Financial planner's design portfolio includes collectibles, furnishings of great sentimental value


October 04, 1992|By Yolanda Garfield

High above the Baltimore harbor lives an independent woman.

Joan Huber, a financial planner, makes her home in a spacious, two-bedroom apartment on the 17th floor of the Condominiums at Harbor Court -- "convenient to everything," she says. Here, she entertains family, friends and business associates surrounded by a collection of art that is a celebration of womanhood.

Designers Tom Williams and Robert Hale of Federal Hill Interiors worked with Ms. Huber to incorporate this art into a collection of furniture found in diverse places: Salvation Army and Goodwill stores, flea markets, consignment shops and antiques showrooms.

Her finds include an 1800s mahogany bombe chest now in a place of honor in the living room, and an exquisite middle European marquetry chest in the foyer. The 1930s dining room set was discovered at a Baltimore consignment shop, the Good Buy Girls. Ms. Huber's finds range from extraordinarily underpriced antiques -- once neglected and disguised under layers of paint -- to humble porcelains that appealed to her.

"One of my favorite things in the world is to dress in old clothes on a weekend and visit junk shops to see what I can find," she says.

Says Mr. Williams, "I keep explaining that whatever you collect doesn't have to be museum quality. It has to be appealing to you. And Joan has done that."

A walk through the apartment reveals that, to Ms. Huber, the price of an object is less important than its emotional impact. This impact is most strongly felt in the dining room, where a small bronze statue of a woman in a dancer's pose reaches for the sky. Ms. Huber was drawn to the piece, called "Awakening," because of the figure's grace and because the name evokes the struggle for self-realization and self-acceptance that many women face.

The living room is divided into two areas: one to take advantage of the view, a second to provide a cozy area for quiet moments or reading. This arrangement works well for entertaining large or small groups. Details include pattern and texture; here are a button-tufted sofa upholstered in tapestry, a striped sofa and fine Chinese, modern carved rugs. A very full, silklike pearlescent nylon fabric was used for both the asymmetrical window treatment and a chaise longue.

Pale wall-to-wall carpet serves to unify the various spaces and set off the dark walls throughout most of the apartment. Walls were faux-painted by Oregon artists Phil and Denise Emmerling, clients of Ms. Huber who work primarily on the West Coast and Hong Kong.

The master bedroom is a counterpoint to the rest of the apartment. Here, an antique crackled chinoiserie bed found at Gaines/McHale Antiques was the initial inspiration for a Chinese-style mural painted by the Emmerlings. Ms. Huber's affection for the paintings of artist Georgia O'Keeffe led the Emmerlings to modify the Chinese style by including a massive tree in the style of O'Keeffe.

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