Darlington home gets a make-over Farmhouse is now a real showplace

September 06, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

It's a homeowner's fantasy: A team of decorators takes over a house and transforms it into a showplace.

But Barbara Connell, who runs Cedar Hill Farm in Darlington with her husband, Mike, said the transformation can be a rocky one.

"It took up our whole summer but the house looks wonderful," Mrs. Connell said. "But I will definitely be glad when it is all over."

Their large home was selected to be a fund-raising show house by the Harford County Chapter of the AMC Cancer Research Center, a Denver-based research center for cancer prevention.

The show house at 1806 Nobles Mill Road will be open next Sunday through Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. It costs $7 for advance tickets and $8 at the door. Call (410) 836-2037 for more information.

With 120 members, the local AMC chapter does show houses every two years, said Phyllis E. Penn, publicity chairwoman.

"It is such a monumental undertaking, she said. Mrs. Penn said AMC members recruit friends and families to work the show house. Each design area -- Cedar Hill has 27 inside the house -- needs a hostess. Workers are also needed to help staff the cafe, boutique, garden shop and to help park cars and take tickets, she said.

AMC has done four show houses so far. Two years ago, the show houses raised about $80,000, Mrs. Penn said.

About 20 designers donated their talents to decorate the house. Local furniture and antique stores also lent everything from furniture to knick-knacks, Mrs. Penn said.

The Connells volunteered their house after they saw an ad in a local newspaper. Mrs. Penn said AMC decided to advertise because it couldn't find a suitable house through word of mouth.

"We were getting kind of desperate so we put an add in the paper," she said. Mrs. Penn said the "right" house must have plenty of parking and potential. "We had to reject some houses because they needed just too much darn help."

The Connells, who bought the 83-acre farm two years ago, had to pack up their belongings two months ago and move themselves and their five children into the tenant house out back. The Connells will get their house back in early October.

The oldest part of the house dates to the mid-18th century. Two additions, one on each side of the original stone house, were added more than 30 years ago. The house, loaded with fireplaces and quaint bathrooms, has three staircases connecting the different levels. Rooms open into one another; the house has no hallways.

Mrs. Connell said the lack of privacy and need to keep active children and dogs out of the way of workmen and decorators have sometimes been difficult.

But having a freshly painted and papered house has made up for the disruption.

Mrs. Connell's favorite room is in the basement. Bright yellow walls and hand-painted ivy and shrubbery have transformed the dingy space, once the laundry room, into a schoolroom. Mrs. Connell, who teaches her children at home, said the room gives her a place to keep all of her school supplies. Also, the large windows mean Mrs. Connell can teach her older children while keeping an eye on children playing outside.

The Connells get first choice of the furnishings, art work and curtains that the designers have placed in the house. But Mrs. Connell said that's both good and bad because the family can't afford everything it would like to keep. Most items in the house will be for sale.

The Connells will get to keep the permanent changes the decorators made -- refinished floors, top-quality wallpaper, professional paint jobs, a wet bar installed in the paneled family room.

A corner room, designed with the 1-year-old twin girls in mind, has a carnival theme complete with a frilly, pink-and-white canopy designed to look like half of a circus tent top. The walls were scrubbed, given a coat of white paint, then sponged with pink, blue and green paint.

Emily Connell, 10, said she was delighted with the way her bedroom has been enlivened with Victorian-style curtains and accessories. Walls were painted white and lightly marbleized in peach, a technique that hides the rough and irregular surface of the walls.

All show houses have an element of fantasy but the AMC said it tried to create real rooms for the Connell family. Betty Swan, a decorator and a member of the AMC committee, said she talked to Allan, 3, to find out what he likes before decorating his room.

"He said he likes farms so we filled his room with farmhouses and barnyard animals," she said. Mrs. Swan did most of the work herself to get just the look she wanted.

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