July 27, 2014

I’ll Take This: Church with London Views!

I don’t read the sports pages, I read the real estate pages, especially the ones in some of the UK papers. When I was browsing recently, I found this amazing place for rent in south-east London. Before I show you, a little aside: I was looking for a flat in London, and came across a sweet one, but it was small, and since I didn’t have any furniture (yet), that didn’t matter. I checked the price and saw that it was about £600. What a deal! Until I read a little closer and realized that was the price per week, and not per month! It was quite a shock and soon I realized that the rents in London were just too much if I wanted to live close in to where I was working.

But I digress… This place is on the market for a bit over £960 a month, or £4,110 per calendar month. But I’d say it was worth it, because this is the view from the terrace!image

And this is what you’re renting!image

It’s a four-bedroom house in an old church in the Crystal Palace section of south-east London. As the listing says:

This church tower comprises four good sized bedrooms, two large reception rooms, a cellar and a plant room along with a fully functioning clock. The tower further benefits from a lift, off street parking an a beautiful roof terrace with breathtaking views over London and some major landmarks.


The church was originally built in the 1860’s and converted to a family home in the late 1990’s. imageThe building still retains many of its original features, image

including its clock, clock mechanism imageand clock tower!

And there’s an amazing terrace at the top of the clock tower!image

It is accessed by a winding staircase, image

but before you reach the top, the church’s tower is there for you to enjoy with the light streaming in from all four sides. imageimageimage

All in all, a very well-done conversion!image

It’s available for short- or long-term lease, and with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a weekly price of about $1600, you could divide that between a group and have a pretty reasonable price and an incredible place for a week’s holiday in London. More of the listing here.

July 24, 2014

#ThisIsBaltimore: July Edition

In early June, I posted a series of images which I have hash-tagged #ThisIsBaltimore. As you know, one raison d’etre of  this blog is to present the side of Baltimore that’s generally not seen by those who do not live here. Here’s a funny piece on Yahoo on what NOT to say to someone from Baltimore. Here.

The always amazing and fascinating American Visionary Art Museum.instagram1

The secret Buddha, a project of a student at Maryland Institute College of Art.image

A flag-holder at the University of Baltimore. image

Secret art installation for Artscape 2014, the largest free art festival in the USA.image

The Homeland Lakes, a series of urban lakes.image

The Rawlings Conservatory & Botanic Gardens in Druid Hill.image

An unusual roof-line and great windows – don’t they look like an artist’s garret? image

The Patterson Park Pagodaimage

An art installation made with old cast iron columns and stained glass. photo (3)

And what would Baltimore be without some of our local blue crabs?crabs

I’d like to continue this series once a month. It’s important to me to show people the city that I love and where my family has lived for more than 12 generations.

July 22, 2014

Jenkins Mansion: A Gilded Age Beauty

I said on Monday that I would be touring an old mansion in Baltimore on Monday afternoon, but there was a mix-up with the date of the tour, and I can’t make the new date, but I thought you’d like to see the pictures anyway. Although it doesn’t look like anything spectacular on the outside, the inside is filled with rare and exotic hardwoods, numerous varieties of marble, gold leafing and leaded windows.IMG_1452

Let’s take a look…

The Entry Hallwayimageimage

The Front Parlourimageimage

The Dining Roomimageimageimage

Kitchen with the requisite granite and stainless steel.imageimage

Media Roomimage

Bedroom filled with light. image

Another bedroom, the detail is amazingimage

Dear real estate photographers: please put the lid to the loo down before you take a picture. K?image

More of the stairway… There’s also an elevator.image

Even though this house is in the heart of the city, it’s got some great outdoor space.image

The house is on the market for $2.4 million and has five bedrooms and five baths. Click here for more information.

July 20, 2014

HDR Photography

Have you ever heard of HDR or High Dynamic Range photography? It’s the latest buzzword in photographic circles and if you’ve not heard of it, surely you’ve seen examples of it.

Basically, the photographer takes a range (get it!) of identical photographs, with the settings moving from under- to over-exposed. The shots are then merged to brighten the darks and darken the brights, bringing out details in the image that would otherwise been lost. Many cameras, including phone cameras now include the software to do HDR automatically, and if your camera doesn’t have it already, you can find an app, such as Pro HDR to take care of it for you.

