Home & Design

Stella lounges on the foyer’s travertine floor; a vintage Asian stool, Maasai shields and an archival print by British photographer Christopher Sharples hint at Sutton’s eclectic aesthetic.

In the living room, a wall covered in Phillip Jeffries’ cork accentuates the harbor view. Above the mantel, a photograph by Hendrik Kerstens presides over Verellen sofas, a custom table and a tufted-leather ottoman.

Patrick and Tracy Sutton relax in their second-story living room near an antique wood cabinet and a white-lacquered, contemporary chair. PORTRAIT: LAUREN DAUE

An accent wall in Benjamin Moore’s Black offsets the breakfast area where chartreuse Seat Belt Dining Chairs by the Phillips Collection surround a custom table in a stone finish; an oil painting by Belgian artist Sabine Maes completes this tableau rich with texture and contrast.

Collectibles on the coffee table display Sutton’s penchant for combining the unexpected.

As part of a thorough kitchen renovation, Sutton custom-designed the cabinets of deep fumed oak. Nero Marquina countertops on the island contrast with limestone floors and crisp-white walls.

On a wall in the primary bedroom, a rustic plaster treatment by Artstar Baltimore dramatically highlights the marina view. Over the bed, Sutton articulated the ceiling, painted in high-gloss enamel.

The adjacent sitting area harbors a hand-carved Alfonso Marina armoire, a work of art by Baltimore-based Leslie Shellow and a Weiman sofa.

Seventy-eight steps connect the town house’s five levels. A vignette on the ground floor assembles a vintage desk, a Hickory Chair stool, 18th-century drawings found at a French flea market and a modern work acquired at Art Miami.

The stairway ascends to the roof deck, which enjoys prime harbor views. The Suttons and guests relax on Seasonal Living seating covered in Perennials fabric.

Surrounded by a privacy screen of plants, the RH dining table is set for an al fresco soirée.

A detail of a hand-carved armoire.

Time Travel

Designer Patrick Sutton explores past and present in his urbane Fells Point home

Its location might be beside any sleepy harbor. A place where the sound of silence is broken only by distant foghorns, calling seagulls or sailboat halyards clanking in the wind. Yet the town house where interior designer Patrick Sutton and his wife Tracy reside stands just blocks from the heart of Baltimore’s animated Fells Point. It’s just a water’s bend away from the luxe Sagamore Pendry Hotel, an early-20th-century property Sutton recast for modern sojourns.

When the couple discovered their future home, they were aboard a water taxi from their former apartment. The year was 2008, and the town houses newly minted. When the two returned the next day for a tour, they fell in love with one of the homes and its unobstructed harbor views.

Since then, the Suttons have slowly reimagined the interiors, from the welcoming entry—where 18th-century drawings coexist with a wall of artfully arranged industrial baking pans—to its European-inspired rooftop garden, complete with a small kitchen. Throughout, Sutton puts into practice one of his design principles: the intermingling of old and new. “Think about growing up, the comfort of family,” he begins. “Over time, as you get older, you yearn to break out on your own and explore. If you stick too much to the past, the house will feel static, like a museum. If you go too far into the future and sever from your past, you’re untethered.

“I think what’s really important in design is embracing both of those notions,” he continues, “to be forward-thinking, to push the envelope and allow yourself to take a risk while staying anchored in something that’s familiar. So it’s not stale—it’s fresh.”

Those ideas and more come brilliantly into focus in the Suttons’ five-story townhome. On each level, suites of rooms dynamically flow. An open living/dining room and renovated kitchen occupy the second floor. Here and in the primary suite above, a tranquil harbor vista dominates. Two additional bedrooms accommodate guests‚ one on the entry level and another on the fourth floor, which also houses Patrick’s office. A roof deck crowns the dwelling.

“The important things about this house are the quality of light and the view,” says Sutton. Perpendicular to that view on a living room wall, dark-brown cork wallpaper establishes contrast while receding against the bright waters “so your eye goes right out the window,” notes the designer, adding, “Two interests I have are contrast and texture.”

