April showers bring show houses Home: It's time once again for those rites of spring, the Symphony Decorators' Show House and the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage.

April 14, 1996|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN STAFF

In recent years, the pleasures visitors have gotten from Baltimore's premiershow house and Maryland's largest house tour have been very different. The Symphony Decorators' Show House (opening next Sunday) traditionally offers glamour and fantasy, while the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage (which starts April 27) features private homes with "real" interior design.

This year is a little different. The decorators' show house, Stratford on the Green in Guilford, is unusual because it's so large and the rooms are so small. That's good for the designers; they didn't have to invest enormous amounts of money to decorate huge rooms. And it's good for visitors; there are so many different rooms to see (29 in all), most of them the size of rooms in an ordinary middle-class home.

This is one of the most useful symphony show houses in years, if you go to show houses to get design ideas. The solutions the designers have come up with are for problems that your house could have -- not what to do with a ballroom the size of a football field. And this is a house that has plenty of design problems as well as interesting features, from dark rooms to oddly shaped windows to awkward radiators.

Take the library, decorated by Ginny Burns, Anne Gurbel and John Andersson of Coppermine Terrace Interiors. From this you'll get ideas on how to deal with a very narrow room with dark surfaces, too many windows and a huge, ugly radiator. The library's simulated embossed leather wall covering, eccentric art collection and soft lighting help create a warm, cozy hideaway.

"The room is a real nightmare from a design standpoint," says Mr. Andersson, "but I hope it will show people not to be afraid of dark rooms or mismatched art."

Perhaps because many of the rooms are dark or perhaps just because this has been such a long winter, the prominent motifs throughout the show house are light and floral. Designer after designer makes use of flowery fabrics, sunny yellows and leafy greens, botanical prints, topiaries and accessories that would be equally at home in a garden.

One of the most charming examples is the upstairs bathroom by Palais Royal and Decorative Sources. Everything, down to the paper on the pretty soap, is pale green and white, the colors drawn from the fern-patterned shower curtain.

On the first floor is a tranquil sun room done in soft pinks, greens and cream by Janet Plitt of Morgan Truesdell Interiors. The room has a pleasing formality, but the line between indoors and outdoors is blurred because of the floral prints and lattice carpet, tulips and topiaries, a wonderful rabbit coffee table and flowers painted on the built-ins.

While these are two of the most completely "green" rooms, you'll find a flower chandelier and trompe l'oeil window in Carol Grillo's nursery, dried hydrangeas as the focus for the floral bedroom done by Gina Fitzsimmons and many other natural inspirations throughout the house.

This is the 20th anniversary for the show house sponsored by the Baltimore Symphony Associates. A preview party will be held next Friday starting at 7: 30 p.m., with a reception afterward at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Tickets are $85.

The show house will be open to the public April 21 through May 19. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m Saturday and Sunday. All parking will be at the Boumi Temple, North Charles Street and Wyndhurst Avenue, with shuttle service to the show house. Advance admission is $10, at the door $12. For more information, call (410) 662-8500.

Grand dame

Those who think homes on the 59th annual Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage will be stuffy and historic will have to think again when they see places like Mr. and Mrs. Alan Gamse's corner rowhouse on the Bolton Hill tour.

The owners have preserved the 19th-century character of the house, one of the larger residences in Bolton Hill. But bright red walls and original floors in alternating stripes of dark and light wood help create a glamorous setting for the couple's antiques, family pieces and collections of Herend figurines and miniature chairs.

The dining room is particularly striking, with its high ceiling and Chinese wallpaper that complements the beautiful coral marble mantel.

Although the home is filled with antiques, there is plenty that is fresh and fun about it. The couple's bedroom, which has just been redecorated by interior designer Claudia Sennett, includes wing chairs from a thrift store -- completely redone -- and an ottoman from a mail-order catalog.

The Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage begins in two weeks with the Talbot County tour on April 27 and one in Kent County on April 28. Margaret Keller, executive director, describes the pilgrimage as "the grand old lady of Maryland house tours," one of the oldest in the country. Proceeds go to preservation and restoration around the state.

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