Inspiration is what you carry home from show houses and house tours

April 24, 1994|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff Writer

The hours for the open houses on the Maryland House an Garden Pilgrimage were incorrect in Sunday's editions. The houses are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call (410) 821-6933.

The Sun regrets the errors.

You may know the house: a big, beautiful, once almost foreboding gray stone structure at the corner of Millbrook Road and St. Paul Street, a stern house and, for many years, increasingly hidden in overgrown foliage.

There was tragedy in its past, but there is happiness in its future.

Today the house, amid lawns and lovely landscaping, glows inside with colors vibrant and creamy, sparkles with stars and gilding, gleams with dark wood paneling and damask upholstery. Designers, decorators and painters have turned the once-neglected beast into a beauty again as this year's Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Show House.


Opening to the public today, the show house is among the first of a wide variety of show houses and house tours that will take place in coming weeks as Marylanders celebrate spring with a round of "visiting." The others range from the annual Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, which begins Saturday in Anne Arundel County, to the Union Square Victorian Garden Tour on May 22.

The show-house dwelling is a Guilford landmark, a 20-room mansion that was built in 1916 for Mary Kennedy by a noted Baltimore architect, George R. Callis Jr. It passed through several hands, and then, about 20 years ago, was abandoned by the owners after a family tragedy. It sat empty, with the dining-room table set and mannequins of a family sitting in the living room, until thieves broke in and stole marble mantels, antiques and chandeliers, and the owners decided to sell it.

Now the house, owned by Baltimore building contractor Thomas Buehle and his wife Colleen M. Barrett, is getting not only repairs and refurbishing -- some rooms had water damage and roofs and gutters are being replaced -- but also that extra polish that decorators bring to home decor.

The annual show house, which is directed by the Baltimore Symphony Associates and benefits the orchestra, always serves a sort of barometer of decorating trends, as designers offer their newest ideas and latest products.

Seeing stars

This year, stars lead the trend parade. From the star-painted ceiling and floor of the entry hall to the window treatment in the kitchen to the decor in the dining room to countless touches in paint and accessories, stars are everywhere. And faux finishing, a strong focus for the past few years, continues to be popular. Most of this year's effects are painterly, with wall murals and ceiling sky-and-cloud scenes in many rooms. In the rosy-mauve master bath, decorated by Wallcapers of Baltimore, a pensive (and life-size) Rapunzel looks out over her tower wall. In the music room, by M. S. Interiors of Laurel, cherubs sport with instruments above a bust of Mozart.

Perhaps the most spectacular mural of all is in the children's bath, by Carol Grillo Designs of Riderwood, where a jungle scene covers the walls. There is a jaguar gazing at his reflection in a pool above the shower, and multitudes of flowers have $l beadwork stamens or faux-jewel centers. A close runner-up would be the third-floor hallway, by Charles Macsherry, of Baltimore, painted to resemble a high terrace overlooking a country view.

More traditional faux finishing appears in the conservatory, by T. E. Knisely of York, Pa., where walls are pale rose and white "marble." There's also a red-painted brick floor, and pale furniture with bright touches of color.

Painted objects, such as tables and furniture, abound. Two of the most charming examples are the dollhouse version of the show house in the girl's bedroom (complete with tiny replicas of the furniture in "her" room), by Mary Pat Andrea of Night

Goods of Baltimore, and the fanciful airplane bed in the boy's room (where the walls are all sky, with puffy white clouds), by Higinbotham Interiors of Baltimore.

Gilt touches are popular. Students from Harford Community College turned a dark back hallway and powder room into a "Hall of Mirrors," with multiple gold-framed mirrors; and, in a second-floor bath by InteriArt of Baltimore, gold swirls decorate the walls, and the ceiling is gold, with swirly fringed edges.

The 'Empire' strikes back

Historic references are also in evidence. The master bedroom, by Papier, is called "Bonaparte's Retreat," a reference to Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, and features "Empire style for a 1990s' woman," according to designer John Anderson. The Empire-style bed is backed by a set of painted columns draped with painted "fabric"; the ceiling is painted to look like the top of a tent, with an off-center medallion that is a "view" of the sky.

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