Dynamic Duos

October 09, 1994|By Elizabeth Large

People who haven't used an interior designer before sometimes worry that the finished room will look beautiful but impersonal. Not so. Of the many ways a designer can create a unique look for a client, one of the most successful is a close collaboration with a decorative artist. Artist-designer teamwork can add individuality to a room, give it excitement or depth, solve a design problem creatively or simply charm and amuse anyone who enters.

The photographs on these pages are a sampling of what three designers have accomplished working closely with local artists and artisans. All agree that the most successful rooms result from a delicate balance: The designer comes up with the concept and provides guidance; the artist has creative license in working out the details.

When designer Virginia Burns of Papier Interiors works with artists, she doesn't direct them much.

"I give them artistic license," she says. "What we end up with is much more exciting."

Carole Halverstadt's guest bedroom has a wonderful handmade, hand-colored look as a result of this sort of collaboration. She asked Ms. Burns to design a guest bedroom around a watercolor by local artist Joan Erbe. The designer started with a wall covering with stripes that looked like they had been watercolored. She showed artist Wayne Hand the wall covering and the colors she was going to use in the room, then gave him the Erbe watercolor and two farmhouse beds. He created and executed the beds' splendid celestial motifs. In Carole Halverstadt's kitchen, Ms. Burns took down the bulkheads above the cabinets and replaced them with doors by stained-glass artist Saul Farber. Because the space was used to display Ms. Halverstadt's collection of teapots, the design had to be simple as well as striking.

"The artistic approach is a fun approach," says Ms. Burns. "We seem to be doing it more and more to create personal spaces. People no longer want a room using $150-a-yard damask."

Designer Janet Plitt of Morgan Truesdell Interiors had a problem: how to make something special out of one family's small master bath with a closed-in shower. Her whimsical solution? To wallpaper the walls and ceiling with a small flowery print and have tile artist Linda Hammer paint some of the flowers in the sink and on 14 tiles of the shower.

"The illusion," Ms. Plitt says, "is of flowers falling off the ceiling into the shower and sink."

In the girls' bathroom, artist Nancy Poole hand-painted the large white and lavender bows on the wall covering on the cabinet doors. And in their bedroom, she painted an antique side table a glorious 10 different colors.

For the husband's study, Ms. Hammer "leathered" the walls, faux-painting a look something like parchment paper.

"Hand-painting," Ms. Plitt says, "adds depth, excitement, warmth and diversity to your design."

While acknowledging that decorative painting is enjoying a deserved revival now, Darryl Savage of DHS Designs in Annapolis warns it must be used sparingly.

"It can get craftsy-looking," he says. "It seems like an economical way to get a fresh, new look, and it can add warmth to a room. But it has to make sense to the room setting."

To create a foyer with a neoclassical feel that was also light and airy, he commissioned Annapolis artist Catrina Lankford to paint a Chinese key design requested by the client. They chose a subtle coloration to give it sophistication and timelessness.

In another project, Ms. Lankford took her cue from the limestone floor and used paint and a plastic bag to give the walls the stippled look of limestone block. She drew the lines in pencil and then painted them in. At Mr. Savage's request, a screen made by the Annapolis company Niermann-Weeks was hand-painted by Joseph Weeks to resemble distressed antique zinc.

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