Alien and beautifulDesigner Donna Reinsel uses animal gut...

ON THE HOME FRONT

August 29, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Staff Writer

Alien and beautiful

Designer Donna Reinsel uses animal gut, steel, fiberglass, leather and brocade to create furniture and light fixtures that are both alien and beautiful. Her unusual designs are sold in stores and galleries throughout the country, but her home base is a converted soap factory in Baltimore.

To make her lamps and candelabra, she welds steel into strange shapes and covers the frames with gut that she buys from a butcher. When it dries, the light glows eerily through the translucent substance. "But it's a warm light," she says. "Like firelight." Sometimes she combines lighting and furniture: a table that has lighted horns coming out of it, for instance.

Ms. Reinsel and her creations are featured in the July/August Southern Accents in an article about four young Southern designers. "Too often in the past," says editorial director Katherine Pearson, "talented young designers and artists from our region would move to New York or Los Angeles to start their careers. Today we're seeing them stay."

Ms. Reinsel's work can be seen locally at Halcyon Gallery in Fells Point in October. She's currently exhibiting her designs at Mobili Wisconsin Avenue in Washington.

People come from as far away as California to shop at the Baltimore Summer Antiques Fair at the Convention Center Labor Day weekend. This is an antiques show for everyone, from the serious collector to the young homeowner looking for a bargain.

Four hundred dealers from 25 states will be exhibiting jewelry, collectibles, Oriental rugs, bronzes, Chinese export, paintings, art deco and art nouveau, dolls and miniatures, silver, crystal and art glass and furniture of all kinds. The variety is endless, and the price range is wide -- from under $100 up to $10,000.

Tickets to the 13th annual Summer Antiques Fair are $5, good for admission all three days of the show. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call (301) 738-1966.

The Bombay Company has done so well selling its accessories and ready-to-assemble home furnishings that it's started another retail chain called Alex & Ivy. The style of furnishings is different: The Bombay Company sells reproductions of English antiques, while the new stores specialize in country-style furnishings and accessories. But the concept is the same. There aren't many large pieces; instead accent pieces and accessories are emphasized. Furniture is knocked down, ready to assemble and packed so customers can take it with them. And the price is right, with most items costing from $5 to $500.

Most of the furniture is made from solid woods and cherry veneer, with fruitwood stains or honeyed-pine finish. Pieces are individually rubbed and distressed. They don't require wax or polish, and can be cleaned with a damp cloth.

Locally you'll find a new Alex & Ivy at the Towson Town Center and one at the Mall in Columbia, with another one to open soon in Tyson's Corner.

Fall is an excellent time for planting; but instead of the usual choices like mums, consider ornamental grasses. Landscaping with ornamental grasses is a graceful nod to our gardening heritage, hearkening back to prairies and meadows. But these perennials are also plantings for the '90s, both because they're low maintenance and because they give a softer, more natural look to your garden.

"Right now ornamental grasses are peaking in showiness," says Kathryn Cole, greenhouse manager of Garland's Garden Center in Catonsville, "but they are almost a four-season plant, with a long season of interest and lots of variety." In the winter when they turn brown, they look like a dried arrangement. In the spring, there's lush green growth, and in the summer, flowers.

Ornamental grasses can be bought in gallon pots for under $10. They usually need full sun to be at their best, but otherwise require little care. In early spring they should be cut back to 6 inches, the only annual maintenance. Every couple of years you can divide them, as you would other perennials.

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