By Appointment Only Once you find them, these artists and artisans will create your heart's desire

August 14, 1994|By Beth Smith

Ever wonder how to find the special artists and artisans whose phone numbers often are tucked away in little black books by interior designers and only given out to best clients or sometimes persistent reporters? You know the ones: the men and women who use their talents to give a home a -- of panache; the ones who do all the neat stuff -- painting a striped rug on a hardwood floor, etching a bouquet of blue morning glories into a windowpane, or even painting Fido to hang over the fireplace.

You know they are out there, but where? They don't have stores. They usually don't advertise. Some don't even list phone numbers in the Yellow Pages. Their names appear in show-house brochures or you spy their work in a design magazine. But you can't find them.

Well, they are around and they are working hard, creating some interesting specialty items guaranteed to make your home that enchanting castle you knew it always was. We found five of these talented "by appointment only" people for you. There are hundreds of others, just waiting for you to find them.

Robert Cox

What happens when a classic, black lacquer Le Corbusier headboard no longer fits the decorating scheme? When a

Lutherville couple discovered they had just this problem, they hired artist Robert Cox to work a little magic. And he did, painting the headboard faux bois teak to match the other bedroom furniture. He also created a trompe l'oeil Japanese garden on the client's foyer closet and painted a shoji screen on a great room mirror.

Mr. Cox has been doing decorative painting and building specialty furniture, including paneled wood screens, for the last 10 years. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond with a bachelor of fine arts degree, he abandoned the world of advertising where he was working as an art director and turned a casual dalliance with the decorative arts into a full-time career. Now, at 42, he spends most of his days immersed in paint. One of his skills is painting rugs on hardwood floors, a surprisingly popular process that usually involves a trompe l'oeil detail of flipping up one corner. "You would be amazed how many people trip over the rug or try to avoid stepping on it if they think they have dirty shoes," he says with a laugh.

He has painted all sorts of oil-based rug designs, from simple cotton throw rugs to quilt-like Early American rugs to classic Oriental rugs. A popular request is a hearth rug to be painted in front of the fireplace. "The rugs can be removed with paint remover, but the paint remover also takes the floor finish," he cautions to anyone considering this slightly funky way to cover a floor. Robert Cox, (410) 685-6912.

Mia Halton

Mia Halton's wedding invitation is one-of-a-kind. A man and woman dance joyfully across a landscape that looks as if it might have been drawn by a happy child. As created by Ms. Halton, the scene is whimsical, yet sophisticated, painted in a style that you might not expect from a 40-year-old woman who has a master's degree in painting and teaches at the Maryland Institute.

Uniquely her own, it is also a style that Ms. Halton has incorporated into designs that she paints on fabric and sells as yard goods or tablecloths. Patterns include a cowboy motif with boots, hats and horseshoes; a kitchen motif with teapots, cups and saucers and ice cream sundaes; and a bluebird of happiness motif that Ms. Halton created for her own wedding and wedding reception.

"So far, I am holding to a theme for each design," she says, "but, I find myself getting more and more abstract."

Her images come from her paintings, ones that have been displayed at numerous galleries throughout the country. All painted free-hand and all slightly different, they reflect "the continuing movement of objects on a surface that has intrigued me all my life," she adds. The difference is that now the surface is 100 percent heavy-duty cotton, not canvas.

Ms. Halton's yard goods are being handled by Matches at Miley in the Washington Design Center. Her tablecloths are sold at the De Faux Haus on Harford Road. She will show both tablecloths and yard goods to clients by appointment. She is also available to paint yardage by commission. "I could copy someone's wallpaper design onto fabric, but I would probably make it just a little bit funky," she adds. (410) 243-3842.

Sharon Wolf

A former third-grade teacher, Ms. Wolf is a small, soft-spoken woman who combines an artist's eye with the practicality of an experienced businesswoman. She decided years ago that she "liked children in groups of one," preferably her daughter who is now 25. Having learned the techniques of stained glass during the 1970s, Ms. Wolf gave up teaching and focused her energies on learning how to etch and carve glass, techniques she felt offered more possibilities as an art and as a business than stained glass.

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