Greg Alexander

Finding a home in an unlikely color

Baltimore Sun, January 8, 2006

When Maureen Mooney visited Baltimore in 2002 to scout out apartments to rent, she met an interesting woman who showed her an apartment that was painted purple. When she declared that it was “Purple … for the Ravens,” Mooney wondered if moving from New York City to Baltimore was such a good idea. Little did she know that two years later she would be buying a beautiful stucco home on Hampden’s “Pastel Row” that is painted, yes, purple, a color she now loves.

After looking at several houses for a little over a year, Mooney found the perfect home on West 38th Street in Hampden, a two-story home that had been renovated two years prior and was the perfect blend of historic charm and modern amenities. “I looked for about a year, and felt it was the right to buy a house. I definitely wanted to stay in the city, and I was tired to paying rent,” says Mooney. “I was living downtown in an apartment where my car got broken into and where parking was tough,” says Mooney of the apartment she rented near Camden Yards. “I was just looking for the right house to come along.”

Mooney says that she primarily looked in Hampden, Charles Village and Wyman Park but focused particularly on Hampden. “There were a lot of factors, but it was a combination of the affordability of Hampden, the safety and friendliness of the neighborhood and the proximity to Penn Station,” says Mooney, who commutes to Washington, D.C., where she works for a public accounting firm. She adds that she also likes the proximity to restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, which has undergone significant changes over the past few years. According to the Souvenir Book of the Hampden-Woodberry Golden Jubilee Celebration (1938), Hampden was named by Henry Mankin in honor of John Hampden, a British Parliamentarian who was one of the first Englishman “to oppose the opening of the arbitrary, if not illegal levy of taxes by King Charles I.” The neighborhood, which began as a group of workers’ homes built around the flour and cotton mills in the 1800s, was able to survive despite the decrease of mill jobs in the 20th century. Today, the neighborhood is an eclectic blend of first-time young homebuyers and third-generation Hampdenites.

After looking at other houses in the neighborhood, Mooney’s real estate agent, Heather Perkins of Coldwell Banker, alerted her in September 2004 to a purple house on West 38th Street, a street dubbed “Pastel Row” due to its amalgamation of bright-colored exteriors. Mooney says that the fact that the house had recently been renovated was a plus. “I’m a first-time homebuyer, and I didn’t want a house that needed a lot of work. I work in Washington, so I don’t have much time to meet contractors during the day. I also like the fact that the home had central air conditioning.”

“The house is in a great location and was priced well for Maureen,” says Perkins. “The housing prices in Hampden were rising sharply [Mooney paid $6,000 over listing price], so I knew that she needed to move aggressively if she wanted the house.” Unfortunately, Mooney had just resigned her rental lease and knew that if she broke it that she would have to pay a substantial fee to get out of her lease. “The timing was not ideal, but when she saw the house, she instantly loved it,” says Perkins. “Hampden is a great place for a single woman – it’s safe, close to the train and fun. All of her friends were urging her to buy it, so she put in a contract immediately.”

Indeed. After Mooney saw the house, she knew that she had to act fast, so she pondered over the decision with two friends at Frazier’s on the Avenue in Hampden before submitting a contract. She heard the exciting news that her contract had been accepted on Sept. 11, 2004 – a day with painful memories for a New York native like Mooney. “It was a little weird to receive such great news on that day, but I was very excited,” she says.

A month later, Mooney moved into her circa 1910 Arts & Crafts two-story home, which features gorgeous hardwood floors with parquet inlay. On the first floor, guests are welcomed by a bright foyer that leads to a sweeping archway into the living room. Exposed brick walls and a unique, large heating vent in the floor from a previous heating system add to the character of the home. Mooney and friends painted the foyer and living room a soft, calming cream color, which glows with the ample natural light that pours in from the front windows. Purple couches and a large screen television – a housewarming gift from friends – allow Mooney to host Ravens parties, although the team’s performance this year somewhat limited the number of football parties. Another archway leads to stairs to a finished basement, a powder room and renovated kitchen, where Mooney chose a rich, terracotta color for the walls that feature original artwork and whimsical framed Guinness posters, perfect for Mooney’s Irish heritage.

Off the kitchen is an expansive deck that overlooks a nice backyard. “Another attraction to this house for me was being able to live in the city and yet have a yard and garden to tend to,” says Mooney, who bought a new patio set for entertaining friends. Mooney also landscaped the front yard and says that she is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the tulips she planted this past fall.

Upstairs, two bedrooms and full bathroom provide ample space for Mooney, who particularly likes the master bedroom, a sweeping space that features French doors, a large closet, recessed lighting and soft carpeting. Mooney and friends painted the master bedroom two different colors – two walls are indigo blue, while two others are a creamy white – which helps give the large room definition, while new drapes help soften the space. Also upstairs is a charming guest room that Mooney uses as an office space, and two skylights provide more natural light. Like many Baltimore rowhomes, there were a few challenges along the way. The boxsprings had to be lifted from the first-floor deck onto the roof and then slid through the guest room window, but now all is well in Mooney’s purple house.

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