x

Of course, there’s a chapel at the monastery and it was not what I expected, either. Parts look like the original from the 1920’s and other pieces are clearly the from the 70’s. IMG_4758

There is a long passage that’s behind the arcades where the offices, dining room, library and other rooms are located. IMG_4761

As I mentioned, it was just a gorgeous day, as you can see by these pictures. IMG_4762IMG_4771

It is always such fun to find places like this that are hidden in plain sight!

August 31, 2017

Fountain Pens

When I was first learning to write in cursive, we used fountain pens. I know, it sounds like something out of the Victorian era, but it’s true. I’ve always maintained a fondness for fountain pens, but they’re quite difficult to find in the States.image

Try going into a Staples and looking for one. Oh, you might find a nice Cross Fountain Pen, but I tend to lose things, so that’s not an option. Also, people always ask to borrow pens, and if you’re a real fountain pen person, you know that the nib adjusts to your writing, so you NEVER lend your fountain pen. EVER.

When I was in Montreal, I remembered having bought a set of disposable fountain pens and a great pad of paper there a number of years ago. Although I could neither remember the name of the store, or find it again, it gave me the tiny little push I needed to hunt for fountain pens again.

The first set I bought because I couldn’t resist the name: Platinum Preppy! The set came in seven colours of ink, which was a huge change from my childhood, black, blue-black or blue ink. They’re Japanese, as so many fun things are,and come in a fine point. The colours are great, except yellow, which you can barely see!image

Then I bought a set of Thornton's Fountain Pens which had a fine nib. Again with the yellow! If I buy these again, I think I will get a medium nib instead of fine. thorntonsBecause I have so many meetings, and need to keep track of all of the various things I do, I devised a system a number of years ago that works for me. Each conversation is written in a different colour ink. So leafing through my myriad notebooks, I can see where a new conversation beging with just a glance. These pens are perfect for that.

I am thrilled that I’ve once again discovered fountain pens and that they don’t leak and feather on the paper like in the old days.

August 21, 2017

Visiting Belmont Manor

How lucky we were that Sunday was an absolutely PERFECT day! Not a cloud in the sky, warm temperatures, a light breeze and no humidity! So it was an ideal afternoon to head about 20 minutes south of Baltimore to visit the historic Belmont Manor, another house designed, in part, by my new obsession, Pleasants Pennington. IMG_4354

You get to the house via a long and very narrow and bumpy road before you finally see the allĂ©e of trees leading to the house which sits atop a hill. IMG_4348It is completely different from the last house I wrote about, and charming in its own way. IMG_4351First, the center portion is a lot older, dating to the early 1700’s, with the hyphens and wings added a bit later. In the 1910’s and 1920’s, Pennington added a lot more space to the house, extending it to the rear and adding to one of the wings. IMG_4363xxHe also designed the charming pool house. IMG_4567

Back to the house. It’s a lot more subtle and much smaller than the last house. It’s also a lot older. This was the original ballroom, and as you can see, the corners of the room are curved, a detail that’s only on the inside of the house, but one which elevates the room. IMG_4364

The manager of Belmont mentioned to me that the newel post on the staircase at Belmont is very similar to the one at the other house. Apparently, Belmont’s staircase was relocated when the house was remodeled, so in all probability, Pennington was the one who designed it.IMG_4371

IMG_3482 2This is one of the rooms which Pennington designed, and you can see his style here when compared to the last house. IMG_4360IMG_4361

This is the original back door to the house, which they moved during the expansion and centered on the back of the house. The door is in the corner of the room inside, but centered outside. They also moved the back stairs to the gardens.IMG_4382

Belmont has added a huge tent to the gardens because the space is primarily used for weddings and other special events. It’s so popular that it’s booked through 2018! IMG_4535

There is a grove of trees set up for outdoor weddings which seats about 200 guests. IMG_4571The gardens are nice, but not great and they’re sparsely planted. Luckily, there are a lot of the original trees dotting the property. IMG_4538

