Historic Locust Hill getting regal face lift Decorating event to benefit theater NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE

September 03, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Laura Chandler is painting the dining room walls to resemble marble.

Belinda McClure is surveying the wallpaper and floor treatments in the foyer.

And upstairs, Tracey Price is turning a bathroom into an Italian villa.

These decorating feats are all part of an effort to transform Locust Hill, a 79-year-old home on Gorman Road, into a decorator showcase house by Sept. 18.

The project is sponsored by the Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications and the Friends of Olney Theatre.

All proceeds from the showcase will benefit the Olney Theatre, a nonprofit professional theater in Montgomery County.

Locust Hill has a special significance for the theater because C. Y. Stephens, who lived in the house from 1940 to 1963, founded the Olney Theatre.

"This type of house isn't built anymore," said Eileen Deymier, a regional editor with Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications and the design coordinator for the show house.

"No matter how much money they throw [at new houses], it's not like this," she said.

"And we're excited to be bringing it into its gleaming future," Ms. Deymier said.

Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications is a division of the Meredith Magazine Group, based in Iowa.

The special interest division publishes magazines geared to specific decorating themes, including "Window and Wall Ideas" and "Kitchen and Bath Ideas."

Ms. Deymier became involved with the decorating showcase when her friend William D. Grimes, the showcase chairman, asked her if Better Homes and Gardens would be interested in sponsoring it.

"It's a wonderful Maryland resource, and we're happy to be able to help raise money for it," Ms. Deymier said of the Olney Theatre.

Planning for the showcase has been in the works for a year but the actual renovation work began on Aug. 9. Currently, Locust Hill is bustling, as 25 interior decorators, landscape designers and craftsmen from Maryland, Washington, Virginia and Pennsylvania work their magic on the house.

"There's so much creative energy going on here," said Ms. Price, a decorative painter from Arlington, Va. "It's so much fun to see what everybody else is doing."

Ms. Price is renovating a second-floor bathroom to look like an Italian villa.

To achieve this effect, she painted Italian landscape scenes on the terra-cotta-colored walls, painted a faux marble design on the floor and installed weathered wood shutters on the windows.

In the house's other 23 rooms, workers are refinishing floors, hanging wallpaper and completing other beautification activities.

"There's a full-court press in here to get ready," said Mr. Grimes, a member of the Friends of Olney Theatre.

Locust Hill was built in 1914 for state Del. Stephen Gambrill. The house then belonged to L. W. High, who started the High's dairy store operation.

C. Y. Stephens, who eventually became president of High's, lived in the house from 1940 until his death in 1963.

He and his wife raised seven children there, said Deane Evans, a member of the Friends of the Olney Theatre.

Mr. Stephens' strong sense of community and dedication to the arts led him to open the Olney Theatre, which had its first production in 1941.

Not long after the first show, the theater closed because of World War II, but it reopened in 1946, Ms. Evans said.

For many years, the Olney Theater was a stop on the East Coast summer stock theater tour. New York stage stars, including Helen Hayes, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, and Tallulah Bankhead, performed there.

The theater has operated continuously since 1946 in its original building, staging productions ranging from serious dramas to musical comedies.

Money raised from the decorator showcase will be used for the theater's operating budget and for improvements to a new parking lot, Mr. Grimes said.

Most of the furniture and decorative items used in the showcase will be for sale during the event, Ms. Deymier said.

The Rouse Co., which has owned Locust Hill since the late 1960s, has no firm plans at the moment concerning the future of the home.

David Forester, vice president and senior development director at Rouse, said that the company may consider using the house as a specialty office complex, conference center or bed and breakfast.

The decorating showcase will run from Sept. 18 to Oct. 17. Th hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. For more information call (301) 570-1110.

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