Two designers gain acclaim

Ellicott City

October 22, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Black and white polka-dots, sequined ruby slippers, a soccer ball-shaped pillow and a plaster frog imprinted with red lip marks are a few details that make a fourth-floor teenager's bedroom at the Ellicott City Decorator Show House stand out.

The whimsical room, designed by Jane Duvall and Stacia Smith, both of Ellicott City, will soon get some national attention. It was chosen to be featured in Better Homes and Gardens' Kids' Rooms magazine.

The room will be photographed at the end of this month and likely will appear in the magazine next year.

"Jane and I were delighted," Smith said. "It's our first national publication."

In fact, it is the women's first show house and this is their first year as professional designers.

The two decorated their homes and those of friends and family members for years while juggling their duties as stay-at-home moms.

Smith and Duvall met when their 11-year-old sons started attending the same school. Smith, who has a background in advertising, also has a 7-year-old son. Duvall, who worked in real estate, also has an 18-year-old daughter.

Both women turned out to have a flair for decorating.

"People said, `You ought to be doing this for your profession,' " Duvall said. So, the Designing Divas was born in July.

"We do it because we enjoy it," Smith said. "It was a passion and a hobby. It brought us such pleasure, we thought, `Let's just do it together.' "

Smith said that while the funky show house room is getting lots of attention, she and Duvall can tackle any taste and have done several houses using antiques, Asian-influenced designs and other grown-up themes.

The women applied this summer for the show house, which is held almost every year as a fund-raiser for Historic Ellicott City Inc. They were given a top-floor bedroom, which has slanted ceilings and dormer windows, and told to design it for a 14-year-old girl who enjoys soccer.

The women contrasted a traditional black-on-cream toile pattern in the bedspread with polka-dot accents in a canopy, a blanket and petite window treatments. They used a modern red shag rug and yellow flower-shaped throw rugs and added a black couch with pillows and a multicolored table.

Starting in August, when they say the attic room was sweltering, the women tore off all the wallpaper themselves. They brought in painters to make the walls a light yellow and enlisted faux painter Chris Vaught of Laurel to put inspirational sayings around several closet doors.

Messages like "Shoot for the Moon and Reach for the Stars" encourage the room's occupant to think big. And the phrase "You can go anywhere," appears with the Wizard of Oz' s ruby slippers in an artwork above the bed.

"Fourteen is kind of a tough age," Duvall said. "They're all grown up yet they're not. We tried to combine those ideas. They can go anywhere yet home is ... a little retreat.

"We think it's a bedroom the parent could live with and the child would be glad to have," Smith said.

"This particular room ... is very, very charming," said Eileen Deymier, senior regional editor for the Meredith Magazine Group, which publishes Better Homes and Gardens and its offshoot magazines.

Deymier goes to hundreds of show houses and private residences to find rooms for several magazines, including Kids' Rooms, which started a few years ago.

"We're interested in showing all different types [of rooms], different ages," she said. "This room is very much fun for a teenager. ... There is also a lot of great little accesorizing details."

When it comes to design magazines, "the more creative and inventive the space, the better chance you're going to have of getting picked," Deymier said. Even the most beautiful rooms run into competition from other designs editors see across the country.

The Historic Ellicott City show house, which runs through Oct. 31, has been featured in the Better Homes and Gardens family of magazines before. Two years ago, five rooms were chosen for various publications.

"It does help with the fact that, of course, you have some wonderful bragging rights," said Michele Drury, a Woodstock designer whose rooms have appeared in Better Homes and Gardens' Window and Wall, and other magazines.

The spread can be a great marketing tool, she said, and it tends to attract a lot of phone calls. Although, she said, many inquiries she received were specific questions about a paint color or fabric style in the pictures.

"The other thing that is really wonderful," she said, "is you get a photograph of your room where the lighting is so professional. It just will never look better."

"The exposure not only helps the designers, but helps the show house, as well," said Janet Kusterer, executive director of Historic Ellicott City Inc.

Quality designers "are much more likely to sign on ... knowing their room could get attention nationally."

She said she and other organizers are thrilled for Duvall and Smith. "When we saw that room, we knew that was going to attract attention," she said.

And while designers are encouraged to respect the historic nature of the houses used for the event, every space does not have to be traditional.

"If you want Williamsburg, go to Williamsburg," Kusterer said. "We want you to come way with ideas you are going to use in your house."

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