Within the spacious, 4,000-square-foot abode, furniture placements also engage the eye. In the living room, an antique, carved-and-turned-wood armoire soars between two angular, white-lacquered chairs. Sutton enjoys the tension arising from this interplay, commenting on the armoire’s “great graphic quality and energy.”

Tracy, an insurance executive, recalls many holidays celebrated around the dining table with Patrick’s two sons, who grew up in this house, and their larger families. Meanwhile Stella, their black rescue dog, curls up on her favorite perch—a white sofa; its cotton-linen upholstery has been redone three times. “The house is livable,” Sutton affirms. “I think that’s important.”

The couple has collected contemporary art at shows from Art Basel Miami Beach to the Baltimore Fine Art Print Fair, and on travels to Amsterdam and Paris. Among their selections are works by Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens, whose precisely lit portraits of his daughter resemble paintings by the old masters, and a lambent watercolor by the late Baltimore artist Grace Hartigan, hung in the carpeted stairway.

Stairs, in fact, form a central connector. In his book Storied Interiors, the designer titles a section on their home “Seventy-Eight Steps,” underscoring its energizing verticality. The book also chronicles Sutton’s remarkable personal story. As he related on a recent visit, “I was lucky enough to be the son of one of the world’s earliest premier travel journalists.” His father, Horace Sutton, became a travel writer for the New York Post after World War II, when the family, based in New York, accompanied him on European voyages. Patrick remembers being served tea at Paris’ legendary Hôtel de Crillon and exploring Rome’s magnificent Villa d’Este gardens alone at the age of seven.

“I was learning about romance, proportion and antiquity,” recalls Sutton. “It’s not surprising I would have an affinity for design.” Starting out as an architect after studying at Carnegie Mellon, he accepted a job with a Baltimore firm, expecting to stay a year. Thirty-nine years later, Sutton remains in the city, now leading his own interiors studio. Launched in 1994, the 18-person firm spans residential and hospitality design.

“I’ve always been enamored of houses and gardens and restaurants and hotels. It’s what I grew up in,” he says.

The Suttons’ home embodies their own stories and aspirations for city living. “Long before we saw this house,” notes Tracy, a native of nearby Dundalk, Maryland, “I knew I wanted to wake up overlooking a body of water.”

As Patrick explains, “We like to cook. We like to have great meals in our roof garden. We like collecting interesting things. But we also like to be able to put our feet up and be comfortable.” As the waters beside them ebb and flow, reflections on their past, present and future continue to guide the way.

Interior Design: Patrick Sutton, Patrick Sutton, Baltimore, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: Case Builders, LLC, Lutherville, Maryland.


Stone Floor: chesapeaketileandmarble.com. Console: elegantearth.com. Art: Christopher Sharples. Asian Stool & Disc Art Pieces: Big Daddy Antiques; 310-769-6600.

Wall Treatment: phillipjeffries.com. Rug: fibreworks.com. Armchair Fabric: leeindustries.com. Table: Antique. Sofas: verellen.biz. Sofa Fabric: romo.com. Coffee Table: Custom through larochellefurniture.com. Ottoman: fourhands.com. Chandelier: bobointeriors.com. Art: hendrikkerstens.com. Table: Antique. Bookcase: leeindustries.com. Small Chair Fabric:  maxidnystore.com.

Wall Paint: Black by benjaminmoore.com. Cabinetry: custom by patricksutton.com. Countertops: rocktopsfabrication.com. Green Chairs: phillipscollection.com. Pendant: arteriorshome.com. Art: sabinemaes-art.com. Counter Stools: wayfair.com.

Bed & Bed Fabric: rh.com. Rug: Vintage through elikorugs.com. Wall Treatment: artstarcustompaintworks.com. Draperies: romo.com. Armoire: alfonsomarina.com. Art: leslieshellow.com.

Paint: Black by benjaminmoore.com. Desk: Vintage. Stone Top: rocktopsfabrication.com. Art: jacksonfineart.com through artmiami.com. Small Stool: hickorychair.com.

Chairs & Occasional Table: seasonalliving.com. Chair Fabric: perennialsfabrics.com. Dining Table: rh.com. Coffee Table: sunpan.com. Lantern: homart.com.



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