House filled with Old World charm


January 16, 1994|By Maryalice Yakutchik | Maryalice Yakutchik,Contributing Writer

It's as if Bernard Silverman's home had inspired the poem "When I am an Old Lady."

The 98-year-old farmhouse, once a weathered white clapboard, now wears a jolting purple on its lattice and banister and turquoise on its steps and shutters.

The oldest house on the block, it flaunts jewel tones that make it the brightest on Brightside, a modest avenue of unassuming structures whose backyards hit up against the dark Pikesville Armory.

Gray siding notwithstanding, this place has attitude from the outside in, where green and burgundy walls serve as backdrops for an eclectic decor that features the softness of Monet and the richness of tapestry, the energy of a crazy quilt and the sheen of antique silver.

Needless to say, Mr. Silverman, an interior designer by trade, doesn't use a street address when directing guests or clients to his unique home.

"When [the purple paint] first went up, traffic literally stopped," he says. "I have never heard any negative comments. In fact, I have only heard exceptionally complimentary remarks.

"In the spring and summer, especially, when things are flowering outside in red and pink, purple and blue, the house fits well into the setting."

And Mr. Silverman, a single 43-year-old businessman who lives with a small dog named Jack, fits well into the cozy two-bedroom home. Sort of. Give or take a couple dozen of the countless, often quirky collectibles he has exhibited in and on every possible bit of space.

Favorite collections cram every nook, giving each room an identity: miniature houses and silver lighters in the living room; ironstone dishes in the dining room; tea kettles and rolling pins in the kitchen; and green-handled kitchen equipment in the pantry.

"I love collecting old silver," Mr. Silverman says as he drifts into the first-floor den, "like these single sterling teaspoons from the late 1800s, each with a lady's first name engraved on it."

It's impossible to take everything in at once. In fact, Mr. Silverman says close friends who come over a lot often admire something as new, when, in fact, he's had it since junior high school.

"Even people who come constantly always find something new," he says.

The quirkiness of the house is what attracted him to it. He had been a "happy renter" living in an apartment right around the corner for almost a decade when 17 Brightside became available.

He liked the area -- the Ralston section of Pikesville, in Baltimore County -- because of the nearby mix of people and neighborhoods. The house is close to a library, bagel shop and deli, as well as the Beltway. And it meets all his prerequisites: Space for his stuff, space to entertain his friends and space for his design business.

"There are rooms through rooms which seem to wander on and on," Mr. Silverman says. "But they are small enough that they don't dwarf someone living alone. There are little tiny spaces that feel real cozy and warm, like the nook upstairs which was just made for reading during a snowstorm."

Actually, that cubby hole originally served as a bedroom for the woman who owned the house during the Great Depression, Mr. Silverman says. Longtime residents of Brightside told him she had built a tiny addition in which she lived while she rented out the main house.

Mr. Silverman's little den was probably her entire downstairs living space. A stairway, less than 2 feet wide, led to her bedroom, which is now his cold-weather reading retreat.

Since buying the home for $83,000 two years ago, Mr. Silverman has customized the place with more than vibrant colors.

He moved the narrow back stairway, added a large sun-porch-deck for outdoor entertaining and converted a two-car, two-story garage out back into an office and storage area.

He's not planning any more major renovations, even though he )) recently packed up his collection of more than six dozen single crystal candlesticks and warehoused them upstairs in the attic.

He did that because he temporarily tired of them, he insists, and not because he's running out of space.

As if to prove the point, he stops to regard an uncharacteristically empty spot on the top of his bureau: "Room to grow," he says, smiling.

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