The Call of the City
Jan 27, 2014 11:46AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
We’ve long embraced the belief that it’s necessary to migrate out of the city to escape the hustle-bustle of its concrete walls. Not so in Annapolis circles. The truth is, more and more Anne Arundel homeowners are seeking properties within city limits for the surprising convenience, charm, and stress-free features of town and city living. Whether it’s a newly constructed high-rise in a prime retail location or a waterfront townhome reaping the benefits of renovations, these town dwellings are synonymous with serenity.
Towne Centre Home, a Penthouse Paradise
Downsizing from a grand D.C. single-family home, Barry and Olga Scher were no strangers to a city lifestyle. But after years of high-powered careers (Barry was a 43-year executive with local grocer Giant Food; Olga worked for the cofounder of America Online), they were ready for more casual, less stressful living. Their criteria included a condominium with high-end features, walking proximity to everyday conveniences, and a location that would appeal to their diverse interests. Extremely engaging and outgoing people, both were initially enticed by the Annapolis area: Barry had numerous local friendships and contacts from past lobbying work for Giant in the capital, while Olga was drawn to the history and beauty of the region.
Though they explored various upscale buildings in Washington, Bethesda and northern Virginia, nothing compared to the remarkable offerings of this GrandView penthouse in the heart of Annapolis Towne Centre. Just a few years old, the GrandView anchors the ever-growing, planned “town concept” in Parole. Encompassing 12 stories of luxury residences, a rooftop pool, fitness center, two social rooms, and even a massage room, the complex provides walking access to some of Annapolis’ most coveted retail, dining, and grocery stores. “It’s nice to walk into a shop and they know us and we know them,” Barry says.
In addition to the mix of immediate small and large shops, an array of service providers are within a mile, including the Anne Arundel Medical Center and Annapolis Mall. “The ease of getting around and accomplishing so much is wonderful,” Olga notes, adding that there are weeks she doesn’t even use a car.
The GrandView also offers a variety of free concierge services, from dinner reservations to newspapers and package delivery services, as well as fee-based amenities such as mobile pet grooming, dry cleaning, and party staff. In addition to onsite staff and passkey security, the complex provides homeowners free covered parking and even spaces for guests, a shockingly refreshing option for these D.C. transplants.
At 3,850 square feet, the interior of the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath penthouse hardly resembles the tight living quarters associated with city dwellings. Every room boasts big, open space, high ceilings and walls of windows with striking views of the plaza below (on clear days, the Bay Bridge, State House dome, and Naval Academy can also be spotted). Luxury features are evident throughout, including granite, marble, and ceramic surfaces, opulent en suite bathrooms, upgraded crown molding and cabinetry, and generous walk-in closets.
Having decorated previous homes and AOL offices, Olga is well versed in design aesthetics and readily took on the décor of the residence. She drew color inspirations from a chair’s fabric, using warm fall tones to pull the rooms together. The abode adheres to a transitional/traditional style, with clean lines evident on tables, chairs, and couches, as well as simple window treatments to not overshadow the views. A subtle mix of contemporary and vintage accent pieces add character and charm. A turn-of-the-century table, for example, breaks up a large rectangular room, while modern oversized bathroom sconces are repurposed and flank the dining area. Customized elements provide depth and interest: a bedroom television is framed to mimic a painting; a pattern from a duvet is hand-painted on a ceiling; and showpiece chandeliers illuminate each room.
Heavily involved in D.C.-based organizations and fundraisers (when he retired from Giant, Barry was serving on eight business and nonprofit boards and now runs a federal lobbying firm that takes him to Capitol Hill), the Schers have easily transitioned to active members of their new community. Between the two of them, they serve on or are active with GrandView’s board of directors, social committee, communications committee, quarterly magazine, book club, and movie club, to name a few. Impromptu gatherings with the building’s varied homeowners occur often, whether for a casual rooftop cookout or a night out at one of the many local eateries. “People do relax at 5 p.m. here, which isn’t the case in Washington. It’s exciting to move to a place where you can discover new things,” Barry says.
City Living Turns Spacious with Townhome Overhauls
From the outside, this unassuming, steely bluegray townhome blends seamlessly with the surrounding water and sky tones. But a recent renovation down to the studs, combined with one of the best Annapolis harbor views, makes this city residence a hidden gem in plain sight.
When they purchased this townhome in 2005, Sunny and Frank Adams loved the location. Eastport is not just a booming maritime hub, it’s also a vibrant and eclectic community bustling with restaurants, shops, and events, as well as an easy bridge (or boat) ride into downtown Annapolis. Frank, a venture capitalist and managing general partner at Grotech Ventures, enjoys boating and loves the great dockage the home provides. Sunny, an artist and homemaker, thrills in hosting their nine grandchildren, as well as Parade of Lights parties at the residence.
But the poorly insulated, 33-year-old property was encumbered by narrow entrances and stairways, limited storage, and oddly configured areas that cut off any cohesiveness. The Adams enlisted the help of local architect and interior designer Scarlett Breeding to create a coastal cottage ambiance in keeping with the area’s maritime feel, while incorporating modern, stylistic, and practical elements within the four stories and 2,881 square feet.
Every surface and every part of the house was touched, creating a brand new home in a 1980s shell, explains Chris Neumann, director of operations for Pyramid Builders, which took on the construction of the project. “We didn’t change the framing, but we did as much as we could to give it additional life.”
Perhaps the most significant change involved the metamorphosis of the main living area. A sunken living room originally was separated from the dining and kitchen area by about six feet. The remodel raised the room’s floor, creating a better flow between the spaces, as well as transforming a lower-level crawl space into a walk-in storage area.
But if the floor level changes were significant, the stairwell changes were dramatic. A stunningly crafted, curved-glass staircase replaced brown picket spindles, uniting all the floors while enhancing the open, spacious feeling. The continuous glass structure with its gleaming railing made of seemingly one long piece of wood—free of bulky fasteners and posts—is both an engineering feat and a work of art. Widening the steps further softened the area, Frank says, “so you don’t feel like you’re going up a boat ladder anymore.”
More functionality was just as important to the homeowners as the stylistic enhancements. With a constant flow of visiting grandchildren, Sunny wanted materials that were effectively “hose-downable.” Just one of many solutions: large counter with seating is bedecked with resilient and exotic Italian granite. A second tier of the surface holds more counter space and a unique circular sink.
Custom built-ins also were used throughout the home to improve function and storage within limited spaces. A crisp, white bead board unit is incorporated into the dining area, for example, providing additional counter and display space while concealing everyday items like a broom closet. Upstairs, a small room was converted for a bigger use with four bunk bed built-ins designed to resemble a ship, complete with individual lights and bead board ceilings.
Smart and stylish finishes are packed into every corner of the home. Pocket doors in the master bedroom offer privacy while taking up less space. Balconies on each floor were redone with durable materials and glass enclosings to preserve views. A difficult-to-maintain and mismatched bricked backyard area was redone in slate and maintenance-free Ipe decking. Non-visual touches, such as electric window screens, blown-in insulation, and reinforced studding are paired with appealing visuals like custom Chesapeake-inspired tile work above the range, soothing neutral color schemes, and frosted glasswork for privacy and depth. The end result is a soothing and spacious abode—an unusual, though most welcomed, benefit of city and town living.