Artists give Mayfield home look of museum


Objects: Anita and David Klein have filled their Baltimore duplex with pieces of art that also make for great conversation pieces.

April 30, 2000|By Mary E. Medland | Mary E. Medland,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Since they married 35 years ago, Anita and David Klein have been collecting art: folk, outsider, found, African, as well as pieces by contemporary Maryland artists, including Joan Erbe, Charlie Palmer, Lois Hennessey and M.K. Dilli, among many others.

Along the way, they've also picked up a few pieces of antique furniture and decorated their Mayfield home with several pieces of found-wood furniture --salvaged pieces -- that David Klein built.

They also have a thing about collecting skulls -- animal skulls, that is.

"We picked up this steer's skull in Alaska," said David Klein of a piece on the living room floor. "And we found a couple of sheep skulls on Fog Island, off the coast of Maine."

In short, it is a house -- although one could make a case that it really is an art museum -- full of objects, virtually each with a story to tell.

What the couple did not have room to display, they've stored in their basement.

When the pair moved into their duplex 22 years ago, which they purchased for $20,000, their work was cut out for them.

The 75-year-old residence had a side view of Lake Montebello but was in need of serious rehabilitation.

David Klein pulled the plaster from the brick walls, as well as from the wooden walls, and exposed the underlying lathe.

The Kleins were able to salvage the original hardwood flooring, though it needed to be sanded and refinished.

The living room sofas reflect Anita Klein's love of sewing. Fabrics have been sewn to make two pieces of furniture.

"It's sort of a frenetic, schizophrenic upholstery job," she said.

In the dining room is an antique sideboard with mirrors, while nearby rests a Lois Hennessey ceramic monkey-with-pineapple piece that Anita Klein bought at a Maryland Institute, College of Art silent auction.

The dining room table was a collaborative effort between David Klein and Baltimore sculptor David Hess. Made of found wood, much of which bears traces of its original paint, the table is held together by an iron strip wrapped around the edge.

Underneath, the two lined the table with greened copper salvaged from gutters and downspouts.

Not surprisingly, seating is strictly "found" chairs.

Klein's career in creating found-wood furniture began in the mid-1980s after he tripped over a painted door in a junk store, which he alchemized into a cabinet.

A subsequent exhibit of his work at the Rehoboth Art League in Delaware and at the Gomez Gallery in Baltimore were followed in 1993 and 1994 by booths at the American Craft Council's Craft Show.

"The ACC shows gave me a lot of national exposure, and things pretty much took off from there," he said.

It has since become a full-time endeavor -- called Jazz Cabinets -- with Klein doing only commissioned pieces of furniture.

Although he was experienced in carpentry and home renovation, Klein also had done some modeling and acting, including appearances in the John Waters films "Polyester" and "Desperate Living."

Also in the dining room is his "Red Glass Door" cabinet.

"I started by building the cabinet, then added a drawer and stylized the top," he said. "The shelves are safety glass that I found on a dry dock on Key Highway."

Nearby is a movable, handmade chopping block crafted of wooden street barriers.

In the kitchen, the Kleins have displayed their collection of antique oyster tins and antique thermometers.

"We have four cats, but I've no idea how many thermometers we own," said Anita Klein, who works at the Maryland Institute. "Everything we've purchased, we did before the prices started going through the roof."

The second floor consists of a spare bedroom, a master bedroom, a bath and, in a rear room, Anita Klein's studio.

A David Klein armoire in the master bedroom was created to compensate for a dearth of closets. "I got the door and iron hinge from the barn at Rosa Ponselle's Villa Pace," he said, "and then sort of put it together with other pieces of wood."

The doors to the bathroom are leaded stained-glass windows, and there's an antique oak medicine chest and a found-wood frame on the bathroom mirror.

Over the decades, she has hand-painted gourds, which were purchased from specialty growers in the South, painted works on canvas, crafted dolls and made jewelry.

Today, she designs and whips up elegant, small purses from decorator fabric books, which she sells at craft fairs.

While the home's back yard once was just grass, that is no longer the case. Today, the yard has cherry and magnolia trees and a fish pond.

Said Anita Klein, "Not only did the gold fish survive this winter, they also had babies."

The yard is decorated with indoor-outdoor lights that hang from the trees, and an antique concrete seat with ornate flowers and leaves. There's also a wire settee that David Klein dragged home and Anita Klein's moss, which she's cultivated over the years.

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