Looking up at Villa Vista

Ceilings and walls are the new canvases at Symphony Decorators' Show House


The lessons of this year's Symphony Decorators' Show House reveal themselves the moment visitors walk through the front door of Villa Vista in Greenspring Valley.

Murals, murals, murals. And ceilings, ceilings, ceilings.

Around the entrance are faux fresco panels painted in charming pastels, including a pair of hand-painted canvas panels that, though they look like murals, can be removed. And, just inside, in the grand foyer, wrought iron railings that circle the second floor walkway are carried up to the ceiling in a trompe l'oeil trellis and gazebo cap that "opens up" to the sky, where swallows chase each other.

"No more white ceilings," said design chairman Carolyn Lassahn. "No more plain walls."

Today's opening ushers in the 30th year for the Decorators' Show House, the major fund-raising event for the Baltimore Symphony Associates, which annually turns over more than $100,000 to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This year, the designers have had free rein in the former home of Mary Bell Grempler, a longtime board member of the BSO, who will put the house on the market after the show, which runs from today to May 21.

Though a different designer transformed each of the rooms, and the charming guest house behind the pool, they seemed to agree that ceilings are a canvas, too.

In the formal living room, just off the foyer and the massive gazebo effect created by Twin Diamond Studios, Frederike Hecht has created a pale pink ceiling with white picture molding and an elaborate white medallion. The soft pastel ceiling and yellow walls echo the daffodils and peonies of spring.

The design concept for the house is a 1924 Mediterranean villa, and Joyce Motsinger chose to create a coffered ceiling with eight hand-painted Italian ceiling canvases in a library / den. Mary Pitt also used the ceiling to help transport the guest house to India, creating palace-like tiles in her coffered ceiling. And Regina Bello's guest room in the main house, done in a charming pastel nautical theme, has a compass as a ceiling medallion.

Finally, in the grand dining room, the Tuscan landscape mural that surrounds the room is capped by a peachy-pink sunset on the ceiling.

The walls are a canvas as well in this transformed house. In addition to Charlie Macsherry's daunting dining room mural -- one of the few touches that will remain after the show closes -- Mary Veiga has re-created Villa Vista and its rolling hills in a children's nursery rhyme mural in the infant's room. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary waters tulips at the end of the "driveway" that leads to Villa Vista, a castle in Veiga's ample imagination.

Quintece Hill, a newcomer among many returning designers, has created a garden gate mural on the sun porch, to draw the visitor's eye to the gardens outside. A mural depicting the birth of Venus dominates the spa, with its enormous hot tub. Watercolor panels in the den, as well as lots of bird accessories, create an aviary effect there. The walls in the master bedroom have been painted to resemble leather and those in the wet bar to resemble stone.

But the tour-de-force of the show is "Adam's Eaves," a former nanny's suite that has been converted to Adam's bachelor pad, complete with apple and snake details. Adam has added lush appointments in gleaming neutrals to seduce Eve, including a trompe l'oeil pavilion hand-painted by Christopher Winslow in an alcove that now resembles a sultan's tent.

No woman could resist.



Hours for the Show House: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are $15 in advance. For more information: 410-783-8000 or baltimoresymphony.org. Parking and shuttle service at Rainbow Hill, 10729 Park Heights Ave.

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