When Michael and Lois Hodes began collecting five years ago, they had one main goal -- find something unique with character. Today, their 27-room house in Roland Park is stuffed to the brim with interesting and unusual furnishings and accessories. Walking through the rooms is like taking a tour of a mini-museum. In fact, Mrs. Hodes sometimes refers to herself as a curator.
For starters, a seven-piece salon set of 18th century French furniture sits near the fireplace in the living room. The settee and six matching chairs are gilded and upholstered in the original tapestry. An elaborate, heavily gilded 18th century Spanish chest for storing jewelry stands on its matching base in one corner of the room.
Across the way is a hand-painted French screen from the early 1800s, originally from a bordello in New Orleans. A huge gilded mirror, rescued from a building near Mount Vernon Place, dominates one wall while across the room, a hand-painted Italian secretary from the late 1800s holds various collections.
Furniture in the library, a new area added to the back of the house, includes an octagon-shaped, elaborately carved, 18th century Irish rent table; a 19th century oak hall bench found in an old Baltimore City building; and a huge mahogany linen press from Oak Hill, the old Boone estate on Bellona Avenue.
Sitting against one wall in the front entrance hall is a burled wood upright piano that Mrs. Hodes bought for $150. She then paid $800 to have it moved into the huge house, which sits in the niche of a hill, anchored front and back by a dozens of steps.
In Michael Hodes' home office -- he is an attorney and a radio talk show host on WCBM-AM -- there is an assortment of unusual collectibles. A rectangular wooden box turned out to be a device used in the 19th century to magnify photographs. That is a prized possession. Another is a collection of magic lanterns that fills an antique armoire. Mr. Hodes calls these small lighted boxes for viewing photographs the forerunners of the modern day VCR. There are also, among other things, a working, 16th century Dutch clock, military campaign desks and dozens of walking sticks (with round heads), walking canes (with curled heads) and riding crops.
The Hodes say they have no rhyme or reason to their collecting except that they look for "decorative things that if you went to 50 auctions in 50 different places, you wouldn't see the piece," says Mr. Hodes. They do not buy for investment, but because both Michael and Lois Hodes are voracious readers and researchers, many of their finds have increased tremendously in value and they are constantly upgrading their collections.
They are very familiar with the collectible market and know what's currently hot. For instance, iron doorstops -- the Hodes have quite a few in various designs, dogs, ships, figures of women -- were once picked up for a song, but are now pricey. Mr. Hodes recalls buying a ship doorstop for $40 that is now worth about $225.
Shopping mainly at auctions and shows and in antique stores, the Hodes use collecting as a way to relax. And they often search for items while on business trips, having found several pieces in California, Connecticut, Texas and New Orleans.
The Hodes call their style in collecting, as well as in the interior design of their home, "definitely eclectic." But Mr. Hodes admits being partial to 18th century style.
"The really best thing," says Mrs. Hodes, "is that we both love to collect." And, their tastes and interests are remarkedly similar. "If we went to a show," says Mr. Hodes, "and each marked 10 items we loved, six or eight of those items would be the same things."
The upstairs of the house reflects their collecting passion as much as the first floor. An antique architect's desk, a double scribner's desk and an antique rocking horse share space in Mrs. Hodes' studio. In the nearby sitting room, a Victorian sofa, the resting place of dozens of antique teddy bears, is almost overlooked because attention is immediately drawn to a Victorian cradle, complete with its faded original netting and lace-trimmed linens.
Down the hall, in the master bedroom, is an elaborate 100-year-old brass bed and a stripped-pine Irish armoire that Mrs. Hodes lined in a cabbage-rose print. An adjoining glass-enclosed sun room has a case full of antique dolls, a brass crib full of antique dolls and a dress form displaying a white lace wedding gown.
Every room of the house contains collections of one sort or another. Besides the dolls and bears upstairs, there are collections of antique fans, pens and hatpins, plus cowboy boots from Texas. Downstairs, there are clocks everywhere, and old oil paintings and mirrors crown the walls.
Rooms are so cramped that some of the major furniture pieces were earmarked for sale and sent to Cartuche, a gallery Mrs. Hodes and her partner Marc Horowitz recently opened on North Charles Street.