Holiday spice at Evergreen Bedecked: The elegant pre-Civil War mansion opens its doors today for the 40th annual Christmas tour and sale.

November 10, 1996|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,SUN STAFF

Just as the season of frenzied shopping begins, the Women's Board of Johns Hopkins Hospital is offering a holiday sale that many may find elegant, relaxing, worthy -- and possibly even practical.

Picture yourself wandering through a 48-room, pre-Civil War mansion decorated with red roses and pine garlands, green pears and crystal. Throughout the house, Tiffany glassware sits on mantels, hall tables and in reading-room alcoves. The dining room is set with red-and-gold Tiffany china -- perhaps ready for a Christmas feast?

Now imagine following gray stepping-stone paths to the carriage house out back, where hundreds of intriguing gift items are for sale. There are hand-hooked rugs with Jack Russell dog motifs, beribboned baskets of gourmet soup mixes, music boxes adorned with beagles, 14-karat tennis bracelets, hand-painted garden nymphs, beaded socks for the golf lover, and wicker garden furniture for the pampered doll.

Welcome to the 40th annual "Carriage House Collection at Evergreen" sale. Held at the former home of John Work Garrett, ambassador to Italy from 1929-1933, the event is a combination of historic tour, floral design demonstration, good cause and gift shopping extravaganza.

From noon today through Tuesday, the public is invited to come to Evergreen, 4545 N. Charles St., to tour the house, which is decorated for the holidays. Admission is $8. In addition, wares from more than 40 boutiques fill the Carriage House and spill over into several large tents. Proceeds go to the hospital.

There is also a fly-fishing demonstration scheduled for 2: 30 p.m. today, and there will be tours highlighting the Evergreen collection of Tiffany glassware at 11 a.m. tomorrow and Tuesday.

"We hope to reflect holiday grandeur," says Bobbie Gutman, who is on the Christmas sale committee. "And this year, Tiffany & Co. is coming in to do the table settings, so we hope people will come to enjoy the shopping, the house and the decorations."

Indeed, this year's theme is "A Celebration in the Tiffany style." The decorations, created by nine local designers, have transformed the first floor into a colorful, flowery, holiday wonderland.

And Baltimore designer Susan Kershaw, working in conjunction with designers from Tiffany's, has transformed the dining room into a bower of red, green and gold splendor.

"Tiffany will supply holiday china and some of their crystal, and they will feature that in the dining room," says Kershaw, who designed the floral arrangements for the Walt Disney Productions period movie "Washington Square," scheduled for release next spring.

Evergreen's dining room, which is done in vivid red and yellow, cries out for equally bold adornments, she says. "From the moment I saw it, I wanted to punch up the color."

Tiffany table setting

The 12-person table setting features Tiffany holiday china: red, gold and green plates with a pattern of ribbons holding sprays of acorns, berries and pine cones. There will also be Waterford crystal and Tiffany's shell-and-thread pattern silver, says Lili R. Ott, director of historic houses at Johns Hopkins.

The place settings featured at Evergreen are re-creations of holiday designs that appear in "A Tiffany Christmas," published this month by Doubleday. Written by Tiffany design director John Loring, the book includes tips on menu planning, recipes and home decoration.

At the center of the dining room table will be Kershaw's piece de resistance: a crystal topiary with a towering green-and-red floral arrangement. "It will combine red roses, green pears, boxwood and Tiffany Christmas ornaments, and it will stand 3 feet high over the table," she says.

Getting the right look

Working with the Tiffany designers to get a certain look is "almost like being an actress," Kershaw adds. "When the actress plays a role she becomes the role. When you work with someone like Tiffany's, you think Tiffany. But I don't make their look my look -- I try to make their look spectacular."

Adding an official Tiffany touch to the decorations in the dining room is a fitting development. Evergreen itself houses a large collection of Tiffany glassware, donated to Johns Hopkins by Margaret B. Wilson, a professor at Hunter College who retired in Baltimore.

Many of these pieces, which include ovoid vases decorated in a peacock pattern, lava-glass vessels and a lamp with a spider-shaped shade and an upside-down mushroom for its base, will be on display throughout the house, says Ott.

Across the grand hall, the front room will be decorated in garlands of greens, mauves, burgundies and golds, says designer Eleanor Oster. Antique white metal garden urns filled with greenery and gold fruit will sit atop the mantelpieces.

In this room, the focal point will be a huge Christmas tree -- "It will be Victorian in feel, but it won't be stuffed with baby's breath and hydrangeas. It will have beads and gold ribbons and fruits," says Oster.

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