Baltimore Sun, June 11, 2006
Ask anyone who has bought a home, and you’re likely to hear that the search was exciting, nerve-racking and possibly exhausting. Finding just the right house can take a while … especially if you don’t know what you are looking for exactly.
“We looked for at least a year. We didn’t know what we wanted, so we looked at condos and houses in Guilford, Roland Park, Mount Washington, downtown and Cedarcroft. If it was on the market, we looked at it. We even had a real estate agent in Rhinebeck, N.Y.,” says homeowner Kevin Naff. “We had hoped to find an older house with good bones that didn’t need much work that we could make our own.” Naff says that the long search paid off, as in 2001 he and his partner bought a gorgeous circa 1924 brick home in the Baltimore City neighborhood of Guilford.
“We actually submitted a contract for another house, and we are so glad that we didn’t get it. This house was perfect for us, as it only needed cosmetic work,” says Naff. The couple had each room repainted – China red in the dining room, a soft, pale blue in the master bedroom and a celery green in the kitchen – the electrical system upgraded and the floors refinished. A spare bedroom was turned into a media room, complete with a 60-inch LCD and movie memorabilia, and a bluestone patio was installed in the back yard. However, the couple did more that splash some fresh paint on the walls and throw down some area rugs.
First up in the renovation process was the kitchen. “We knew when we bought the house that the kitchen would be the first project. It had electric blue cabinets, outdated appliances, green and white checkered wallpaper and two layers of linoleum on the floor,” says Naff, who hired Stuart Kitchens for the design. “We generally knew what we wanted, but the big ‘X’ factor was how to put in a full-size refrigerator. Reluctantly, we had to remove the butler’s pantry to make room,” says Naff, who adds that the doors for the pantry were salvaged to use in a future project. The couple chose a Kitchen Aid refrigerator and dishwasher and a Bosch double wall oven. Granite countertops, white cabinets and oak hardwood floors add to the new kitchen’s sophisticated, upscale look.
“We went back and forth on the floor material; we don’t have kids or pets, so we knew that there would be little wear and tear. Eventually, we decided on oak floors, and the floor contractor was a true artist. He amazingly was able to match the planks in the rest of the house so that the transition is seamless,” says Naff, who credits general contractor Lee Vanderhoff for the success of the project. “Lee is great. He is so responsible and delivers top-quality work.”
Naff and his partner were so satisfied with Vanderhoff’s work that the couple hired him earlier this year to renovate two bathrooms and convert an unfinished basement into an additional level of living space. The first-floor powder room and the second-floor guest bathroom – which were fully functional but not to the couple’s tastes – now shine with new tile flooring and fixtures. However, Naff notes, the larger-scale project was definitely the basement.
“It was a basic unfinished basement with cement floors and stone walls. Now, we have a guest suite, laundry room, additional entertaining space, billiards room, wine cellar, media room with a plasma TV and a full bathroom,” says Naff. The additional entertaining space is crucial to the couple, who likes to host dinner parties, football get-togethers and Preakness parties.
The renovations will also aid in resale, says the couple’s real estate agent, Heather Perkins of Coldwell Banker. “Generally, renovated kitchens and bathrooms yield the greatest return on your investment, so the work they’ve had done will help them down the road if they chose to sell. The kitchen is the heart of the home and where you end up spending most of your time. A renovated kitchen really delivers the ‘wow’ factor.
“The basement renovation was a wise move, too, as anytime you can add more square footage of living space to a house, it becomes more marketable.” Perkins says that the additional bedroom and full bathroom in the former basement space is key. “In Guilford, you are somewhat limited with a three-bedroom house when it comes to listing price. Now that they have a four-bedroom house, they could sell the house at a much larger price point.”
Not that the couple is looking to move anytime soon. “We love living in Guilford,” says Naff. “The neighborhood is a great mix of long-time residents and young couples with kids. We’ve made some great friends at wine tastings, dinner parties and block parties. Plus, we love living in a historic neighborhood.”
Originally made up 10 patents granted to British citizens, the area today known as Guilford was sold in 1820 by farmer Ebenezer Thomas to Revolutionary War veteran Gen. William McDonald. He expanded a stone house located on the property and built an estate coined Guilford, after the Battle of Guilford Court House in which he had participated. His descendants would own the home until 1872, when it was sold to Arunah S. Abell, original owner of the Baltimore Sun. In 1907, the Abell family sold Guilford for $1 million to the Guilford Park Co., which was consolidated in 1911 with the Roland Park Co., which developed Guilford beginning in 1913.
Although Naff and his partner have renovated a large portion of the home, most of the architectural details remain. The couple also chose to retain a large stained glass piece on the first floor. “The former owner salvaged it from her church before it was torn down, and it just fit in the space like a glove. They left it behind, and we love it,” says Naff. “This house is great as we’ve been able to add our personal touches without compromising the historical integrity of the home.”