Let the show houses begin, and the tours Spring's the time to see how the other half lives

April 23, 1995|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Staff Writer

In last Sunday's story on house tours, the designer of the Symphony Decorators' Show House solarium pictured in our photograph was misidentified, for which we apologize. It was designed by Hale and Rexrode Interior Design.

The Sun Regrets the error.

We're all a little curious about how the other half lives. That's what makes designer show houses and house and garden tours so appealing.

Show houses offer the sort of fantasy rooms decorators come up with when they have carte blanche and no financial constraints. On the tours of private homes we get a glimpse of real-life interior design. And what better way to appreciate a glorious Maryland spring than by visiting noteworthy local gardens?

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The tour season starts this week with the opening of several show houses, including the annual fund-raiser for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This year's Symphony Decorators' Show House, the Cloisters, is particularly interesting because of the landmark status of the architecture. (Owned by the city, it was a children's museum for 17 years.)

Part medieval castle, part Tudor mansion, the 30-room house is the perfect setting for the fantasy vignettes that have become the show house's stock in trade. Expect lots of gilt and glitter, trompe l'oeil, stenciling and faux finishes.

Rarely has the architecture of the show house so completely determined the interior design -- whether the decorators are working with Gothic elements to create, say, a princess's hideaway (Millicent Tyler Designs) or trying to lighten the Cloisters' somber rooms. Papier Interiors, for instance, chose to do the latter. Designer John Andersson is using a blue and ivory color scheme in the dining room, which sparkles with chandeliers, sconces and Lucite fringe on gauzy white curtains.

While you can certainly pick up ideas and buy decorative accessories here, the symphony show house is more theater than practical interior design. If you enjoy visiting private homes to see decor that people are actually living with, start with the state's largest and most venerable tour, the 58th annual Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage.

Beginning this weekend, the tour takes place over six different days in various areas of the state. For the first time, homes in Baltimore city's Canton neighborhood -- from historic 19th century houses to contemporary condos -- will be included.

The Canton tour features a "keyhole house," so-called because of its distinctively shaped entryway. It's one of the most architecturally striking houses in the area. Other highlights are the home of Robert Hendrick with its beautiful antiques; a waterfront loft and the penthouse in Tindeco Wharf; and St. Casimir Church, which has a 15-ton replica of Donatello's altar in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua.

"The views from the different homes are spectacular," says Canton tour chairwoman Mrs. J. William Middelton. "The harbor is very beautiful, very peaceful. We'll even be able to see the Pride" (if it's in port that day as expected).

After beginning in Dorchester County yesterday, the pilgrimage moves to Caroline County today, with a visit to nine homes; then Charles Country (April 29); Baltimore County, Rockland (April 30); Carroll Country (May 3); and Canton (May 6).

Information on the Decorators' Show House and the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage follows, as well as a listing of some other local tours coming up this spring and summer. They're arranged according to date:

Symphony Decorators' Show House, April 23-May 21. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday, Sunday, 1-5 p.m. (410) 889-2431. More than 40 designers, crafts people and landscape architects are displaying their talents at the Cloisters, 10440 Falls Rd. in Brooklandville. Tickets: $10 at the door.

Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, through May 6. Houses open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. rain or shine. (410) 821-6933. Tickets: $20 for each day's tour.

Southern Maryland Decorators' Show House, through May 21. Friday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (301) 753-4365. This year's show house is Keechland, a magnificent 80-year-old Georgian manor on the Potomac in Newburg. Over 20 designers and horticultural experts have worked on the rooms and gardens.

Special events include a mother-daughter tea on April 30, afternoon tea on Tuesdays, a presentation "Decorating for Beautiful Events" by a professional wedding floral designer (May 7), a wine tasting and tour (May 16) and a spring menu and cooking demonstration (May 21).

Tickets: $12 at the door, special events are extra. The house is located on Popes Creek Road about 18 miles south of Waldorf.

Historic Harbor House Tour of Federal Hill and Fell's Point, today, noon to 5:30 p.m. (410) 675-6750. Six houses in each area. Tickets: $12, available today at O'Conor, Piper and Flynn Realtors Light Street and South Broadway offices.

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