Working hard' at being unconventional


Lawyer-turned-artist uses cast-off items to create her dream home

June 20, 1999|By Karen E. Ludwig | Karen E. Ludwig,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Timmie Daugherty describes herself as a "recovering lawyer trying to become an artist." Her Charles Village rowhouse, which she purchased 10 years ago, has turned out to be the perfect place to make the transition.

The house has undergone the transition with her. That's apparent the minute you step though the iron gate leading to the front yard.

Green beer bottles edge the otherwise typical Baltimore rose garden. A rusted typewriter, remnants from old industrial sites and a topiary frame strung with Christmas lights are among the yard's centerpieces. And then there are the stone lions, made by students at the Charles Hickey School.

"I've been working hard at doing what I want to do, not what is appropriate for me to do by someone else's judgment," Daugherty said. "One of the big differences between being a lawyer and an artist is that an artist speaks for oneself, while a lawyer speaks for someone else."

City resident since 1989

Daugherty left her law practice and moved from her house on the waterfront of St. Mary's County to Baltimore in 1989.

"I wanted to live in the city, and I loved Charles Village because of its big houses with nice back yards, and all of the trees on the street," she said. "There's so much more to do in Baltimore. I'm either a rural person or a city person. I'm not a suburbia person."

She chose a three-story rowhouse that had some updates but had retained its early-20th-century character with original woodwork, hardwood floors, high ceilings and fixtures, including a bathtub and sinks. The magnificent maple tree in the back yard and the adjacent garage were also major selling points -- in addition to the 2,600 square feet of living space.

"It's like having a big house without having to deal with a big house," Daugherty said, referring to the home's five bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths.

The extra space has proved to be an asset, flexible enough to accommodate her changing needs. One bedroom serves as a studio for creating her glass mosaics, an art form that she undertook last year. Another serves as an office for her government relations consulting business. She uses a third bedroom as a television room, and she still has two rooms left for a large master bedroom and a guest room. In fact, all of the rooms easily convert to make room for guests, whom Daugherty enjoys entertaining.

Daugherty paid $110,000 for the house and has since invested about $25,000 in improvements, including uncovering and refinishing the pine floor in the kitchen and adding a two-story, Victorian-style porch in the rear.

The house's living room is eclectic and comfortable. It boasts deep red-colored walls, painted by Daugherty's son; an impressive collection of antiques and paintings; several of Daugherty's own mosaics; and more unconventional things like the deer's head bedecked in Christmas ornaments and a human-head-shaped lamp.

Makeshift living room

The back porch, just beyond the dining room and the kitchen, serves as Daugherty's makeshift living room for five months of the year. She spent her first winter in the house designing the porch and had it built the next summer.

During the past eight years, vines have crept up over the wooden porch, giving a sense that it might always have been there.

While the porch's upper level is reserved for sunning, a skylight allows the sunlight to filter through to the lower level, making it a perfect place for Daugherty to delve into a stack of library books while protected by the shade. Having a roof on the main porch has also made it a rainy-weather retreat, spring through fall.

"It's like having a treehouse," she said.

Daugherty's art has also found its way out onto the back porch in the form of colorful mosaic tabletops and mirrored wall hangings.

Then there's the view of the back yard, which has been featured several years on a garden tour. Only this garden is not made from flowers. It's a "rust garden."

A more extreme version of the front yard, the rear one features at its center a 12-foot bottle tree. Earlier this year, Daugherty discovered an abandoned Christmas tree in an alley and dragged it home with the help of her next-door neighbor. She had a vision. After pruning it, Daugherty carefully decorated the branches with the green glass.

Many of the bottles in the front and back yards came from a Harford County recycling site. Other recycled items in the back yard include a pair of gold-painted mannequin legs springing from a garden, rusted fan blades suspended in the maple tree, boiler parts, a pipe tower, old gauges, tools, and assorted heads, arms, eyes and other doll parts from thrift stores.

`Even more special'

"I think something is even more special if I didn't have to buy it. It's just sort of nice to rescue things," Daugherty said of her unusual finds, which help create the unique character of her home.

"I was raised as a Quaker, and my parents were always thrifty. I think it's also related to an appreciation that I have for old things."

Glass mosaic "ponds" and a running fountain attached to the garage wall help to complete the surreal environment in the rowhouse's back yard. Daugherty even created an arbor between the roofs of two garages with some old fencing found in a nearby alley.

"The original impetus was to try to make it interesting in the wintertime, to give me something to look at in the winter," she said. "I believe there is no such thing as too much of something. If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing."

Her kitchen is another case in point. Chinese red floral wallpaper is the backdrop for a multiplying assortment of red and green salt and pepper shakers that Daugherty began collecting several years ago during an ice storm.

"In the wintertime I like to have all of the colors and flowers around when it's drab outside," Daugherty said.

No one could ever accuse Daugherty's eclectic house of being drab.

Pub Date: 6/20/99

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