Artist uses rowhouse in city as her palette


Colorful: An 1850 end-of-group townhouse in Federal Hill is brightly decorated by its artist owner.

October 03, 2004|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On Wheeling Street in Federal Hill, rows of narrow, two- and three-story brick houses line the curbs, in a domino-like fashion.

Their carefully restored facades, featuring wide window shutters and front doors with bright brass knockers, recall Baltimore's Colonial seaport past.

Artist and photographer, Linnie Greene owns an end-of-group on this charming street. It includes a multi-paned storefront window and a painted exterior trim in Mexican-inspired shades of coral and aqua. Flower boxes attached to the second- and third-story windows drip purple and green foliage.

"My house is just another palette to express myself," says Greene in the soft twangs of her native North Carolina.

The house has plenty of history. It once served as Mrs. Linn's Pickle Store. From her living room chair, Greene, 47, gestures to a building across the street (now condominiums) that had been a pickle factory.

Seven years ago, Greene purchased the circa 1850 home that previously had been gutted and renovated. Greene acknowledges that she wasn't immediately taken with the 12-foot- wide-by-52-foot-length property, having to look it over three times "because it was so conservative."

Realizing its potential, however, she paid $130,000. She estimates an additional $20,000 was invested in paint, a new roof, a second-story deck over the kitchen, hardwood floor refinishing and a copper roof over her storefront window.

"My house recently appraised at $350,000," Greene adds, the disbelief in her voice unmistakable.

The rich fragrance of a fig-scented candle permeates the entire downstairs, complementing Greene's warm, exotic decor, and the classical music she often plays. All of these ingredients work toward her intent of creating an ambience that will appeal to all of the senses: "I want people to come in here and have a total experience."

Friend Beth Hawks agrees.

"The exterior of her house is so vibrant and exciting," Hawks says. "It makes me curious what's inside and it does not disappoint."

The front of the home faces north and is dominated by the window. Greene, a competent seamstress, has fashioned pumpkin-colored shears with raised satin embroidery over white diaphanous curtains for what she calls "a Moroccan feel."

Beaded lampshades, a suede terra cotta loveseat and a large ottoman of chenillelike micro-fiber in geometric designs of rust and green complete the look. Large pillows of brightly colored satin, suede with beads, and silk medallion designs are placed about the loveseat and on a muted floral occasional chair.

The room's walls are painted a soft terra cotta, glazed with a rose-colored pigment.

As an artist, Greene is aware of the need to keep her pieces scaled to a living room that measures 12-feet-by-10-feet. The standout in the room sits in the southeastern corner - a 5-foot-7-inch double-door armoire covered with thin sheets of burled wood.

She has hauled this piece around with her for 20 years, noting that it provides great storage space.

Atop the armoire, Greene displays a few pieces from her large collection of religious icons. The west wall features matted photographs of women, shot in black and white and hand-colored. As Greene's specialty, she sells and displays this work, in addition to teaching photography to children.

In the dining room, Greene has blended the conservative with touches of whimsy. Her love of texture, fabric and color is evident here. Noting that it took more than 40 hours to paint the walls, she draws attention to a created chair rail stenciled in a muted green, reminiscent of the Colonial period.

Below the chair rail, on a cream background, she has stenciled green diamonds for a Harlequin effect. Above the rail, she chose a bright magenta shade, roller brushing in various directions for a suede effect. A hand-painted green diamond tablecloth and window swags also highlight the room.

Two steps up to the kitchen reveals walls painted honey pear yellow. Greene stripped her cabinets, then painted them Colonial green. She sanded the cabinets to create a worn look.

White plantation shutters grace the two west wall windows, while boldly colored Mexican prints are matted in vivid red. This red is picked up in the bright oilcloth that covers her rattan kitchen table. White ceramic tile and a white-tin ceiling provide contrast.

Beyond the back door, a 12-foot-by-10-foot patio courtyard is paved in brick. Her ivy-covered fence provides privacy. Raised flowerbeds are enhanced with plastic pink flamingos.

A narrow, switchback staircase to the second level leads to a 12-foot-by-12-foot deck over the kitchen. The second-floor deck is accessed through the main bathroom.

The room is painted in green and purple stripes. Brightly-colored tulips are painted onto a terra-cotta colored shower curtain. Moroccan-style lanterns are placed at the entrance to the deck.

The front bedroom is used by a housesitter that Greene often employs during her visits abroad. In this room, the walls have been treated to a soft green paint that contrasts with the exposed red brick and fireplace on the east wall.

Greene's bedroom suite makes up the third floor. Cream-colored walls, exposed brick on the east wall and a cathedral ceiling with skylight give an open appearance to this 12-foot-by-25-foot garret space, which includes the bathroom.

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