When Joan Develin Coley was named president of Western Maryland College last year, the white Queen Anne-style president's house on the school's Westminster campus was dark and outdated.
Coley wanted to renovate the 19th-century house, keeping its historic character and sense of formality while reflecting her taste for lots of light, simple design and contemporary style.
During the past year, the 5,600- square-foot house has undergone a thorough $250,000 renovation and restoration, inside and out.
In the process, the project caught the eye of the cable network House and Garden Television. The president's house will be featured on an episode of Old Homes Restored scheduled to air Tuesday on HGTV.
Walking through the house Thursday afternoon, Coley proudly showed off the changes made by interior designer Susan Leahy and architect Dean Camlin, both of Westminster, whose work was supervised by the college's director of facilities planning, Ed Sell Jr.
`Ugly appendage' gone
Coley pointed out the new foyer with the cupola roof, praised the hardwood floors decorated with stencils that make them look like inlaid wood, and delighted in the transformation of a dark-paneled den she once called an "ugly appendage" into an airy, light-filled conservatory.
"What I wanted to do was keep period-correct but feel like we were able to accent with contemporary things," Coley said.
Gone is the navy toile wallpaper in the dining room and the heavy drapes that once hung in the windows throughout much of the first floor. The walls are papered in tones of cream and beige, and the windows have been adorned with simple, streamlined plantation shutters.
Many of the furnishings and artworks - such as a Picasso pencil drawing hanging in the sitting room - were bequests to the college. A $15,000 inlaid wood desk in the foyer, for example, was a gift from college benefactors Thomas and Catherine Eaton. The rest of the artwork was created by faculty members.
The house was last renovated 16 years ago, and although the interior was historically accurate, it was too dark and cluttered for Coley's taste. The interior also needed to be furnished with an understanding of the many events held there.
"The whole concept was to make sure Joan was happy, but also make sure the house was formal enough for the public," said Leahy, who taught education courses at the college for 10 years before embarking on a career as an interior designer six years ago. "We wanted it to be a formal house, a gracious house for entertaining."
The house is the site of up to 100 functions a year - everything from formal dinners for VIPs to casual luncheons for students. Since March, it also has been Coley's private residence.
Her collection of dramatic art glass graces the coffee tables and the walls, and much of her contemporary art hangs in the public rooms of the house, too.
"It's more than just a house," she said, explaining that the campus location and age of the house are a testament to the school's commitment to community and history. "It fits who we are."
`A very handsome house'
Camlin was called upon to transform a narrow carport into a full two-car garage and to restore the home's front entrance by erecting a gazebo-like porch roof over it that echoes the house's turret. He also created a handicapped-accessible bathroom on the first floor in a former butler's staircase.
"It's certainly a very handsome house," said Camlin, who classifies the design as being "on the rustic side of Victorian."
The TV program, filmed over three days in the summer, features interviews with Coley and Camlin.
The president's house was built in 1889 with a $4,000 gift from the Baker family of Frederick County. It is the oldest structure on the 135-year-old college campus that maintains its original use.
Coley said she watches little television other than the news. When she learned that her home would be featured on HGTV, she called her mother and asked whether she had heard of the network. "I'm watching it right now," her mother said.
"She was very excited," Coley confided.
The episode of Old Homes Restored featuring the President's House at Western Maryland College is scheduled to air at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on HGTV.