`Edenwald Museum' is her retirement home


Collector: Beautiful furnishings bloom in the Towson apartment of a gardening expert.

August 14, 2005|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Amalie Adler Ascher hails from a family of collectors.

Still, this fact does not prepare a guest for a visit to her home. Beyond the front door of her two-bedroom apartment in Towson's retirement community of Edenwald are bright splashes of fabric color, the high-polish gleam of antique furniture and walls peppered with tapestries, paintings and porcelain.

"The residents who see [my place] call this the Edenwald Museum," says Ascher, 78, and a former gardening columnist for The Sun.

Yet, this "museum" is actually a downsized version of her former life.

In December 2001, she and her then-ailing husband, Baltimore psychiatrist and professor, Eduard Ascher, moved to Edenwald. (Her husband died shortly after the move.) Amalie Ascher recalled that, while this lifestyle change was the right thing to do, it was difficult deciding what objects to keep - and what to give away - from their Guilford home.

The couple paid $226,000 (excluding monthly care fees) for their unit in the high-rise building. She estimated an additional $30,000 was spent on the structural details, as well as upgrading all of her kitchen appliances, and all of the light fixtures in the house "to suit my taste."

"I gutted the whole place when I came in," Ascher remembers of the renovation that would combine two, one-bedroom units into the new 1,268- square-foot apartment.

Ascher's taste first appears wildly eclectic, but a closer inspection reveals a commonality of period, mostly 19th century, with French, Asian and English influences.

A six-panel wooden screen picked up in Hong Kong defines the living and dining areas, which make up the west wing.

The screen's soft background colors and intricately carved birds and flowers set the tone for a delicate collectibles such as a glass-fronted shadowbox hanging on the west wall of the living room. Lined in the back with cut velvet fabric, the box displays a variety of cut steel shoe buckles that belonged to Ascher's grandmother.

Across the room, an antique English breakfront crafted of mahogany and inlaid with burled wood houses a collection of detailed figurines.

Other fine period furniture in the room includes a carved-oak English refractory table circa 1840, which rests in front of the living room window, and two carved satinwood chests with marble tops.

"I love being surrounded by beautiful things," says Ascher, who graduated from Goucher College with a degree in fine arts.

Things of beauty in her world include her many silk flower arrangements, as well as the vivid colors of flowers that spill from pots and flower boxes on her patio. Ascher acknowledges her true avocation is gardening. Host of a flower-arranging show on Maryland Public Television in the 1970s, she also wrote the book, The Complete Flower Arranger, published in 1974 by Simon and Schuster.

A multicolored, Richard-Ginori ceramic dining table is the central focus in a dining room that showcases a 17th-century Flemish petit-point tapestry, English Wedgwood wall sconces and a pair of English hall chairs of Gothic design, circa 1830.

Ascher's modern kitchen is in contrast to the decor of the rest of the home and has been redesigned to her needs as an avid baker. She has been a participant in the annual Great American Bake Sale, which raise money to feed hungry children.

All of her creations come from a space that features a two-oven stove, a built-in bookcase filled with a variety of cookbooks and a large refrigerator. A micro-pegboard, fitted to the walls behind her counters, keeps all of her utensils at hand.

The east wing of Ascher's unit includes her study and bedroom. It is here that the bulk of personal family keepsakes, articles of clothing, curios and textiles are displayed.

In the study, which she refers to as her writing room, a round lace tablecloth circa 1900 has been blocked and displayed in an octagonal gilt frame. Other lace pieces adorn the bedroom walls. Over the floral upholstered traditional sofa in her study, a multitiered shelving unit holds a collection of miniature containers used over the years by Ascher in her floral designs.

A prized personal possession in the writing room is a framed, cartoon tribute to her father, Charles Adler Jr. Titled "Baltimore Firsts," it salutes Adler for having invented the world's first traffic-actuated traffic signal, placed at Belvedere Avenue and Falls Road in 1928. An electric IBM typewriter (she chooses not to use a computer) sits on her desk in the company of carved marble lamps and colorful, tribal masks from Bali.

Ascher's bedroom is a study in pink - from the walls, to the linens, to the headboard - even the color of a portable television. Porcelain miniature period paintings sit on her windowsill; while a glass and inlaid wooden curio cabinet houses a collection of stone figurines. Art deco jewelry that belonged to her mother is displayed in yet another shadowbox, just feet away from a glassed-in drum table containing old evening purses done in petite point.

"Amalie's house is elegant, but comfortable," said Diana Fusting, Edenwald's marketing director. "Whenever I'm here, I discover something I haven't seen before."

Ascher is involved in many of Edenwald's activities, as well as writing for the community newsletter. However, it is her solitude she most enjoys, one in spirit with her beautiful things.

"I have my own private museum," she noted. "I've been everywhere in the world, and I don't care if I leave [my] place."

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