Home & Living

Third-Generation Owner Kelly Quinn Gives Us a Tour of Her Charming Riverside Rowhouse

Throughout the years, the "enthusiastic steward" of her family’s trinkets has also managed to make the light-filled home her own.
—Photography by Julie Hove Andersen

Family Ties: My maternal and paternal families both have ties to Riverside. My paternal family bought this house during the middle of the 20th century. I often think of it as a refuge for some of the people in my family who never married. My Aunt Mabel lived here for many years with her cousins. After they passed away, she lived a full life here, on her own, often making improvements, like installing linoleum on each level, paving the dirt floor in the basement, and planting AstroTurf in the backyard.

Living the Dream: When I was a child and my parents carted us into the city to visit relatives, I knew rowhouses were for me. I enjoyed visiting my great-grandparents in East Baltimore just off Patterson Park. I liked the density and the street life. It was so exotic compared to our suburban tract home with a lawn and a fence.

Museum of Mabel: In 2012 I returned to Baltimore City after 25 years away. The house was empty at the time—that is, no one lived there, but it was still crammed full of my Aunt Mabel’s belongings. The house could have been a set for an early John Waters film: faux wood paneling, dropped ceilings, and Pepto Bismol wall-to-wall carpeting. Virgin Mary statues perched next to Orioles bobbleheads. I was elated to make it my own.

A House Divided: Every room is my favorite. I particularly like my den, bathroom, and third floor bedroom in the early morning and late evening. They are in the rear of the house, on the alley, and face the east. The morning light is a joy. The ground floor den opens onto my patio with a rain garden jumping with exuberant pokeweed. In the late afternoon, I like my front rooms, those that face west. Golden hour is a treat, especially when the Formstone retains the warmth of the sun. I like the front of the house because it sounds like Baltimore City: crossing guards, delivery trucks, buses, dirt bikes and trikes, and too-loud neighbors on their phones stumbling home at closing time.

Prized Possessions: I like things with stories: objects that lived lives, those that were used by my family in this city. I like the tension between high and low: bespoke linen lamps and mass-produced mugs. I love posters, plants, and puppets. I like stacks of magazines and books, especially exhibition catalogs. I like to have toys and art supplies close at hand in case pals—young and old—stop through for a visit. I love tchotchkes that whisper stories: Grandmother Quinn’s Jack and Jackie Kennedy salt and pepper shakers, telescope pictures from Ocean City, and Grandmom Jones’ pressed aluminum coasters. I am an enthusiastic steward of my family’s trinkets.