House shows and tells

Interiors: This year's BSO show house demonstrates some of the newest design trends, and how to translate them into your own decor.

May 07, 2000|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

Show houses aren't always the best place to look for design trends. The interior designers who participate often create wildly extravagant fantasy rooms that are fun to look at but don't help much if you're decorating your own home.

But this year's Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Show House, the work of dozens of designers and volunteers, is an exception. The rooms of Loveton Mansion, which was built in the early 1800s, illustrate some of the most au courant directions in interior design. Look past the excessive accessorizing (the sale of those accessories helps designers recoup some of the cost of decorating a show-house room), and you'll see ways to translate today's design trends into decor you can live with.

Here are six examples:

Asian flair

Those who have had enough of overblown extravagance and ornamentation to the max in show-house rooms will appreciate the uncomplicated serenity of the master bedroom, designed by Kathleen Jeschke of Ellicott City.

Highlights: A 19th-century Chinese armoire with pocket doors that functions as a TV cabinet, draperies in a red poppy print folded back in the form of a kimono, a custom-made black Ultrasuede bed, a fabulous ceiling fan fashioned from Oriental paper fans.

Advice from the pro: "Go for the color red as an accent, like lipstick," says Jeschke. She also suggests using Chinese porcelains and Asian accessories whatever your room's decor. "They are always classics."


For years now mix 'n' match has been the dominant trend in home design. Anything goes. With anything. But there's a growing interest in what's being called "relaxed formality." Rooms that combine elements from a particular period with transitional pieces look harmonious and very up-to-date. The neoclassical parlor designed by Skip Sroka of Bethesda is, well, a classic example.

Highlights: The use of a simple palette of warm colors: soft ocher, Pompeii red and ivory; the handsome secretary copied from an early 19th-century antique; the repetition of the Greek key motif that ties the room together.

Advice from the pro: It no longer looks right to throw anything into a room and call it eclectic.

"Scale is very important, and a balance of old and new," says Sroka. "When you add a piece, make sure it doesn't become an 'elephant' in the room."

Indoors moves outdoors

Face it. We all love the idea of creating a living room outdoors, but the reality is that most of us use lawn furniture on our decks and porches. Designer Lydia Baker of Eldersburg has created a pretty and practical living room on the show house's sleeping porch. Lots of her clients, she says, are asking for three-season rooms like this one.

Highlights: The striped all-weather "draperies" that block direct sun and light rain, a table that's a piece of wood with a painted marble finish placed on metal urns for legs, the charming accessories that help make this a real room.

Advice from the pro: Create a place to read with lighting, says Baker. Use "grubby" accessories (translated: a little worn around the edges) and furniture with distressed finishes. "If it gets a little more distressed, it doesn't matter." Floor cloths and washable rugs help make a porch a more livable space.

Color explodes

Color has been big news in home design the last couple of years, the bolder the better. But most of us are timid about adding lots of bright and punchy color to our living spaces.

Christina Dutton shows us how in a corner bedroom. The Washington designer has created a light-filled, neutral space that showcases a couple of brilliant colors in small doses.

Highlights: The antique needlepoint headboard, the inspiration for all the color and decorative painting in the room; the Ralph Lauren fabrics that are either 100 percent cotton or linen; the antique red-and-white quilt; the use of glass throughout the room to add lightness and airiness; dressmaker details like "frogs" on the furnishings.

Advice from the pro: "Color can add snap without overwhelming a room," says Dutton. "It can come in through a neutral palette. Color is back in a big way, but it's such a personal thing."

There are different options, she adds. You don't have to have a totally blue room, for instance.

The cottage look

After the American country craze of the '80s, furniture designers strayed from the style until French country emerged a couple of years ago. Today's country looks are different, more sophisticated and more put-together. Check out Missy Connelly's family sitting room, where the Butler designer has created a cozy but polished space.

Highlights: The egg fabric from Scalamandre that inspires egg motifs throughout the room, a conversational grouping of four chairs that makes this space more inviting than the traditional TV room, the series of antique bird-nest prints, a television cabinet made from hickory saplings, an antique hutch with distressed finish that doubles as a computer center.

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