Annapolis apartment building has the feel of a boutique hotel by Carol Hu

carol hu art
carol hu painting

By Kathy Orton November 8, 2013  

A recent tour of Crosswinds, the new apartment building at Annapolis Towne Centre, revealed how the residential and hotel industries are mimicking one another these days.

About the only difference between Crosswinds and any number of boutique hotels is that Crosswinds has a mail room instead of a check-in desk. Otherwise, everything you’d expect a high-end hotel to have — lounge area, business center, exercise space, conference room and a courtyard with a pool — can be found at this apartment building.

“We want to elevate what an apartment building can look like,” said Toby Bozzuto, president of Greenbelt-based Bozzuto Group, which built Crosswinds. “We are trying to take cues from what the hotel industry has done.”

Another factor that gives this building more of a hospitality feel is that Bozzuto hired Baltimore interior designer Patrick Sutton to put his touches on the project. Sutton, whose work has been featured on HGTV and honored by the American Institute of Architects, had never worked on an apartment building. But if the finished product is any indication, it won’t be the last time.

Sutton created a look he describes as “Armani meets Ralph Lauren.” It is meant to appeal to a younger audience, though hip baby boomers would feel at home here as well.

Warm, rough-hewn wood reclaimed from a Pennsylvania barn offers a contrast to the gritty white-and-gray-flecked stone in a melange of textures in the entrance lobby. Bright African juju headdresses provide a pop of color. An array of television screens grouped together highlight works of artists.

Down the hall, hand-hammered metal baskets from India grace a wall, while a mid-century mylar/acrylic piece tucked near the business center is as much a conversation piece as a work of art. The business center, with its Macintosh computers, printer, WiFi and self-serve Starbucks, is much more than a utilitarian space. Designed with millennials in mind as a sort of Internet cafe, it features original art by Carol Hu.

Even the mail room leans toward fun rather than just function with its gunmetal chain-mail wall covering and silver orbs hanging from the ceiling.

The second floor is the place to socialize both indoors and out. Inside, the lounge is the social hub of the building, where residents can meet up with friends to play pool, watch TV, listen to music or chat. The room has a clublike atmosphere with its pair of cozy banquette seating nooks flanking the fireplace and a high-top table surrounded by bar stools. An iPod docking station is built into the wall and wired into the sound system. Nestled into a corner is a partially enclosed space with flat-screen TVs on each of its three walls. Curtains can close off the area for intimate viewing parties.

Outside, the elevated courtyard features a pool, shade pavilion/outdoor lounge, fire pit and grilling area.

The facade opens the inside of the building to the outside. A five-story wall of glass fronts the lobby and elevator area, while floor-to-ceiling glass stretches along the main level. Those driving or walking by on the way to the nearby shops and restaurants can’t help but notice the activity taking place indoors.

“It says it’s a vibrant, alive place to live,” Sutton said. “It’s not sedentary.”

The individual units are unremarkable. The one-bedroom layout that I saw was a bit cramped at 674 square feet, and its floor plan was nothing special. The apartment had the ubiquitous stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops in the kitchen, a six-foot window overlooking the courtyard that flooded the space with natural light and a washer and dryer. Clearly, the thinking is that residents will spend more time in the public areas of the building than in their own units.

There are 15 floor plans, including studio, one bedroom, one bedroom plus den and two bedroom, ranging from 492 to 1,034 square feet. Rents start at $1,425 per month and top out at $2,250 per month. The 674-square-foot unit I saw was $1,750 per month.

As of late September, the 215-unit building was 25 percent occupied and 45 percent leased after about two months of leasing.

Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.