When Robert and Lelia Russell downsized from their Silver Spring Colonial to a loft in Canton Cove, they refused to abandon their tired refrigerator, archaic microwave and eclectic antique furnishings. That presented architect Majid Jelveh and interior designer Marybeth Shaw from Baltimore’s Shaw-Jelveh Design with an additional challenge when they renovated the loft in November 2004. 

The decidedly modern husband-and-wife design team had to accommodate the homeowners’ treasures without compromising a strict design philosophy. “This is a testament to versatility in modern architecture because the modern environment provides a canvas for the old furnishings,” says Jelveh. “Moulding and faux finishes create a silly, artificial environment, but this is more honest. Nothing here is a lie.”

The Russells purchased the Canton Cove loft because, as Lelia Russell says, “The harbor is very important to us. We love the view.” Indeed, the renovation, which involved removing interior walls, reformatting storage areas and creating an architectural focal point, was guided by the mantra of “maximize the view.” You can’t escape the Inner Harbor as it glistens behind the wall of glass that runs the length of the Russells’ loft. Even when you turn your back to the water, a mirrored pantry and mirrored support columns reflect the view.
Minimal wall space forced the Russells to reconsider their 35 years’ worth of collected art, which includes black-and-white prints from a Bethesda gallery, WPA-era pieces from the Southwest and tiles from Russia, Spain and Italy. “They had so much stuff,” says Shaw. “I had to get to know their art collection, and we spent hours grouping the pieces. It was important to maintain continuity between the architecture and furnishings.”  Jelveh designed custom cabinetry that provides each item its own niche, and that can be adjustable in anticipation of future changes and additions. A kitchen nook designated for the refrigerator, which the owners anticipate replacing, can be expanded to fit a larger appliance. 

Jelveh reconfigured previously inefficient storage space to accommodate the Russells’ preference for meticulous organization— a peek into the pantry and other kitchen cabinets reveals spices arranged alphabetically and tablecloths stored by frequency of use. Although Canton Cove provides its tenants with extra, behind-the-scenes storage space, the architect customized and modified every conceivable storage space for maximum in-unit storage capacity. The reconfiguration yielded an unexpected benefit when Jelveh transformed an awkward storage space on the mezzanine level into a young girl’s getaway with a window onto the water. The couple’s frequently visiting granddaughter, Nicole, now has a room of her own. 

Shaw coordinated the loft’s color scheme with the couple’s most central belongings, choosing Dover white from the wide variety of neutral shades. “The walls had to tend toward ivory,” she says. “It had to be clean, bright and modern yet still accommodate all their stuff.” The Verde Laura granite countertops in the kitchen match a collection of teal-green 1940s Russell Wright pottery and cookware displayed on the exposed kitchen shelves, and the maroon accent paint and ultra-suede wallcovering borrow their hue from the ornate rugs in the central living space.

The renovation, completed in September 2005, took nearly a year, and necessitated a close working relationship between Jelveh and Shaw and the Russells. If the project was a test of versatility for the design team, it was a challenge of open-mindedness for the couple, who had to balance their attachment to their belongings with the integrity of the architecture. “There was a spirit in them that they were ready for something new,” says Jelveh.

With more homeowners craving waterfront views, Jelveh and Shaw’s modern aesthetic is in high demand. As Lelia Russell says, “With an all-glass wall, there is no choice but to build using modern architectural principles.” And though their furnishings and artwork are more traditional than modern, the Russells upheld the modern ideals of conservation and function by reusing as much as possible from their previous home.

“What we most wanted was to attract the eye to the artwork and the furniture,” says Robert Russell. “Now we have maximum light and opportunity to look at the water.”


Architect Majid Jelveh, Shaw-Jelveh Design,
410-675-3030, http://www.shawjelveh.com

Interior finishes Marybeth Shaw, Shaw-Jelveh
Design, 410-675-3030, http://www.shawjelveh.com

General contractor Bill Lupton, Bay City Builders,

Casework North Baltimore Cabinets, 410-235-5213

Steel Bill’s Portable Welding & SVC, 410-780-3015

Glass Marquez Glasseries, 301-617-9471

Paint Sherwin-Williams, http://www.sherwin-williams.com

Lighting Tech Lighting, http://www.techlighting.com; Ardee, 

Fixtures Kohler, http://www.kohler.com; Vola, http://www.vola.com


Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here