The other Pennington addition is the pool house, which is fantastic, but actually a pretty simple structure. The elegance is in the perfect proportions and the details. IMG_4540IMG_4543IMG_4558 What was originally a swimming pool is now a beautiful lily pond – spectacularly painted black to show off the plantings. IMG_4553IMG_4548IMG_4561

One of the highlights for me was seeing the grave of the steeplechase/hunter/race-horse, Billy Barton, the first animal featured on the cover of Time Magazine. He was the most famous race horse of his time and was purchased at the age of five by David Bruce, former owner of Belmont. image

He is buried at Belmont, standing up, in full tack.His stable-mate, Jay-Jay, is buried next to him.IMG_4575Belmont is open to the general public four times a year, the next in December. Check their website to see the exact information. Here’s an article with some information about the acquisition and history of the house.

August 17, 2017

A Sanctioned Tour of the House I am Stalking

Naturally, after I posted pictures of the inside of the house over which I am obsessing, I got a call asking if I’d like to have a tour. “Tomorrow, at 10:00 a.m.” It was an offer I could not refuse, because if i said no, I might not get another chance to see the house.IMG_4246

My host was charming and informative, and was patient enough to allow me to peek into closets and open doors everywhere. The house is more than 11,000 square feet, and is based on a five-part Georgian design with a main section, two hyphens and two “smaller” sections, either of which would make a nice size house. But this house has an extra two-story wing added, which housed the kitchens and some other rooms on the first floor and servants’ rooms on the second. IMG_3715

There are still most, if not all of the original details, like moulding, hard-wood and marble floors, doors, etc. remaining in the house, as only one family lived it it. But it was most recently (and not even too recently) used as a show-house, and vestiges of that remain as well. Come along and I will show you the current interiors. If you missed the original ones, click here.

One of the most wonderful things about this house is that there is a fireplace in almost every room. IMG_4248Most of them are early 20th century designs as that’s the era of the house, but many have had the surrounds painted in some form.IMG_4262IMG_4279IMG_4281IMG_4285IMG_4294

There are great details throughout the house, including these windows on a swinging door,IMG_4253

this beautiful brass doorknob and escutcheon,IMG_4258

the bell and buzzer system – the chapel wasn’t original to the house,IMG_4288

and this huge built-in safe.IMG_4254

Anyone who has read this blog knows I am a huge fan of enfiladed doorways, regardless of the badly placed exit signs…IMG_4249

and infilled doorways.IMG_4293

As I mentioned, there are remnants of the showhouse including this room. The gold paint is probably radiator paint, and the walls above the chair-rail are actually wood-patterned contact paper!IMG_4252

More radiator paint (or maybe it’s tea paper), this time in silver, but the original details are still there. Check out the jib door on the left below.IMG_4266IMG_4268

The rooms are so classic in their design, apparently a hallmark of the architect, Pleasants Pennington.IMG_4250IMG_4251IMG_4257

You can get an idea of the scale of the house from these two images.IMG_4263IMG_4290

The center hallway is still beautiful.IMG_4244IMG_4296

There was a ton of storage in this house, including in one of the hyphens, IMG_4264

and this closet with drawers and cabinets, as well as a chain to open the skylight.IMG_4273

We had a long discussion about the fact that the house was cream or pale yellow for the first several decades if its existence. Looking at the brick, it seems like the house might have had a light covering of stucco that covered the brickwork. Interestingly, in the architect’s rendering of my friend’s house, it was also a pale yellow over the brick, but the images of the house from the time it was built show it as brick. My suspicion is that the stucco started loosening sometime after the house transferred in the late 40’s, and so it was removed entirely. But traces remain. And the green in the image below comes from the copper screens.IMG_4301IMG_4302IMG_4304

Thanks for coming along with me on my explorations of this amazing house. I am heading to see another of Pleasant Pennington’s local projects over the weekend. It’s only open to the public twice a year, so it’s a “don’t miss” occasion for me!

PS – I PROMISE this is the last post about this house.