Smaller home, bigger life: Fed Hill is a playground for empty nesters who have outgrown the ‘burbs

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When Faith and Ted Millspaugh moved from The Orchards to Federal Hill in 2016, they did more than simply change homes. They also updated their lifestyle.

The Millspaughs closed on their new home — a two-story, 2,300-square-foot condo at the top of Federal Hill Park — in the summer of 2016. They were sold on the quiet luxury of the building, the light and the wrap-around terrace with its views of the stadiums on one side and the harbor on the other. “And the parking!” adds Faith. The condo came with two deeded parking spaces, which the Millspaughs appreciate on a daily basis.

Since then, they’ve renovated the space, fine-tuning the design to best meet their needs. They’ve also tweaked their day-to-day lives, trading shopping trips to Eddie’s for visits to Harris Teeter, and weekends driving kids to sporting events for Saturdays spent exploring Charm City.

The move was prompted when they realized that with both their daughters grown and out of the house, they weren’t making the most of their Orchards home. “We weren’t around that much, and when we were, we were just sitting in two rooms,” says Faith. “The rest of the house wasn’t being used and all I was doing was taking care of a yard.”

Ted, a partner at the law firm Venable LLC, and Faith, who is vice president of the Mt. Vernon Place Conservancy, had been keeping an eye on the Federal Hill property market for several years. “We are city people,” says Faith, “and we knew we wanted to be in Federal Hill. We love the history and the strong sense of neighborhood here.”

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Today, their smaller space requires less upkeep and its location allows them to take advantage of Baltimore’s best features.

Ted takes the water taxi to work — a quick 10-minute ride across the harbor — and when the weather is nice, Faith exercises outdoors, walking along the promenade to stay healthy. Together, they also spend more time on their boat than in the past. “We can go for a boat ride for cocktails and see the skyline light up at night,” says Faith.

Their new home is an easy walk to Federal Hill restaurants and bars that cater to a wide range of ages, like The Outpost American Tavern, which has become a regular stop for the couple. Their downtown location also makes it easy to hit Baltimore’s many festivals, including Light City, which they love.

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The couple still embraces elements of their “old” life; they attend The Church of the Redeemer, and Faith is quick to say she loves her old neighborhood and misses seeing those friends daily. Since the move, the couple has become more intentional about seeing old friends, and naturally, they’ve made new ones. “Federal Hill is a wonderful neighborhood. You walk down the street and say hi to everybody,” says Faith.

And what about Fed Hill’s reputation as a rowdy neighborhood for the post-college crowd? Faith says it’s not a problem and, in fact, older residents often visit the same bars the younger crowd frequents, but for dinner instead of late-night drinks.

Downtown’s reputation for crime isn’t a major concern, either. “I feel very safe where I live,” says Faith. Her building is secure, she says, and living close to other neighbors adds to her sense of comfort.

Logistically, moving from a larger space to a small one presented both challenges and opportunities.

The Millspaughs hired Caryl Siems, owner of Senior Moving — a friend and a downsizing expert — to help them navigate the process, figuring out what to move, and where to donate or sell the things that would not make the move with them.

About a third of the furniture in their current home came from their old house; the rest was newly purchased. “You realize some of your old furniture doesn’t t,” Faith says. “You get new things, which is so fun. It’s like being young again!”

Making Downsizing Easier

Moving from a large, family home to smaller urban digs can be tough, but working with an expert makes it easier. Here, experts share key advice.

Start Early. “It’s best to call somebody the minute you think you might be moving,” said Sally McCabe, President of Next Step Baltimore, a service that helps homeowners with the downsizing and estate sale process. This will minimize stress – and potential rush charges.

Start Small. Taking it one room at a time, clear out items that are “non-essential” or laden with emotional significance.

Share History.  “It’s a good chance to share your family history,” advises Ashley Ingraham, owner of Home Perspective LLC. Sharing photos and stories make it easier to keep the memories but leave the stuff.

Manage Your Expectations. All the experts agree. “The hardest thing we have to do is tell people their sofa and antiques are not worth thousands of dollars.”

Pay Attention to Details. Once in your new place, check the locations of “electrical outlets, bulkheads, vents in walls – that all makes a difference in where you can place furniture.” McCabe’s team creates furniture outlines with tape in the new space.

Donate, but Not Too Soon. It’s great to donate to charity, and you will have your chance. But hold off a bit. Smaller furniture and decorative pieces you may not think of as critical to an older space may look fresh in your new home.

The above story was originally published in the 2018 Baltimore Fishbowl Home & Real Estate Guide, published this summer. To view the guide in its entirety, click here. Pick-up the print copy at Cross Keys, Green Spring Station, Design Distillery, or email [email protected] to receive a copy.



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