How An Artist Turned A Rundown Auto Shop Into An Urban Oasis Home And Studio

By Christianna McCausland
The Baltimore Sun

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Kelly Walker. She had a vision to create a home that would allow her to creatively express herself personally and professionally.


Luck follows Kelly Walker.

When she hitchhiked into Baltimore as a teenager, the North Carolina native was addicted to drugs and alcohol and living out of a backpack. But she found recovery services that saved her life.

Then she stumbled into an apprenticeship that led her to start her own decorative painting and faux finishing company, Art Star Custom Paintworks, in 2002.

Today her work can be seen in such places as the Sagamore Pendry hotel, Cinghiale restaurant and the new Hotel Revival.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that she lucked into her Mount Vernon home and studio, too.

“Luck has played a huge part in my life,” says Walker, 42. “I’m still so blown away by my life and how this all happened.”

An avid cyclist, Walker was out for a ride when she bumped into a friend who set it all in motion.

At the time Walker was living in Hamilton, but her basement studio was too small for her large-scale works. The friend told her of a former auto garage that had already been semi-converted into a home.

“As soon as I walked in, I knew this was the place,” says Walker. “It had everything I needed, showroom space, storage space, production space and parking, because we drive my trailer and two cars right into the building.”

In 2013, she bought the property out of foreclosure. It had been abandoned for four years. Holding the keys, Walker panicked. Behind a screen of weeds there were some bullet holes in the walls, and the roof needed replacing.

Although a portion of the interior was renovated, it was cut into two oddly configured apartments. All the exterior brick needed to be repointed and painted.

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