In a bachelor pad floating high above Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, fantastic abstract works by the likes of Picasso and Chagall hang beside floor-to-ceiling windows offering stunning views of downtown. Wide-open spaces, including a vast great room with three seating areas, and an inviting kitchen, are filled with sleek furnishings and ultra-modern hardware. It all comes together to form a wonderfully chic, contemporary environment.
Not that it didn’t take a little work.
When the divorced homeowner, a 46-year-old investment banker who shuttles between New York and his office in Baltimore, moved from a traditional home in Ruxton, he was ready for a change. He called architect and interior designer Patrick Sutton in the fall of 1999, and together they began transforming what appeared to be the perfect place— a three-bedroom condominium at Harbor Court. The harbor location offered the client scenic routes for his fitness runs and proximity to the Federal (continued on page 99) Hill restaurants he frequents.
Sutton came up with a design scheme that transformed the traditional, boxy floor plan into an airy, light-filled one with a cosmopolitan feel. The first order of business was to maximize the amazing views from the 27th-floor condo, vistas of the Inner Harbor, Camden Yards and the downtown business district. The designer knocked down walls separating three small rooms to create the spacious great room, then opened it to the adjacent kitchen by cutting a large window and doorway between the two. “Before, there was no vista,” says Lee Hyden, a senior designer who assisted Sutton on the project. “But now you have a view, even from the kitchen.” A Mondrian-style transom window constructed of glass and stainless steel was fixed in place above the opening.
Sutton elevated the east end of the great room, defining it with two steps that run the width of the room. A limestone surround and hearth replaced a wall mirror that had framed the dining area’s fireplace, and maple built-ins, dyed sage green, were installed on either side of the fireplace and in the living room. Even the original hollow-core doors were replaced with smooth paneled doors of solid birch.
Sutton is known for his creative use of modern materials, a talent showcased throughout the condo. In the kitchen, pigmented polished concrete countertops rest below tinted, waxed, plaster walls. In the powder room, a mirror is set cleanly into yet another waxed plaster wall, above a cone-shaped stainless steel sink. A Miró print hangs on one wall, and a dropped ceiling constructed of maple panels conceals an unsightly vent.
Sutton’s choice of lighting was appropriately high-tech. In the kitchen, stainless steel outdoor walkway lights set into the wall complement a mix of colorful, halogen spotlights suspended from an electrified spiral rail. “The overhead decorative lighting provided the drama and some task lighting, and the wall lights provided countertop lighting in a unique way,” Sutton explains. A 15-inch flat-screen TV fits snugly into a tiny alcove cut into the kitchen wall.
When it came to furnishings, Sutton started with a clean slate and chose pieces that bolstered the sleek, modern theme of the condo. The only pieces the client brought with him to the project were a Robert Motherwell poster and a desk inherited from his father. “When you have a bachelor client who doesn’t have anything, you kind of have to be inventive,” says Sutton. “But my client is a man with wonderful taste, and an appreciation for beautiful things. He was one of the easiest clients I’ve ever worked with.”
Ultimate choices included a pair of neutral-toned leather sofas and steel end tables in the living room, and a sultry, pony-hide-covered “Peace Chaise” by Maya Lin (the award-winning designer of the Vietnam War Memorial), which rests in the open area between the dining and living room spaces.
Opposite the pony chaise stands an antique walnut dining table used as a console. Sutton found it in the neighborhood, at Gaines McHale Antiques & Home. “I love taking open, modern spaces and filling them with sleek and contemporary objects, but I also like to give a space a sense of history with older pieces,” says the designer, who also aided the bachelor in choosing his exquisite art, abstract works of historical significance.
“When Patrick brought his client to me, a wonderful backdrop had been created,” says art dealer Aaron Young, who furnished the walls of the apartment through Renaissance Fine Arts in Pikesville, where he is a principal. “There were several spots where pieces were going to go, and Patrick chose about six potential pieces for each location. Then the client chose from among them. It was an unusual process,” Young continues. “Very often, a designer will choose the art for a project, and treat the art as part of the décor. Patrick allowed his client to choose for himself— the pieces that really spoke to his heart.” His choices: prints by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Joán Miró, Marc Chagall and Robert Motherwell. Finished in a mix of simple and ornate frames, the works are showstoppers that pop out of the neutral décor.
For all the apartment’s chic, metropolitan feel, there is also a homey side. The owner is father to three girls, ages 17, 15 and 10, who visit on alternate weekends. Subtle, floral-printed cotton upholstery, antiqued cherry wood furnishings and French prints help make the girls’ bedrooms warm and inviting. In the bathroom shared by the two younger girls, the walls are constructed of blackboard, and chalk and erasers wait at the ready for inspiration to strike.
Natural materials create a comfortable palette in the family room, or “Opium Den” as it is jokingly called for the Asian-themed décor. Green grasscloth covers the walls, a sisal rug covers the floor, and hand-woven bamboo shades by Conrad filter light at the window. A teak wall unit frames a large, flat-screen TV— making the room the perfect teenage hangout. But the den, which is adjacent to the master bedroom, also doubles as the owner’s home office.
“I travel so often with work, I don’t get to spend much time in my apartment,” he says. “But when I’m here, I sit at my father’s desk and check my e-mail.” Or he might fit in a workout in the master bedroom exercise area, which is separated from the sleeping quarters by a frosted glass partition. The turquoise hue of the glass coordinates well with the tile in the master bathroom, yet another room where Sutton’s innovative talents took hold. Because floor-to-ceiling windows left little room for counter space, he designed a two-sided vanity in the center of the bathroom, using squared-off nickel pipes to conceal the plumbing.
As a surprise for the client, Sutton and Hyden filled the bathroom’s built-ins with French bath soaps and oils, and provided a handsome set of nickel-plated hand mirrors and brushes for the dressing area.
“When we were creating this home, we wanted it to be an environment that was cosmopolitan, inviting and warm,” says Sutton. “I hope [my client’s] spirits are lifted every time he walks in the door.”