Making holiday arrangements Floral designers go far beyond holly and mistletoe in their decorations for the BSO's house-tour fund-raiser.

December 01, 1996|By Beth Smith | Beth Smith,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When floral designer Eleanor Oster visited the Guilford home she had volunteered to decorate for the holidays, her attention was caught by a white silk kimono hanging on a wall in the living room and an Asian doll collection in nearby curio cabinets.

"I decided almost immediately that I would try to capture an Asian theme to enhance and accentuate all the beautiful things that the owners had collected from the Far East," she recalls. In addition to the kimono and dolls, there were bowls, statues, vases, sculptures and other accessories combined in a design scheme that mixed fine antiques and traditional furniture.

On the faux-painted fireplace mantel, Oster envisioned bittersweet painted white and scrub pine trimmed in a bonsai style. On the dining room table she saw antique dolls -- borrowed from the curio cabinets -- costumed in bright red authentic Asian costumes mixed in with the ornate, cobalt-blue, heavily gilded china plates, and pine branches painted white and decorated with stemmed candy-red cherries. In the front hall, she would fill Chinese bowls with coral-red "Raphael" roses and make corkscrew-like topiaries of Alberta spruce.

This week, Oster gets to turn her plans into reality when she joins six other Baltimore floral designers to create holiday decors for the fourth annual "Symphony Homes for the Holidays" tour Friday and Saturday from 9: 30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

To help support the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the designers donate their time, talent, fresh greens, flowers and plants. The homeowners -- and this year for the first time church-owners -- lend their property to be lavishly decorated for the season. Freed from the demands of a paying client, #i designers let their imaginations soar beyond traditional Christmas reds and greens.

They also trim the 8-to-10-foot tree that each participating family receives as a gift from the tour organizers.

Sponsored by the Baltimore Symphony Associates, this year's tour includes six Guilford homes, within a half-mile mile walking distance of one another, and the chapel of the Second Presbyterian Church. Like its older, more established cousin -- .. the Decorator Show House -- the holiday tour is a major fund-raiser for the BSO. Proceeds will support the youth education programs of the orchestra such as Music for Youth, Prime-Time, Side by Side and the Tiny Tots.

"In the past, we have tried to establish a general theme for the tour, but this year we decided to let each designer pick his or her own theme," says Nancy Kromkowski, co-chair of the floral committee. "And we encourage them to be very creative and to '' do their own thing."

Selecting a theme is not an easy task, and not everyone comes up with an idea as quickly as Oster did when she saw the kimono. Darlene Waters of the French Tulip was slightly dismayed as she walked through the large, traditional home assigned to her.

Her inspiration came quite unexpectedly when she stepped into the bright and sunny dining room of the house. "I knew we planned to set the dining room table as if the family was having Christmas dinner, and when I spied the owner's yellow-accented china, I suddenly thought lemons -- and then apples, pineapples, cranberries and pomegranates." She had a theme. "Fruitful Yuletide," she adds with a laugh.

Her plans include cranberry spikes -- cranberries strung on pieces of straight wire -- in the stairway garland, a lemon tree on a dining room sideboard, candle holders made from real pineapples, and apples cored to hold tiny water tubes filled with orchid-like, rosy alstroemeria.

Highland chapel

Floral designer Susan Kershaw, a two-year veteran of the tour, promises lots of pink heather in the chapel of the Second Presbyterian Church. A contemporary space without much detailing, the room will be "turned into a little chapel like you would see in the highlands of Scotland," says Kershaw, who drew on the history of the Presbyterian Church to establish a Scottish theme.

"I like to use texture, pattern and color to make a very dramatic image," explains Kershaw, who often works as a floral designer for movies shot in Baltimore.

"I really do draw on my experience in creating scenes for movies," continues Kershaw, and for the tour, the chapel of the Second Presbyterian Church will become much like a movie set. She will fill the chapel with "all things Scottish," including bagpipes and tartans in all colors and patterns.

Nearby, Kathleen McGuire of Flower Markets Inc. plans to capture "English charm" for her holiday theme as she decorates the church's rectory. She will use candles, wreaths and topiaries -- made from boxwood and hedge apples -- throughout the house. Fresh flowers including tulips, a Christmas favorite at McGuire's shop at the Drumcastle Market, will fill arrangements.

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