I took a series of photographs on an overcast day with no shadows and flat light, to show you how this can improve your photographs. My iPhone 5 series takes two shots of the same image, with one being the regular settings and one being HRD.
In this image, you can see that the sky is more detailed, the flowers on the Crepe Myrtle really pop, the house in the background is brighter and the colours are not as flat.
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In this image, the sky goes from white to cloudy, the stones on the house are not as mono-chromatic, the shades in the grass are more distinct and the tree on the left is a more realistic colour.

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I had actually gone out to search for this house, which was completely surrounded by overgrown shrubbery and is now being sold. In this, you can see how having a little more detail in the sky really adds to the creepiness factor. The house is a little brighter, the details on the doors and the windows are cleared and you get more detail on the patio area on the left.

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HDR is fun to play with and using the automatic settings, you will usually get a good result. However, there are loads of examples of bad HDR out there, where a photographer is tempted to tweak the image so that it looks unrealistic. imageA lot of times, you can’t exactly tell what’s wrong with the image, but your eye doesn’t think it looks right. It’s too detailed, too shimmery, too crisp, too unnatural, too too.image

Check and see if you have HDR on your camera and then play around with it and see if it improves your photography.

July 17, 2014

Adaptive Re-use

One of the things I love most about being on the boards of the AIA and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation is the opportunities I have to see buildings that I’d never otherwise have the chance to visit. One such opportunity presented itself with a tour of the former national headquarters for Monumental Life, later Aeon Insurance. IMG_1412

The building has just undergone a year-long conversion from an insurance cubicle farm to a health-care provider, Chase-Brexton Clinic. Chase wanted to remain in the same neighbourhood where they started, and Aeon wanted to move into new office space on the Harbour, so a deal was done and work began.

I had always assumed from the imposing fa├žade of the building that it would have a grand entry, and I was a little disappointed that it didn’t. IMG_1399

The building, or actually three buildings take up almost one full city block. This part of the building was built in the 1920’s, while money was still abundant. It’s long and skinny, really only about 40-50 feet deep. The entrance, as I said, is rather plain. IMG_1429

There are some details, like the Maryland seal embedded in the floor (translation: manly deeds, womanly words).IMG_1427

There are actually two of these seals, this is from the 1926 building and the one at the top is from the 1939 section. Interestingly, Pittsburgh is spelled with an H on one, but not the other. IMG_1431

There is some beautiful detailing, but it gets a little lost, and I am a little horrified that some of the bulbs in this light fixture have already failed. IMG_1424

These huge bronze doors prevented people from getting to the cashiers. IMG_1432

What’s an insurance company without a fancy board room?IMG_1433IMG_1434IMG_1436IMG_1437IMG_1438This Tudor-style board room still retains the scent of many smoked cigars and cigarettes, but there’s no evidence that there was every a fire in the fireplace.

The 1939 building is slightly fancier, but after the Depression, I am sure they didn’t want to give the impression of being too opulent. There are some beautiful book-matched pieces of marble, which the renovation architects proposed to paint over (the horror!). IMG_1409IMG_1410The two bronze doors lead into the former cashiers’ office, where people would come to pay their bills. IMG_1415It’s hard to tell, but there’s inch-thick bullet-proof glass on the cashier stations, and when they tried to remove it, they found they would have to take the whole wall down.

Interestingly, perpendicular to the cashier stations is this odd window. It was the paymaster’s office, and the round hole was for a machine gun.IMG_1416If anyone tried to rob the cashiers, security would stick the gun through the hole and mow them down! EEK! Seems like there would be a lot of collateral damage to that!

The one opulent feature that the architects kept was the barrel-vaulted ceiling with the gold-leafing, which was restored.IMG_1408

Special lights were created for the main floor, and they’re much more effective here (because all of the bulbs are lit) and really glisten in the reflective surfaces of the polished marble walls and floors and the gold-leaf ceiling. IMG_1414

All of the medical spaces are ultra modern and every convenience is seen to, including this spinner with the bathroom on one side and the lab on the other, so you don’t have to carry your urine specimen down the hall. IMG_1442

The building is flooded with natural light and many of the doors have opaque glass to let the light in. IMG_1441

While the building is only six stories, the views are really remarkable and look towards the north of the city. IMG_1402IMG_1443

Thanks to the AIA, Chase Brexton and Marks-Thomas Architects for arranging the tour!

Next week, I will be taking a tour of this house, which doesn’t look like much from the exterior, but is amazing inside!IMG_1452