A Regal Renaissance

May 12, 1991|By Yolonda Garfield

Most people would never believe that this is a "spec" house: that is, one speculatively built for sale by a builder who has no idea who the prospective owner will be. Spec houses have a reputation for being cookie-cutter images of one another. But, as with so much else in life, there's spec, and then there's spec.

At well over 9,000 square feet, this spec-built and custom-designed house had almost everything the new owners wanted in terms of size, location and extras such as a glass-block tower and a four-car garage. But it was so impersonal. As a spec house, it was purchased unfinished, with certain allowances for carpeting, tile, fixtures and other finishing details.

Designer Sharon Kirkley of Interior Ideas Inc. had worked with members of the owners' family on previous projects. She was familiar with their appreciation of fine contemporary architecture, and their enjoyment of their Italian-American heritage.

Of particular concern to Ms. Kirkley were the family's numerous collections, represented by a variety of companies from Lladro to Franklin Mint. By their sheer numbers, the collections threatened to overwhelm any interior. Dreading a cluttered look, Ms. Kirkley custom-designed extensive built-in cabinetry for the home. Selected examples of the collections are exhibited throughout the house, while the rest remains hidden from view.

The home's architecture includes dramatic contemporary features such as a dazzling curved glass-block tower and abrupt ceiling-height changes. To give the interior a softer, more transitional appearance, Baltimore artist Mary McHugh was commissioned to faux-finish walls throughout the home in muted pastels and natural colors and to create fanciful murals.

The murals hang in the foyer, which through its interior design and attention to detail establishes a mood of light, airy opulence. The floor design, a bordered mosaic by Baltimore artist and marble master Santo Nabarria, is an intricate reminder of an eternal spring. Marbled pillars form an architectural gateway to the living room.

The monochromatic color scheme forms a muted background for the living and dining rooms. A bleached oak floor and stone fireplace add a touch of informality, while custom-crafted area rugs and sumptuous upholstered seating provide drama as well as comfort.

A professionally equipped kitchen and expansive family room make large-scale informal entertaining possible. Other areas of the house include three children's rooms with study lofts, a completely secluded in-law suite, a game room and cabana, all with built-ins and custom carpets designed by Ms. Kirkley.

The quiet seclusion of the master bedroom suite infuses the area with serenity. Hand-painted silk draperies dress the windows. The bed, lit from below, appears to float above the custom-designed wall-to-wall carpet.

In the spectacular master bath, marble floors lead to a tub, which has been sunken into a raised platform. A curved glass-block exterior wall topped by a semicircle of skylights accents the architectural geometry, and at the same time offers privacy and light. Another curved glass-block wall, this one an interior wall, separates the master bath into grooming areas. Finished with marble, gold fixtures and a whimsical soft-sculpture tree, the master bath is a glamorous, very private retreat.

After more than a year of work, the house finally feels like a home to its owners. Wherever they look, they can see their own tastes expressed in textures, furnishings, colors. Attention to detail, patience and the guidance of their designer has brought this spec home to its renaissance at last.

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