Old farmhouse gets a Merry-Go-Room

October 23, 1994|By Maryalice Yakutchik | Maryalice Yakutchik,Special to The Sun

Most people aren't fond of the sensation of a room spinning. But Tana and Lou Taylor worked painstakingly for three years -- and spent $25,000 -- to achieve that effect in an addition to their home that's known as the "Merry-Go-Room."

The couple created a quasi-octagonal family room designed to house an ever-growing collection of carousel artifacts. It's now the undisputed centerpiece of their 140-year-old farmhouse on White Marsh Road in Baltimore County.

"I always liked merry-go-rounds," says Mrs. Taylor, 51, a community outreach specialist for the Baltimore County Department of Aging. "I have such wonderful memories of going to HersheyPark with my grandfather."

She and her 52-year-old husband, who is an instrument mechanic for the utilities department of the Department of Aging, pooled their considerable talents in design, carpentry and painting. The result is a bright, busy space that evokes the

coziness of childhood and the spectacle of an amusement park from a bygone era.

Perhaps the most eye-catching detail in this room full of impressive pieces is the carefully-made replica of a rounding board that encircles the 18-foot-by-18-foot room.

"Usually, the prettiness of the rounding board faces out, on a merry-go-round," Mrs. Taylor says. "This is inverted."

Nine wooden horses and eight menagerie animals -- including a rooster, bear, cow and hare -- are lighted by 187 clear lights. When the 10-watt bulbs are dimmed, says Mrs. Taylor, you can just about feel motion, smell cotton candy and hear rollicking music.

She drew all the horses, precisely copying the creations of Dentzel, Illions, Looff and other well-known carvers of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. After a friend cut her designs out of wood, Mrs. Taylor painted them, intricately decorating some with flowers and jewels, and others with gold trim.

Radiating out to the rounding board from the center of the 12-foot ceiling are sweeps of red and blue curlicues, which Mrs. Taylor copied from her favorite carousel at Knoebel's Grove, in Elysburg, Pa.

"We could never have afforded for somebody to build this," Mrs. Taylor says.

"There are so many different angles in here," adds Mr. Taylor. "Getting them right, without too many gaps showing, was

probably the trickiest part."

One of the most time-consuming projects, he remembers, was putting together the sweeps -- seamless lengths of curly wooden pieces that radiate from the center of the 12-foot ceiling out to the walls.

The couple is accustomed to passers-by stopping outside their house to gape and wonder. Mr. Taylor recently encountered strangers with cameras at his windows.

The couple is happy to share their private collection with curious neighbors and wide-eyed grandchildren, of which they have three.

The family room was a family affair, says Mrs. Taylor. "My son-in-law did the wiring, Lou did the Sheetrock, laid the hardwood floors and put up the trim and molding."

She painted the room in bold pinks and blues and reds and gold.

The house onto which the new Merry-Go-Room has been added was actually a shack when they bought it 15 years ago for $50,000, she says. Convincing her husband that all they needed were a few weekends and some basic tools, the couple quickly tore out the interior of the three-bedroom house and started renovating one slow room at a time.

Now, with the completion of the Merry-Go-Room, they consider it finished.

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