Four Favorite Rooms

Furnishings, art and colors reflect the passions of Baltimore-area homeowners

October 07, 2007|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Sun Reporter

Take a space and fill it with your life. Once a void, the space acquires the essence of you.

That's how the favorite rooms in four Baltimore-area homes have evolved.

With color, paintings, textiles and artifacts resonant of other worlds and times, the homeowners have assembled a universe of self-affirmation, celebration and remembrance.

Inspired perhaps by a distinguished designer, family memories, a passion, or simply the clean, expectant walls of an art gallery, these rooms merge wider cultural sensibilities with personal vision and, as a result, are as distinctive as those who inhabit them.

Crownsville jewel

The lofty entrance hall at the center of Betty and Ted Mack's Crownsville home is a room with a view; or, you could say, it is a view with a room.

Open to the rest of the house, the space blurs the distinction between interior and exterior.

When the couple built their brick home more than 21 years ago, "We had a sense that [the entrance hall] would be our 'Wow!' room," Betty Mack says.

Sure enough, "Wow!" springs to mind on the threshold of the Macks' capacious, art-filled residence, which is tucked into a shady suburban neighborhood. A space that often serves as a passageway, the central hall in their home takes center stage.

The space is defined by arched brickwork and appointed with wrought-iron furnishings. At the rear of the room, French doors open to a deck surrounded by woods. "We wanted to feel outside in the trees," says Betty Mack, 70.

With a pitched cedar ceiling slightly taller than 28 feet, the central hallway is as much an atrium as it is an entrance hall. An unruly coconut tree grown from a sprout, a vigorous ficus tree and other tropical plants have mistaken the space for a conservatory.

A sprightly, red twig bulging with ripe cotton bolls also stands in the room, a reminder of the family farms where both Betty and Ted Mack grew up in the South. The couple met at a segregated high school outside of Memphis, Tenn. They call their cotton sprig "Lest We Forget."

The Macks, who have three sons, have played host to frequent celebrations in the open space, including a nephew's wedding reception, a friend's 80th birthday party, Super Bowl fests and Ted Mack's formal retirement gala. The room has also served as a gathering place for Bible study, a church choir performance and meetings of the Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society, an organization for which Betty Mack serves as president.

In winter, northern exposure suffuses the room with "beautiful sunlight," Ted Mack says. "We can go until noon before we turn the heat on."

To cool the space in summer, the Macks lower pleated blinds over the French doors, windows and skylights, allowing light to filter through, as well as playful, dappled shadows. It is an effect that Betty Mack, who retired from a job as a civilian personnel officer at Fort Meade, calls "mystical."

Ted Mack, a 73-year-old retired Army intelligence officer, professional photographer and custom framer, installed the ceiling and chandelier while "I prayed," his wife says.

Her husband also laid the pale-rose ceramic tile floor.

In 1994, a chance encounter with an artist named Henry Porter thrust the Macks into the African-American art field. The works of Porter, an astonishingly versatile painter who lives outside of Atlanta, are displayed throughout the Macks' home, most prominently on the walls of their favorite room.

Porter, who is in his 80s, drove from Georgia to personally deliver the piece he custom-made for one of the hall's tall brick walls.

It is a striking, abstract work painted on Plexiglas. Its swoops and swirls of red, orange, green, fuschia and black invite contemplation and celebration. The two impulses suit a room that seamlessly merges the interior and exterior landscapes of the Macks' fruitful life together.

A lofty living room

The soaring, central space that greets visitors to the Pikesville home of Jackie and Rene Copeland is as much a gallery as a living room.

Spanning three levels, the bright room, painted white and furnished with sleek, Moroso furniture in neutral gray, comes alive with the Copelands' collections of African art, as well as fine art and folk art by African-Americans.

Throughout the room where she and her husband, both 60, recently held a wedding reception for their daughter, colorful pieces from disparate traditions create an energetic harmony without precluding surprise, delight or sorrow.

"It's amazing how it can all live so comfortably together," says Jackie Copeland, who came to Maryland seven years ago as director of education and public programming at the Walters Art Museum.

"Everything works so well together from various cultures," says Copeland, also an adjunct faculty member at Towson University.

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