Raves for rooms that make us feel most at home PLAYING FAVORITES

March 06, 1994|By JOE SURKIEWICZ

Here's a deceptively easy question.

What's your favorite room?

Ask enough people and you'll hear some surprising answers: These days the most favored space in the house may not be the room with the most expensive furniture or a decorating scheme that says, "Hands off!"

In the '90s, our favorite room is often the place where we can relax, express ourselves, have some fun -- and be happiest.

A case in point:

Cyd Beth Wolf, an attorney with Piper & Marbury, lives in a recently restored -- and lavishly appointed -- four-level Otterbein town house. Her bedroom features a view-to-kill-for deck overlooking the Inner Harbor; the living room/dining room/kitchen is furnished with English antiques and floor-to-ceiling art nouveau posters; and the den has Chinese red lacquered walls.

Ms. Wolf's favorite room?

The nursery.

"My child's room is my favorite room," says the mother of 7-month-old Alessandra Julia Fabiani. "The focal point is a cozy French Victorian sleigh bed with drapery on both sides. I wanted an environment that would stimulate my daughter's imagination and give her a sense of family. It was a labor of love putting it together."

Is the nursery an unusual choice for a favorite room? Not at all, according to some Baltimore interior designers.

"I think people say a room is their favorite because it's a place they're comfortable in and [where they] can be themselves," says Richard Kondner, who designed Ms. Wolf's house as well as Germano's Trattoria, the Little Italy restaurant owned by her husband, Germano Fabiani. "People want a room to live in and enjoy. The 'look but don't touch' room is history."

Take Ms. Wolf's nursery: It's a dramatic yet intimate room where she spends hours each evening with her baby. The curtain hanging from the ceiling -- Ms. Wolf bought the handmade lace during her last trip to Venice -- wraps around the mahogany-sided bed, suggesting a room inside a room and imparting a sense of warmth, comfort and elegance.

"It's not a contrived room, and it's soft and vibrant with soft pinks, celadon green and sand colors," Ms. Wolf says. "When you walk into that room, you can't help being filled with joy."

Just heavenly

The favored room isn't always the one where you kick off your shoes and curl up with a book. According to one Baltimore designer, the best-liked room in the house is often the most beautiful -- even elegant.

"A lot of people choose a favorite room for two reasons: aesthetics and comfort," says Richard Taylor of Taylor/Siegmeister Associates, an interior design firm in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood.

For example, Nancy Grasmick, the state superintendent of schools, says her recently renovated formal living room is her favorite. It's on the first floor of her Georgian-style house that overlooks seven acres of woods and fields in Phoenix.

The airy and light-filled room is beautiful, comfortable and full of antiques. It's also an elegant retreat for making music and escaping the routines of daily life.

"It's a very formal living room and wonderful for entertaining," Dr. Grasmick says. "One wall is solid wood that's framed beautifully with molding. Also, blue is my favorite color, so it's prominent in the draperies, the pastels in the Kerman Oriental rugs and the fabric selected for the sofas."

Blue is also used in the room's most unusual feature: a large oval painting of clouds and angels on the ceiling by local artist Jaime Kraft.

"The room has high ceilings and the effect is museumlike," Dr. Grasmick says. "The painting pulls the whites and blues from the room together and adds an incredible spot of interest. People gaze at it in awe."

The ethereal feeling is enhanced by another object -- Dr. Grasmick's harp: "I always practice the harp in that room. There's almost an angelic sense that you're moving into heaven! It's not a typical room."

Southwest sanctuary

Designers say a favorite room isn't necessarily the one you spent the most time or money fixing up.

"It may not be the most decorated room in the house," explains Ted Pearson, vice president of Rita St. Clair Associates. "Often, a favorite room contains the things that make life most enjoyable -- a stereo, books, a place to play a musical instrument. It's a pretty broad territory."

In fact, the most-liked place in the house may be a personal sanctuary planned for relaxation, comfort and reviving work-weary spirits in the evening.

Like this one: the second-floor of a converted Mount Vernon carriage house owned by Tom Nichols and Karalei Nunn, spouses and partners in the Baltimore firm of Eleven Thirteen Architects.

"The first floor has a living room that's very formal with paneled walls. So we wanted to create something on the second floor that felt comfortable for two people," explains Ms. Nunn. "We also wanted to take advantage of the great light, and spring and fall breezes."

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