The House Of Mixed Delights

October 06, 1991

"From precious to flea market," is designer Bobby Rodgers' description of the sometimes eccentric, sometimes classical objects in this 1926 French-style Baltimore house. As principal of the Roberta Rodgers Co., an interior design firm responsible for a myriad of styles from casual to contemporary, Ms. Rodgers prefers to surround herself and clients with timeless, beautiful things that harbor meaning for their owners.

"But not to the point of feeling roped off, so you can't enter your own home. For example, this house is furnished with a mix of the very rare and the very usual, which creates a living, warm feeling," she says. "I'm teased about using such a mix, but as long as you understand scale, it really doesn't matter about mix; it's only when you don't consider scale that you have problems, so that's the foundation for what I did."

No question that she designs with attention to scale, but it is her affection for and dedication to the use of clear colors against a splash of black, as well as her penchant for lighthearted detail that set this home apart from other well-scaled abodes.

"I think every room should have some black in it," she says. "I think it sparks up other colors, at least the colors I use."

It becomes obvious at once, upon setting foot into the black-and-white marble-floored entrance hall, where ultra-traditional wood-paneled walls common to houses built during the 1920s have been treated to Ms. Rodger's fresh interpretation of tradition. Her son, artist William Rodgers, faux-painted the walls to resemble pale marble with a rose marble border. This single subtle effect enhances the drama of the floor, and offers balance to the strength of the antique iron console table. The prominent floral painting by Baltimore artist Anne Schuler is balanced by the real flowers delicately held in the epergne, one of the owner's collection of Victorian flower holders.

The living room's glazed chintz fabrics and the swirling florals of the autumn-colored needlepoint rug are enhanced by the comfortable glow of well-used wood occasional pieces. A diminutive black lacquer chest, purchased on a recent trip to the Orient, serves as an end table. Lamps, decoupaged by New York designer Sheila Potter, provide a further black accent. Draperies here, as well as in the dining room, were crafted by FTC Baltimore artist Joy Hayes.

The mood of the sun room was inspired by a stunning Portuguese needlepoint rug. The sun room is truly sunny, thanks to windows that let in the light and the sunniest yellow chintz available.

When Ms. Rodgers spotted the Brunschwig & Fils draped border, her imagination took a brave leap forward and she conspired with her son William to create a breakfast room unlike any other they'd seen. Mr. Rodgers painted an oasis scene complete with monkey, sand dunes and palm trees. After the ceiling was papered, the Oriental rug selected and accessories such as the monkey-theme chandelier and the centerpiece were placed, the room was dubbed the Monkey Room "for obvious reasons," says the designer with a smile.

While the theme was not carried into the kitchen, the border unites the two spaces and yet is simple enough not to intrude upon the uncluttered kitchen design. Instead, the kitchen is dominated by a handsomely fashioned pot rack that combines function with beauty.

The pot rack, the rugs, the chandelier in the Monkey Room and numerous other objects, some old, some not necessarily so, offer much more than the mere use of the moment. Great design offers pleasure and provides a promise, one which Ms. Rodgers readily understands: What is delightful and useful today will surely become the heirloom of tomorrow.r

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