Flair and love of collecting transform 1-bedroom unit into man's cozy refuge

Apartment has become a bit of a showcase

July 14, 1999|By Zerline A. Hughes | Zerline A. Hughes,SUN STAFF

Harry Bolden's West Baltimore apartment complex looks like the average manicured, 170-unit, brick development. But his downstairs unit holds a collection of artifacts, art and rare plants many a museum would brag about.

The demure 55-year-old renter of a one-bedroom apartment collects Oriental and African art and recently acquired a 200-pound bonsai tree, all placed strategically in his close-quartered home. His 20-year-old hobby -- which has garnered him hundreds of pieces -- has turned into a labor of love. He spends lunch hours, time after work and weekends investigating pieces to add to his treasure trove.

From the vantage point of his front window, Bolden says, neighbors sometimes sneak a peek at his spotless unit, getting an eyeful of an African bust, an intricate porcelain vase and a wall laden with framed artwork. Inside his dimly lighted home, Japanese screens, faux ferns and a large-as-life Japanese goddess sit in various rooms, pulling the eye in myriad directions.

The only trace that Bolden lives there is a Campbell's soup can and three boxes of cereal atop the refrigerator.

"I venture out to the flea markets, thrift stores, Goodwill, Antique Row -- I just love shopping," said Bolden, 55, a 28-year accounting clerk for Morgan State University. "You don't need to be a millionaire to have a place that looks like a millionaire's."

Bolden gets many ideas from his favorite magazines -- Architectural Digest, Better Homes & Gardens and Good Housekeeping -- but says he also attempts to create his own style, one that includes positioning artwork at various levels and maintaining African, Native American and Asian sections in his apartment.

"Instead of the standard eye level, when people sit down, they've got more to look at," he said, pointing at framed pictures hanging underneath the window sill. "In a home, you should get a different feeling each place you look, a whole new view of where you are."

Bolden became fascinated by plants when he was a teen-ager. He visited greenhouses and plant stores, and eventually began a collection. That led him to purchase the towering bonsai tree, which he had shipped from Florida and displays in his front window with showcase lighting.

His collection carried over to art, odd pieces of furniture and delicate knickknacks.

"One thing turned into another," said Bolden, who moved from Maine to Baltimore as a child. "If I hear a shipment has come in, I'm there. If I see something that fits my [decor], I will pick it up. I don't like a lot of space. I like coziness."

`Lot of loving'

Beverly Hamilton has lived across the hall from Bolden for more than 10 years and has visited him from time to time, noticing when he moves a piece of furniture or adds something new to the eclectic decor.

"He puts a lot of loving into his home, and he's a very nice neighbor," Hamilton said. "Every now and then, people just pass by and look. Someone will walk past his window when it's dark. But he's always glad to show off the place. Not too many people in the complex know how deep into plants and art he is."

Bolden also has a display of his own making -- two 7 1/2-foot-tall, 350-pound speakers crafted out of wood. He said the speakers won an award from Fisher Stereo as the city's largest and best-sounding custom-made speakers.

`A real flair'

"Harry is one of [our] best tenants," said Curtis Campbell, property manager of Bolden's apartment complex. "He's got a real flair for style. He helped us design some models which have been very effective. He has a nicer apartment than people have in huge homes. It shows what someone with a small home can do to make it look like a mansion. He's fabulous."

"People will come in for one thing and end up staying for a tour," said Bolden, noting visits from the postal carrier and from the police when called for a broken window.

"I don't get a chance to go out because people are always coming here for the atmosphere, but I don't mind. I love coming home to unwind and relax."

Pub Date: 7/14/99

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