Hamilton Victorian a shrine to large art


Showplace: A Hamilton family's house is also a roomy gallery for statuary and other substantial works of art.

December 07, 2003|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Richard Rist often asks visitors whether they feel as if they're in the city when offering tours of his 1 1/4 -acre back yard of old and exquisite landscaping.

In the Hamilton area of Northeast Baltimore, the former owners of Rist's home nurtured boxwood, magnolia trees and holly bushes bursting with bright red berries. The expansive front lawn is dressed in old trees but sports a major man-made addition: a life-size bronze sculpture of a year-old horse.

"This is The Yearling by P.J. Mene," says Richard Rist, 42, who owns a software company and works out of his home.

Rist's 3,700-square-foot home, with a 1930s deco-style office addition on its south side, is a shrine and repository to a first love: collecting large art.

"I've been collecting art for 20 years," he says. "When I was in the Navy, I saw the grand scale [of art] over in Europe and realized that in the U.S., art can be so dinky."

By traveling and searching the Internet, Rist bought other large pieces of work at art houses in the United States and overseas. He also located foundries that would manufacture bronze pieces for him.

His large house and property, which he bought in December 2001 for $235,000, has become his grand-scale gallery. He, his wife, Karen Guzick Rist, and their two small sons (along with two dogs and a cat) live amid artwork that has been placed in every corner, on every wall and in every nook and cranny of the house. He will sell pieces that are tagged.

Cinnamon-scented candles burn in the office, giving an aroma of a country bakery. Richard Rist's huge oak desk sits in the north corner of the room. Here, he conducts his software business and manages The Large Art Co., which he founded to sell pieces of his collection.

Reproduction posters of Charlie Chaplin stare down at him as he works. Bronze reproductions of busts by Frederic Remington share space with marble figurines. From Romania to China, the art represents a worldwide collection.

Guzick Rist, 32, a surgical nurse at St. Agnes HealthCare, enters the office from the kitchen area. The couple's sons, Grayson, 4, and Maxwell, 2, cling to her shyly. She is eager to show off the three-story home and the renovations - predominantly painting and cosmetic work - that cost almost $35,000.

The spacious layout has original hardwood flooring throughout. The floors are of wide-planked pine with the golden patina of age. Guzick Rist has chosen deep red, floral-motif Persian carpets for every room.

The dining room features a Louis Philippe reproduction furniture suite in cherry, with scroll chairs covered in beige damask.

"The wall color is crewel red," she says, laughing.

That translates to a soft cranberry, which contrasts well with wide, bull's-eye molding in white. The white molding motif is carried through to every room, yet the paint colors vary: wicker basket yellow, falling leaf terra cotta, farmland yellow and water garden blue.

"The consistency is maintained with the off-white, muslin curtains on all of the windows," she says.

The front parlor is a particular favorite of the Rist family. Here, the overall farmhouse style has been transformed into a music room dominated by a black-lacquer grand piano.

A Victorian mahogany suite, covered in light tufted damask, provides a seat for a full-size mannequin of a very ladylike creature named Carolyn.

The artwork here is music related, a standout being a 4-by-6-foot painting of a saxophone player in a dimly lighted, smoky club.

The home's second level contains six bedrooms and a bath. Not needing all the sleeping space, the Rists use four of the rooms as additional gallery space.

The sitting room is done in light blue with a water garden theme. A powder blue-covered Queen Anne sofa sits on a wool tufted, floral carpet.

Rooms with signs saying "Private" are the boys' bedroom (done in a homey cabin motif, with crate-like beds, bookcases, and richly colored quilts) and the master suite, painted a light peridot, with ornately carved cherry furniture.

A reading room at the rear is open to guests interested in buying what Richard Rist calls "macho art." A buyer can choose such works as a reproduction marble bust of a Roman soldier or a bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln.

A change of style is found on the home's third story. White wainscoting throughout five rooms, chintz curtains on the windows and sloped ceilings make for a guest apartment that seems more like a seaside cottage.

"I love this house," says Jen Ingool, a lifelong friend of Guzick Rist. "My husband and I decided to buy [in this neighborhood] when we saw theirs. It is very homey and comfortable with such sensory stimulation."

Richard Rist says the home works well for his family.

"This house is nice in its own folksy way," Rist says. "It's a nice old house, soft-spoken, not in-your-face."

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